Leisure Suits

I was born in 1963, just before Camelot was obliterated. By the time I started grade school, sartorial splendor was becoming a thing of the past.  In the 70s, countering the culture largely meant wearing informal, poorly made, unflattering, and often, just ugly clothes.  Changing one’s appearances was meant to denote changing  one’s attitudes. Relaxed fit clothing (before we called a particular style of jeans “relaxed fit”) was supposed to reflect greater freedom, fewer constraints, undoing structures of culture, and a more casual attitude. Adults were uptight; youths were tuning in, turning on and dropping out, which meant building a new harmonious society. Imagine. Then came those horrific Leisure Suits. Even then, I thought they were hideous and silly. The worst part was that Leisure Suits were for dressing up. They didn’t look comfortable or flattering, and came to represent a cheap, synthetic, and middling culture; a culture that was apathetic and confused, low brow and lazy.

A generation later, our children have grown up with a more robust culture. While access to information and communication has been revolutionized in the last generation, there has also been a renaissance of leisure activities and accoutrements. The leisure business is enormous, and people invest great time and money into leisure activities. This has been a terrific boon over the last generation, not only economically, but culturally. Pursuing a leisure activity such as a sport or art is productive. For years I have cautioned parents about over scheduling their children. Children (and adults) need unscheduled free time, but pursuing a hobby or activity (beyond looking at a screen) on a regular basis can provide skills that may go beyond the activity.

When we find a leisure activity that suits us, we strengthen ourselves and can expand. There are all kinds of attributes to all sorts of sports and arts, but the activities themselves often become metaphors for us. I was a great swimmer as a young child, and enjoyed the competence and strength I felt in the water. Many  years later in college, I swam every morning, as it felt like the only way my thoughts could flow in order to write papers. I hardly go to the pool for a swim these days, but I’m very much a swimmer in other ways, and yes, still a lifeguard of sorts. I tend to dive into whatever I pursue. Somehow, I’ve been able to stay afloat, treading from time to time, but mostly propelling myself forward using all my muscles, along the surface of the tide. I was well suited to swimming, and swimming suits me.

Those who are well suited to their work are often quite successful. It’s not always easy to find work that suits us. We often think of work as effort, and leisure as effortless, but there can be joyful effort in both work and play.  Leisure activities are not only ways to  have fun, unwind and relax, but are often ways in which we can more fully realize ourselves and develop our strengths to use in various capacities.  Leisure suits!

2 thoughts on “Leisure Suits

  1. Nice post! Yes, leisure does suit some of us. You are so right about parents who over-schedule in a society that demands we participate, participate, participate to stay competitive with others. Kind of crazy. When did moderation go out the window? My daughter is home from college, working at an internship and a few hours at another job, too. Yet I’m happy she makes certain to give herself some days off each week and usually find her with her nose in a book. I’ve always encouraged my daughters to work hard but appreciate their leisure. Glad to see they listen sometimes…
    Oh, and yes, leisure suits do define a moment in fashion history when those in charge of clothing design should ashamed. Now I can’t get Will Farrell’s Ron Burgundy out of my head 🙂


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