I am writing this on a cruise ship where the average age of the passengers is 71. In theory, dress is casual, but most men are wearing shirts that could be worn under a sports jacket or suit and most women are wearing outfits suitable for an office. I don’t think I’ve seen a single pair of jeans. Casual does not mean the same to everyone.
When I was a child in suburban Chicago, everyone wore clothing that was ironed or dry cleaned. I cannot imagine the typical farm family dressed that way nor could the factory worker. It was a class distinction. People who had money dressed a certain way. To a certain extent, class was shown by clothing.
Things changed. Perhaps the wealthy found jeans comfortable. Clothing became relatively cheaper. Alternatively, people may not want to be recognized as rich. Today the man in the jeans and t-shirt might be a poor laborer, but he also might be a software millionaire.
I don’t think the passengers are trying to impress people by their clothing. Being on the cruise ship shows we are not poor. I think it is more likely that people were raised to dress more formally than younger people.
If clothing were once a sign of class, it isn’t anymore. I don’t recognize expensive clothing and doubt the majority of the population does. But I don’t move in circles of the very wealthy and perhaps I simply haven’t seen their clothing.
There are many factors that go into my decision to buy clothing, but showing I can afford it is definitely not something I consider.