It seemed a worthy query. After all, if one were to walk down Baltimore Street in Gettysburg, unclad, one likely would be charged with “causing alarm.” But I have not, in more than 40 years reporting on human foibles, noticed anyone be charged with “failure to wear clothing.” Some businesses do post requirements that patrons wear shoes and shirts, but generally the law is silent on the subject.
I keep waiting for signs to go up in airports calling on customers intent on boarding airplanes to “Please remove all clothing prior to entering the security line.” So far, that has not happened, though one fellow in recent memory did try to set his underwear on fire.
Of course, there are good reasons for wearing skin covering, primary among them being protection from sand and snow storms and group identification. Sand is very good for smoothing the bottom of Leroy Jethro Gibbs’ boat, not so good at smoothing human skin. And there is a reason even dogs wear heavy coats when winter storms rage.
Without hats, identifying cowboys would be a mite trickier. In a group of workers, a white hard hat generally indicates someone in charge of crew safety. A beret, stereotypically, would be worn by a French artist — unless it is green, in which case one probably should not mess with the person standing under it.
The ladies from certain religious traditions wear plain grey dresses from neck to floor. Others cover even their faces.
Sometimes, clothing articles can be misleading — like when a photographer wears a cotton vest. Another photographer will get it immediately, while a fisherman will ask, “How are they biting.” I fish, sometimes, and shoot lots of pictures. I wear the vest because it’s my man-purse. It’s got lots of pockets.
And when I find myself in a room with windows that do not open, laid out on a bed that bends at the push of a button, and a person enters the room wearing a white shirt-jacket, there is a good chance that person is a doctor.
A fun game is to sit on a corner and guess what people passing by do when they are not passing by where I’m sitting. Clothes are great clues.
My favorite experience, so far, was when I was wearing jeans, a plaid shirt and an oiled canvas woods hat. I had been driving around town looking for a six-pack of a certain type of beer, a gift for someone who likes certain types of craft beers.
I entered the last establishment that might possibly provide the fulfillment of my quest. As I stood at the end of the bar, a woman of older-than-teenage seniority jumped from her seat and put her arm around me.
“I want a picture with you,” she exclaimed. “My friend (she pointed at the guy she’d been sitting with) can take it.”
He stood up with his smartphone and we posed. She had been overseas, someplace in Asia, I think, and returned to her home in Colorado the day before we met. The day we met, she was in Maine. The beer I wanted was not available for take-out and my driving partner was waiting in the parking lot, so I did not learn her plans or why she wanted a picture with me.
If I get back to that town in Maine, I definitely will don jeans and a plaid flannel shirt
and revisit that restaurant.