To Wear or Not to Wear?
THE SCENE: A men’s clothing store in a city almost anywhere in the Western world.
The cast: A modern, modishly dressed clothing salesman and a man who desires new apparel.
“Is it a new suit that you would like?” asks the salesman. “We have a wide variety you can choose from. You know, you’re no longer limited in your choice of fabrics, styles and colors. Not long ago there were only suits of brown, gray or blue. But now the selection is as colorful as the rainbow.
“We have the latest trend—the shaped silhouette. This is a subtle contouring of the waistline. It is enhanced by wide lapels and pocket flaps in proportion. You can choose from a variety of checked fabrics, stripes, houndstooth or geometric patterns. Which would you like?”
“Let me think about those. What do you have in shirts?”
“Would you like to see some of our latest-style shirts? More and more men prefer shirts with bold patterns or solid colors, such as bright yellows, greens, reds and blues. Others prefer shirts in pastel colors. We do have white shirts, but they are losing popularity these days.”
“Do you have matching ties?”
“Of course, and they are the latest style—big, wide and colorful. But we also carry ascots or scarves, because many men wear them in place of ties. For others, tunics, turtleneck sweaters and ruffled frills have replaced the tie. We can supply you with chains, pendants and necklaces, if you wish this added touch. Since so many are interested in astrology these days, some of our jewelry for men bears various signs of the zodiac.
“And, by the way, why not take a look at these overcoats? You can choose from such styles as a wraparound coat made of pewter-gray fleecy wool with a wide collar and a sash-tied self belt. You can buy a maxi coat, the extra-long variety, with shaping at the waist and a flare at the hem. Here is a mink fur coat, double-breasted, with a large collar and broad lapels and belt, also a Brazilian leopard fur coat with matching knickers.”
Yes, a vast variety of clothing styles are available for men. There are combinations of colors, patterns and designs that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. As the Easton Express put it: “Men today have a greater variety of dress than at any time in the past 100 years. . . . Not that the single-breasted three-button suit is out. It isn’t. But it isn’t the ONLY THING a man can wear and be termed well-dressed. He can wear anything from a one-button, to a six-button (if it happens to be a double-breasted). And he can wear a patterned tie with a patterned shirt, an unthinkable combination a decade ago.”
The question is: To wear or not to wear?
Events Leading to the New Fashions
Why this explosion of colors and styles that not many years ago would have made the wearer a laughingstock or caused people to question his sanity and masculinity? And when did it all begin?
In a special report the 1970 Britannica Book of the Year traced the history of the new fashions. The so-called “Peacock Revolution,” it stated, began in 1957 in Carnaby Street in London. The first major customers of Carnaby Street were the Mods, youths affecting extreme neatness of appearance and a strong liking for very fine or stylish clothes. One of the main things the Mods sought was that their clothing be completely different from what their elders wore. So they chose, for instance, pastel-colored shirts, well-cut two-piece suits with no cuffs and slip-on shoes with exceptionally round toes.
Then in the 1960’s the general menswear industry took another look at Carnaby Street, overcame their skepticism and “exploded into a frenzy of activity.” Even conservative stores jumped on the “bandwagon” of the new fashions. Virtually every town in England soon had a boutique where youths could buy the kind of clothing worn by popular entertainers such as the Beatles.
Next, many youths turned to the use of drugs. And these drug-taking youths “wanted clothing that reflected their total war with society, that had nothing to do with anything that had happened before—that must, in fact, be as wild as their minds.”
Another major event that spurred the new fashions was the rise of the designer cult for menswear. Designers went to work to tone down the design of the new fashions to make them seem less extreme to the public. They sold their names to clothing manufacturers and made their designs available to a mass public. And so with the close of the 1960’s men were wearing virtually anything that they felt suited them.
The designers themselves see another factor in their ability to sell the new fashions to a mass public. Most of them, as Life magazine reported, “credit the distinctly undandy hippies with making possible the return to dandyism, simply by proving that a fellow can wear almost any outlandish costume in public—if he has the nerve.”
Also accounting for the kaleidoscope of color is the emphasis on youth. Accustomed to color, noise, bright lights and psychedelic art, young persons dress to fit their surroundings; and now many older men have adopted similar styles.
Not to be overlooked either is the effect of color television on the public, with even news reporters appearing in very colorful attire. Another factor is the subtle influences and preferences of women. Many women want their boyfriends and husbands to dress as colorfully as they do.
Obviously with so much to choose from in men’s fashions, the question keeps coming up: To wear or not to wear? What will help you to answer the question?
Dress a Reflection of Morals
The matter of morality is involved with clothing. A leading authority on modern male fashion, John Taylor of London, expresses the point of view that certain extreme clothing styles reflect the attitude and morals of the generation. He explains: “The form of fashion emerges from attitudes which are already extant.” As another reference puts it: “There is an intimate connection between costumes and manners.”
Well known are the morals of this fast-deteriorating system of things. You know that everywhere there is a breakdown of morals, with immodesty, loose conduct and fornication, adultery and homosexuality being rampant. In some areas homosexuals, for example, dress in a manner that identifies them. While the articles of clothing may not be wrong in themselves, if you dress in that manner it is bound to cast some reflection on your standard of morality. Likewise, if you realize that a high moral standard cannot be harmonized with trousers that fit so tight that they reveal every contour of the body and emphasize that which is sensual, you can shop around for less tight-fitting apparel. Some menswear is now so tight fitting that those who wear the style often carry handbags to make up for the lack of pocket space in their close-fitting garments.
Hence morality is bound up in the question: To wear or not to wear? And especially if you are a Christian you do not want your choice of clothing to reflect an attitude that you do not really possess or share in common with those who have thrown off moral restraint. If you want to be recognized as a Christian you cannot be guided by the example of those whose way of dress is really a reflection of immoral thoughts.
Modesty and Moderateness
If you really wish to avoid extremes or clothing that may reflect unfavorably upon you, consider the guiding principles of the Holy Bible. The Christian apostle Paul, in writing about proper apparel for women, said that they should dress “with modesty and soundness of mind.” (1 Tim. 2:9, 10) This principle applies to Christian men too. Following it is the wise course, as the inspired proverb says: “Wisdom is with the modest ones.”—Prov. 11:2.
The Bible also lists as some of the requirements of a Christian overseer that he be moderate in habits and sound in mind. (1 Tim. 3:2) He ought to avoid going to extremes, trying to stand out as different from his Christian associates. So the principles of modesty and moderateness need to be considered when buying clothing.
Being too fashion conscious tends to undermine one’s modesty. And it also tends to reflect a disposition to imitate readily this worldly system of things. One may develop a frame of mind of always imitating the world, and this can lead to difficulties not only in manner of dress but also in other avenues of life. The Bible’s wise counsel is: “quit being fashioned after this system of things.”—Rom. 12:2.
How Will Others View You?
If you are a Christian, another factor to consider in selecting clothing, especially for more formal occasions, is this: The effect of what you wear on the attitude of others toward your Christian ministry. The apostle Paul, in counseling Christians, said: “Whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory.” (1 Cor. 10:31) And he also wrote: “In no way are we giving any cause for stumbling, that our ministry might not be found fault with; but in every way we recommend ourselves as God’s ministers.”—2 Cor. 6:3, 4.
Thus a question to be seriously considered is: ‘Does my mode of dress evoke amazed comments?’ If the amazed comments come from mature Christians, it is something to think about and ought to call for a reappraisal of the clothing. If fellow Christians show amazement at your style of dress, what may those to whom you preach be thinking?
Another thing for you to ask yourself is this: ‘Would the clothing I select, even if it is not extreme, cause people to identify me with rebel or violent groups of society?’ The true Christian is not in rebellion against society but is “obedient to governments and authorities as rulers.” (Titus 3:1) So if this is what you profess, you would not want to convey by your dress a rebellious attitude; this would not recommend your Christian ministry.
No rules can be set for selecting clothing, because styles differ from continent to continent, from country to country. What is acceptable in one land may cause a person to be jailed in another. And even in a single country, one style may be acceptable in part of the country and not in another. But wherever you live, the guiding principles of the Bible enable you to select clothing that expresses your personality and yet allows you to be properly dressed in the eyes of mature Christians.
Dress to Suit Your Personal Traits
Another point to keep in mind is that clothing is oftentimes selected because of its particular eye appeal and interesting color combinations when really it would be much better to select styles and colors that enhance your own appearance.
You can be guided in your selection of clothing by the color of your hair and eyes, the shape of your face, your body build, your complexion, and so forth.
With the wide range of colors in men’s clothing today, there are few problems in choosing the right colors to suit one’s hair and complexion. You can hold material near your face. If one tone of a certain color seems uncomplimentary, then perhaps another shade of the same color will be more suitable. Make the test in the daylight as well as under artificial light, since the latter, if tungsten, has a softening effect on colors.
In selecting clothing, it is wise to keep in mind the general rule of contrasts. Thus a man with dark hair, or one with a deep suntan, usually looks good in light-colored clothes. Men with blond hair, on the other hand, look good in dark clothes.
Clothing that is comfortable, within one’s means and in good taste is to be desired. Most men find that it pays to buy good-quality clothing, even though there is more of an initial outlay of funds. Good-quality clothing lasts longer and, if properly taken care of, will continue to be serviceable for a much longer period than a cheaper and poorer quality of material.
Making the Decision
It is a wise person who is not the first to adopt a new fashion, nor the last one to leave it. Besides, fashion today in many parts of the world imposes no strict conformity. So a person is free, even from the standpoint of fashion itself to dress in a way that is modest and pleasing.
To wear or not to wear? That is a question to be answered, not merely on the basis of personal likes and dislikes, but in harmony with godly standards. When considering clothing styles, ask yourself: ‘Are they modest? Would wearing them be consistent with the principle of being moderate, and so avoiding extremes? Would they tend to identify me with any undesirable group in the community?’ Remember, if you want to prove yourself a Christian, then it is not what a morally decadent society approves that will govern your choice. Rather, it will be your desire to be found well pleasing in the eyes of God.