Brooks Brothers and Suits

Courtesy: USA Today – Brooks Brothers

I hope you would agree we have seen a huge transition over the last 50 years in clothing style. It was once the required battle dress for up and coming business executives. I remember one instance like it was yesterday when I attended a meeting with my client wearing a camel hair sports jacket, beautiful tie, dress slacks, and appropriate wingtip shoes. You would have thought I showed up in my gym shorts and sneakers… the sneering and disapproval was palpable.

While it may still be the appropriate attire for near formal situations like funerals, I seldom see suits in business settings. Oh sure, we still see world leaders in suits if they dress in European or American styles, and our politicians still seem adorned in this fashion statement. But, how long will it be that we deem business casual the new normal? You no doubt have noticed that we have gradually and persistently moved towards a new style of business leadership attire: personified by Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and others. Yep, turtlenecks and T-shirts have replaced the jacket and tie. 

Well, another shoe dropped this week that reflects this. Brooks Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection: Read the USA Today article.

Brooks Brothers survived the Civil War, the Great Depression, World War II, and the Great Recession, but now joins a rapidly growing list of retailers that have stumbled into bankruptcy in the midst of the wreckage of COVID-19, which temporarily shuttered stores due to health concerns. Others recently filing for bankruptcy have included J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus, and J. Crew. No other suit maker has the legacy and brand recognition, however. They are the Harley Davidson of motorcycles within the male executive wardrobe providers. 

There is a lot to be learned from all this. But we probably will not.

Nasty News Narratives

I guess it is natural for any local newspaper to want to criticize the local electric utility… if nothing else to draw in readers. But, I am truly disgusted by the tone and misrepresentation of the facts they present… if indeed they even are facts.

Here is the headline just a few days ago claiming Orlando Utilities was disconnecting customers again: Read the article in the Orlando Sentinel

Today’s soundbite culture reads this and naturally concludes this heartless utility is more interested in its well-being than its customers. However, I would suggest you read this article completely to see that the utility is devoted to helping customers at this time seek assistance. There is nothing heartless or uncaring about it at all.

Wouldn’t it have been more accurate to have these headlines:

OUC pleads with customers to seek the financial assistance they deserve.

OUC will not disconnect any customer who seeks assistance from …

Nah… that wouldn’t get the reader attention they seek.

If you did read the article, this should also make you think more carefully about any lead story on the news.


The Silenced Generation

I admit I am a product of my upbringing and did not know I was at the tail end of an age group, which is now called “the silent generation.” If you Google that you

will see several articles and this one can best be summarized this way:

“Traditionalists are known as the “silent generation” because children of this era were expected to be seen and not heard. They’re those born between 1927 and 1946, and they averaged in age from 75 to 80 years old in 2018. Most of them have retired from the workforce, and those who remain can be expected to work fewer hours. (Joel adds: I guess I did not get that message).

The silent generation brought the strong work ethic of their parents into the factories of industrialized society. They grew up during lean times, including the Great Depression and World War II. They consider work a privilege, and it shows—they’re considered the wealthiest generation.

Traditionalists believe that you earn your way through hard work. Long, grueling hours in their prime enabled them to get ahead in their careers, and they think others should do the same. This generation believes that promotions and advancement should be the result of tenure and proven productivity. They distrust flash-in-the-pan successes. Adversity doesn’t daunt the silent generation. They tend to be dogged and determined, willing to go the distance even if they have to dig deep for the strength to do so. Again, they survived the Great Depression. (My parents went through the depression, and my mother still had some food leftover from the depression in her freezer … just in case)

Many of them had to toughen up and bear down to earn a living in those days to simply survive. They were often forced to take jobs that didn’t necessarily appeal to them. They took what work was available…if and when it was available, and they were grateful for it. You won’t find a traditionalist stomping off in a huff and quitting to grab the next available job that comes along.

Traditionalists are civic-minded and loyal to their country and their employers. In fact, they still register as the largest voting population in the U.S. Unlike Generation Y and Generation X workers, many traditionalists have stayed with the same employer throughout their entire working lives. They’re less likely to change jobs to advance their careers than younger generations, but they expect the same loyalty in return. (Yeah … lots of luck on that one!)

Raised in a paternalistic environment, the silent generation was taught to respect authority. Conformity and conservatism are prized. They tend to be good team players. They generally don’t ruffle feathers or initiate conflict in the workplace, and they like to feel needed. Traditionalists tend to be thrifty. These are not folks who are going to trade their cars every few years. They’ll diligently maintain what they own to extend the property’s lifespan. Of course, this can become annoying in the workforce, particularly for Millennials who aren’t inclined to dry out a sheet of paper towel for reuse later.

As I read this, I say Amen to traditionalists because this is indeed how I was raised and behaved in my professional years! Yet these are not the values I see in most people and our perspective on these traditions is no longer appreciated. In fact, I feel we are now despised because of our “white privilege,” which, by the way, I never felt as a Jewish person in our society of anti-Semitic mainstream. I never complained then nor now. I feel that somehow a whole group of people who do not want to work hard for anything are privileged and want to silence me now and forever.

Maybe someone will shut down my blogs because, after all, they do not seem to stress social justice sufficiently.

If you don’t hear from me again, you will know for sure I was silenced just like the rest of us.

Blogging is Not Writing

“it is graffiti with punctuation!”  That is how Elliot Gould (who plays Dr. Ian Sussman in the movie Contagion) describes it.  Having blogged for six years now

I am wondering whether perhaps he is right.  Graffiti is defined as writings or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place.

On one level, I have to agree with the scriptwriter in Contagion.  After all, most of my writings are social commentaries in some form or another.  At least I hope I am not defacing public property.

I can remember the reason I started blogging way back then like it was yesterday.  My fellow professional told me that I needed to share my thoughts because she said many professionals had similar thoughts and might otherwise think they were alone … or even a bit crazy.

On the other hand, I can also remember a fellow professional chastise me with the statement that I shouldn’t take myself seriously and that most people only listen to me because they enjoy the stories and jokes.  The implication was that no one really listens to the content or the message and certainly doesn’t change as a result.

Perhaps then it would be appropriate for me to ask you as readers to send me a note confirming or refuting these thoughts.  After all, why should I waste your time or my own?  I had no intention to simply offer graffiti.

If it Bleeds, It Leads

The first use of this phrase is reportedly from a 1989 New York Magazine article titled “Grins, Gore, and Videotape – The Trouble with Local TV News” by journalist Eric Pooley.  It reflects the primal desires and fears of human nature.  Similar criticisms are made of NASCAR where people relish the crashes.  I remember the hockey matches at RPI where it seemed everyone was looking for the fights that were sure to break out.

I guess if people didn’t buy the newspapers or watch the TV when we are being fed this garbage it would stop.  It seems to be simply the law of supply and demand at work once more, but it is certainly a sign of less than the best in all of us that this seems true.

What is so alarming about Pooley’s phrase is that Pooley himself is already attributing it to something larger than any one person.  Pooley is using the phrase as a quote that would reflect the opinions and stances of most major global media corporations.  He finds himself exposed like the great Wizard of Oz and much like the Wizard’s last desperate attempt to cling to the illusion of Majesty when he utters the words “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” Pooley attempts to give the credit, or rather fault, of the quote to news in general.  But why would Pooley be unable to cite the person that first coined the term?  Because the phrase itself isn’t synonymous with any one person.  It’s synonymous with human nature.

The Roman satirist and poet Juvenal coined the term “bread and circuses” when describing the easiest way to rise to power with the common man.  Juvenal was remarking that the keys to power were held by those who were willing to appear righteous and favorable by distributing food and entertainment among the people, yet without giving the people anything of true substance.  Stories like in-depth coverage of politician’s personal lives, celebrity’s workouts, and stories that allude to possible future stories without actually covering anything are the media’s bread and circuses.  This is what the majority of the content of our journalistic sources have become: colorful filler to hold our attention and keep us entertained.

I don’t know about you, but I have cut off this influence in my life … as best I can.