My friend Lisa over at PostGrammaticStress wrote a cracking article back in March about how modern travel has lost its glamour. That, combined with some recent thinking about traveling with kids got me thinking about what a big deal airplane travel was as recently (ahem) as when I was a child.
My dad flew on commercial passenger flights in the 1950s, and he still has vivid memories of stewardesses in starched uniforms standing at the bottom of the steps to the plane, bidding my dad & grandfather a warm welcome. He remembers the natty little suit that he wore, and the pocket square his dad sported.
Things hadn't changed much by the time he was shepherding his own children onto an airplane. Much planning went into our 'airplane clothes' - they weren't our very best party threads, but needed to be spiffy nonetheless. The type of outfit my grandmother would call 'second best.' Usually for me that meant a smocked sundress in the summer, and a pinafore sort of dress in the winter. Even the shoes (especially the shoes!) needed to be spotless: rub a little Vaseline on the patent leather to get it gleaming, dig out the cordovan polish to buff up the boys' oxfords. Even in the summer, I remember my dad polishing my white Stride Rite sandals to hide the sandy scuffs.
It gave the whole adventure a sense of importance that makes a huge impression on a small person. As if the pilot and the stewardesses were foreign dignitaries, and we surely wouldn't want to embarrass ourselves in front of them by wearing stained t-shirts or dirty sneakers. (On a somewhat unrelated note, if you have any interest in checking out insane pictures of stewardesses back in the day, click here. I will say only this: hotpants, and laceup knee high boots.)
These days, as Lisa points out, when you walk the concourse of any major airport, you will see miles and miles worth of stretchy Juicy-knockoff tracksuits, all varieties of sports shoes, acres of cottony stretch fabric. Even the most glamorous celebrities don't often go for much beyond the jeans-tucked-into-boots-with-slouchy-hat configuration. Exhibit A:
It speaks to the whole 'dressing down' of everything - we don't have dining rooms anymore, we have great rooms. We don't register for fancy china anymore, we just use the everyday stuff. Men don't wear hats, women don't wear gloves, kids wear flip flops to church. The kid's stores that sell dresses, flannel pants and kid-sized neckties are few and far between, and let me just say that the retail image of a 'dressed up kid' has more to do with Jon Benet & beauty pageants than with wearing your Sunday Best to the meetin' house.
This isn't a rant, not really. More like a wistful yearning for the days when Adventure was capitalized, and made special with its own uniform.