Hey travelers, do you have the right to tell someone to dress up?

Can you believe what people wear on a plane these days? You’d think an old Greyhound bus had sprouted wings by the way some people look.

Flying used to be something that only business people or the one-percenters could afford. And when they did, they dressed up. Men wore suits and ties, and women wore dresses — or at least a long skirt, a nice blouse — plus a coat or a shoulder wrap. Dressy shoes were a must.

The “people” who would have dressed up to fly years ago still dress nicely — it might be Dockers and a sport coat for him and dressy pants and nice top for her. But they’re still wearing laced up shoes and socks!

Today, people wear what look like pajamas, and their flip-flops are a poor excuse for shoes. Sometimes, they wear even less and then get expelled from a country for taking pictures of the spectacle. What happened to exercising some decorum when you’re in public?

As a million-mile flier, I like to be comfortable when I fly, but I think you can still wear proper clothing.

Some passengers have been kicked off planes, or simply refused boarding, based on what they were wearing.  Remember this incident? If nothing else, it highlighted  some of the clothing “errors” that have kept passengers out of the not-always-super-friendly skies.

But do do I have the right to I tell a fellow passenger to dress better?

A fairly standard, and politically correct, response is that it’s none of my business how anyone else is dressed. That might be true, but have you ever sat next to someone who’s kicked off his flip-flops and is playing with his toes? And then he offers to shake hands with you?

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I’ll pass, thanks.

Or, how about the fellow in the sleeveless tank top who decides to put both hands behind his head while his sweaty armpits are only inches from your face?

You can’t think that’s OK, can you?

Don’t even get me started about the apparel, or lack thereof, that many of the younger females wear. Would you want your daughter to sport a top with some intended-to-be-read writing emblazoned across the chest area? What about the tight pants with a brand name across the buttocks area?

Why should going on a plane be any different from going into other establishments? Lots of restaurants post a “No Shoes – No Shirts – No Service” sign, so why can’t the airlines post a “Your mother used to dress you nicely; when did you start dressing yourself?” sign?

Would that sign actually offend someone?

Here’s a little summary of some wardrobe “malfunctions” that have created problems on flights. While the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does guarantee the right to free speech, one common item that most reputable articles cites is that businesses such as airlines still have the right to say what is acceptable to wear in “their establishments” and what isn’t. An interesting closing to the article is the following:

If airlines do establish and post dress codes, enforcement could be problematic. Overworked flight crews rarely notice when passengers board with oversized carry-on bags. Would there really be time to take a tape measure to all those skimpy skirts?

As you think about the way people are dressing (or not!) on airplanes it makes you wonder if there ought to be rules about how people dress in public. But that’s another column.

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Stuart Gustafson

Stuart Gustafson is a writer, world traveler and professional speaker. He's channeled his love of travel into writing travel-based mystery novels.

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