George Bernard Shaw once said, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
While there’s probably some truth to this, it’s critical that we first distinguish between two groups of unreasonable people.
In the first group, you have rebels. These folks are defined by their animus, and are psychologically predisposed to complain. This is not to suggest that it’s necessarily a permanent condition; often it is not. Nor is it rare; most people are afflicted in their earlier years. As to its seriousness, in runs the full spectrum. Some rebels wear Hot Topic, and some commit murder.
The second group of unreasonable folks — the folks responsible for all progress — consists of those who agree when a subject is agreeable, and disagree when it is disagreeable. They neither concur nor dissent by reflex, but examine the situation carefully. They decide, and then express the content of their decision without regard to external influence.
In Shaw’s formulation they are the most unreasonable of all, though I’d prefer to think they’re the most reasonable. Regardless, progress depends on this second group. The first group doesn’t contribute to progress and may in fact hinder it.
Now let’s consider the polo shirt.
As it happens, it was a common practice throughout the eighties and nineties to pop one’s collar. For those unacquainted, this involves unfolding the shirt collar so that it stands upright toward the jaw. The collar fully covers the neck, protecting it against the harsh sun and melanoma. In this way, popping one’s collar was purely a matter of function.
However, popping collars soon became an expression of mainstream cool. Movie stars were doing it, as were those kids at school who never invited you to what was probably a terrible party anyway. The practice of popping one’s collar had lost all pretense to function, and became a matter of fashion for most people.
These people took their collar popping very seriously. That is, until they didn’t. They simply abandoned the practice when it became passé, and folded their collar back in response to social terror.
Still others persisted in standing their collar upright, whether out of utility or a sincere appreciation of its appearance, and they did so despite many threats of violence.
It is this last group that all progress depends on.
To put it simply, in the end, we cannot judge the popped collar. We can only judge the popper. We must look to their motivations, and determine whether they arise from their own will, or whether they merely pop with the times.
Let us celebrate the former and pity the latter.