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Casual Living: The Evaporation of Decorum

May 11, 2021 | Ubertrends

The FAA announced four people were facing $70,000 in civil fines for failing to follow airline crew directions over mask requirements and other safety instructions on recent flights. Since February 2021, the FAA has received more than 1,300 unruly passenger reports from airlines, compared to about 1,300 in the entire previous decade, a disturbing trend.

This staggering increase is the direct result of an Ubertrend, Casual Living, the evaporation of decorum. This Ubertrend has been rewriting the rules of social engagement for much of the past century, instilling a hefty dose of informality in human behavior:

  • Business casual – In the 1940s, a prominent Hawaiian surfer, Duke Kahanamoku, approached the management of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel with a proposal to have staff begin wearing Hawaiian shirts every Friday. Initially called Aloha Shirt Friday, the dress code was simplified to Aloha Friday in 1966. In the 1970s, Aloha Friday slowly began spreading east to California, and by the 1990s, it had made its way to New York, acquiring a new moniker along the way, Casual Friday. Today, only 12% of U.S. companies adhere to a traditional dress code, according to a survey conducted by Rowenta in 2003.
  • Casual wear – Once it was considered appropriate to dress up for travel or when going out. Now it’s common to see people wearing sportswear on planes or playing roulette in shorts. That has been a boon for the U.S. casual wear industry, which succeeded in establishing a global uniform, consisting of denim jeans (invented by Levi Strauss in 1853), t-shirts (U.S. Navy, 1898), and sneakers (Colchester Rubber Co., 1892). The global jeans market grew to $110 billion in 2020. The popularity of casual wear has adversely impacted the sales of men’s suits, which have been declining steadily. Hip-hop and yoga further fanned the flames by helping popularize the ”athleisure” look.
  • Informal entertaining – The preference for less formality has also led to less formal entertaining. On Feb. 27, 2003, USA Today reported that formal china sales have been flat in the past 10 years due to an “overwhelming trend” toward casual entertaining. Most people now entertain and live in the kitchen, which has caused a decline in the value of formal dining room furniture — few people formally dine these days.

Casual Living is also responsible for the erosion in human values and morals, caused, in part, by the rapid growth of the world’s urban populations, which has turned cities into a mass of faceless individuals. On the internet, anonymity encourages such offensive behavior as trolling and cyberbullying because there’s no need to act responsibly:

In Santa Clarita, California an incredible case of road rage was captured on video in June 2017. A motorcyclist kicked a Nissan traveling in the same carpool lane, causing the Nissan driver to lose control, collide with the center divider, deflect into southbound No. 2 lane, and broadside a pick-up truck, which caused it to overturn. Luckily no one was seriously hurt but the motorcyclist, Andrew Flanigan, was sentenced to three years’ probation and 45 days of community service.

  • Road rage – In 1988, Los Angeles news station KTLA coined the term “road rage” after a string of shootings on the city’s freeways. According to the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, the term was inspired by “roid rage,” which refers to the sudden, violent outbursts people experience after taking steroids. Despite the sensational headlines, the NHTSA notes that road-rage incidents are still relatively rare, given rapid population growth, plus the increase in number of vehicles (+16%) and miles driven (+27%). A July 2016 AAA study found that while nearly two in three drivers, about 67%, believe aggressive driving is a bigger problem today than three years ago, 78% report having engaged at least once in aggressive driving in the past year.
  • Air rage – The first U.S. air rage incident took place on Oct. 22, 1994, when Washington radio talk show host Julianne Malveaux, 42 at the time, called a 9-year-old girl who accidentally bumped her while she asleep “a little savage” and what The Washington Post describes as “a particularly foul four-syllable word.” She was arrested on landing and charged with assault, and sentenced to probation. A review of FAA statistics show that the previous peak of unruly passenger reports happened in 2004 with 310 incidents. Of course, 2021 will far surpass that number.

Could there be a return to more well-mannered times? Not likely. Americans believe society today is generally more ill-mannered than it was 30 years ago and that civility in politics is particularly lacking. Expect to see more air and road rage participants dressed in Hawaiian shirts and shorts.

“Casual Living” was originally identified by author Michael Tchong. To learn more about this Ubertrend, read “Ubertrends — How Trends And Innovation Are Transforming Our Future.”

Michael Tchong’s Ubertrends book
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