...and what it means to me is simple.
It means dressing better than you are required to by society's norms given the social situation you are in.
Whether you are wearing J. Press or K-Mart, looking better than you have to reflects well on you. It means you took some time and some pride in how you present yourself. Eventually, that pride will begin to rub off on the work you do and the relationships you form with other people, and it WILL affect how people treat you in public. Don't get me wrong. There are some well-dressed jackasses out there, but that is more a reflection of upbringing in an environment of unchecked privilege (and the subject of an ENTIRELY other post).
Perhaps divulging a little about myself will enlighten you to my viewpoint a bit. I grew up the youngest son of VERY blue-collar parents. Both of my parents are from the south (Mother: Arkansas, Father: Louisiana), but each somehow ended up in the Midwest, where my older brother and I were born and raised. Being Southern parents, manners were of some importance in my household.
My father worked construction and was an operating engineer (i.e., he drove bulldozers and backhoes) for all of the working life that I have known him. He graduated high school, but had no interest in going to college, choosing instead to hang with high-school drinking buddies and become a functional alcoholic. At 71, my father still drinks too much, but growing up with an alcoholic father wasn't nearly as ugly as that word usually indicates. My dad never hit myself, my brother, or my mother in the abusive sense. To my knowledge, my father never raised a hand to my mother, and only (deservedly) tore into my brother with a belt once that I witnessed. He once reached for his belt with me, and I immediately backed off and apologized. I remembered what happened to my brother, and I learned from my brother's mistake.
My father also never missed a day of work, be it to a hangover or due to sickness. Frequently he would get up as early as 3 AM, drive an hour plus to a job site, work for 10 to 12 hours for the day, drive back home, take a bath, eat dinner, and go to bed. Many times, routines like this for him would last months, and as a result my brother and I never wanted for food or clothing or shelter. It is from my father that I got what work ethic I do have. For all that, I heartily thank him.
My mother did not graduate high school, choosing instead to drop out at the age of sixteen to marry my father. By all the family math that has been professed to me, this was indeed for love and not necessity as my brother wasn't born until two and a half years after they were married.
Early on, my father was the breadwinner and my mother was the homemaker, as was the norm for the era. My mother went to work (went back?) once she felt I was old enough to stay by myself for a short bit between when I got out of school and when she got off work. I think I was twelve. Anyway...
The long and the short of it, my parents WORKED for a living, and my father, given his profession, had no use for suits, ties, and the 3-martini lunches that went with that crowd during that era. Nothing wrong with that, it's just how it was...
So how did I become enamored with a colorful piece of silk worn around a man's neck that seemed to serve no real function and the culture that typically surrounds it? Envy...
See, just because my family wasn't swimming in money doesn't mean that I didn't have friends that were better off. In fact, I was apparently intelligent... ...documented, off-the-chart-for-the-time intelligent. I skipped a grade and a half in school due to my academic prowess, and could have skipped more had my mother not declined the opportunity for me. Here's where things get muddied a bit and I get to do some social math for you...
BLUE-COLLAR KID + GENIUS-LEVEL INTELLIGENCE = KID WHO GETS HIS A** WHIPPED BY THE OTHER BLUE-COLLAR KIDS IN HIS NEIGHBORHOOD WHEN THEY COULD GET AHOLD OF HIM.
Sounds like fun, yes?
Anyway, being "gifted" meant that most of my friends were also gifted, and those kids were typically the offspring of affluent and intellectual parents. That meant I got to hang around the homes of bank officers, college professors, and other such professions where the uniform of the day was suit and tie. This is where the envy comes in... Most of these gentlemen carried themselves with a sense of decorum, integrity, and authority. These men got things done. I love my father to pieces for all he's done for me, but, by his own admission, he never aspired to be anything more than a grunt performing manual labor as he didn't want any more responsibility than that. In my friend's homes, I was around men who got to tell people like my father what to do, when to do it, and how it needed to be done. It was a heady cocktail... It made me want to be like them.
Now, here's where things get mixed a bit... I wanted the affluent life that my friend's had, but being my father's son, I didn't want to do the work actually required to achieve that. Don't get me wrong, manual labor did not scare me, but, like my father, actual intellectual work was my bane. Yes, I was genius-level smart, but that meant that high school was easy for me and required little to no effort on my part. College and University... That's a whole other ball of wax. There, you will eventually reach a level where you actually have to do real work and study.
Up until college, I hadn't needed the skills to actually truly study anything, nor was I ever interested in acquiring them. So I dropped out of college after two years and three changes of majors and started what turned out to be a 20-year career in food service and food service management, with a two-year interruption to get married, go back to school, and drop out once again. I am literally one semester away from having my Bachelor's in Mass Communications/Radio-TV Production, but I have ZERO desire to go back.
Take a blue-collar kid who wants the good life but doesn't want to work to achieve it, add in a support system of family who has ZERO idea how to help him beyond high school, toss in a bit of slacker attitude, and mix liberally with life's hard knocks gained from mistakes aplenty. Once that's set, take that mixture and stir in a highly-supportive wife, great kids, and fantastic friends... ...and you get me.
A man in his 40s with a penchant for dressing as well as he can when it suits him. Doing so brings out in me the integrity and decorum and authority that I witnessed in the fathers of my friends. I am calmer and more polite to others. It raises my spirits and in turn I radiate such to others. My friends notice this and comment on it. My wife, once I explained my viewpoint, thinks it's sexy and really likes it when I dress well. Bonus!
So there you have it... take the story above how you will. I know it rambles and I have gotten off track with my original point, but I also think that doesn't always matter at times. It's like starting a journey intending to go to a cool place and ending up in some other really cool spot entirely.
PS - Pictures have been taken for today. I'll post them when I get home tonight. For now, I have a store to run...