It was a hot, sunny afternoon – a perfect day for a few games of tennis on the CHCC courts. Those grass courts where generations of men have made deals and exchanged phone numbers and offered invitations to parties and traded jokes with a chuckle. That’s where George and Kip engaged in a bit of dialogue. Not about stocks or ground strokes or serves or how their children are doing now that they’re off at college, but about…well, about a curriculum. And the professors who wrote it.
After the first set, they met each other at the net and agreed to take a break to sit down, towel off, and chat. Observers smiled as they took note of the conversation. They smiled because it was the usual scene: George and Kip, who have been tennis partners for years, almost always did more talking than playing. And later, at the bar, more drinking than talking.
“Pass me the Gatorade, would you?”
“Sure, George. Here ya go.”
“You know, Kip, when I was growing up in Westchester County, we ascribed to a certain style, a certain look. But it went beyond just a look. The style embodied everything. How one behaved, how one was educated, and how one treated others.
“George, we’ve discussed this before. I know what you mean. As a kid growing up in a suburb of D.C., we ascribed to the same style.”
“Kip, I look around, and I can’t help but be depressed. Casual Friday has become casual every damned day of the week at work, and no one bothers to invest in casual clothing anymore. With the decline in how people present themselves publicly to the world, there’s been an accompanying decline in manners. Just plain awful, if you ask me.”
“You’re preaching to the choir, brother. When I was a kid, my father taught me that one’s clothing served as a kind uniform. A uniform that said something about one’s self. Not merely that one has money or good taste, but that one has learned from a certain kind of curriculum about life and how to live it.”
“Yes, Kip! By God, that’s exactly right! A curriculum! No doubt about it. Of course, you know most people think it’s just a bunch of horses and that traditional, classic clothing is about little more than trying to look like what’s the term? Oh, yeah. Preppy. I think that’s what my daughter says. She doesn’t know crap about the authors of the code and the professors who wrote the curriculum.”
“Preppy. What a ridiculous term. Oh, well. Let ‘em have it and use it if that’s what works. But what the hell happened to words like traditional or classic, George? I’ll be damned if every time someone sees me in a sack suit and striped tie they think of me as a Preppy.”
“Why not just go back the beginning, Kip? That’s all we have to do. Not all the way back to England. I mean, that’s not necessary. And not desired. But all the way back to 1818, and what the professors of that great university founded in that year have written the curriculum that’s been handed down to us today.”