Young People Ask . . .
Designer Clothing—Is It for Me?
“CLOTHING represents a person. . . . Clothing is always a symbol of who you are.” So said Barbara Dickstein, a specialist in clothing at a major museum. “It tells your status, your role in life, your social position,” she added. Little wonder, then, that clothing is important to most people—and an obsession among some youths.
For many young people, though, the preoccupation with clothing goes beyond simply being style conscious. Many are also aggressively brand conscious. Virtually every item they buy—from sneakers to eyeglasses—must bear that all-important designer logo. For example, a Seventeen magazine survey revealed that 90 percent of teenage girls feel that a brand name is important when it comes to buying sportswear.
Considering the powerful boost the media have given designer clothes in recent years, this should hardly come as a surprise. Through TV commercials, magazine and newspaper ads, billboards, and movies, consumers have been exposed to a barrage of designer propaganda. The aim is to brainwash the public into believing that a designer logo works an almost magical transformation on a garment—and its wearer. Without a designer label, denim trousers are just pants. With a designer logo, denim trousers suddenly become the key to popularity, excitement, and romance!
The Lure of the Label
“What’s in a name?” asked a character in one of Shakespeare’s plays. When it comes to clothing, names can be very important. A textbook aimed at educating professional retailers says: “Many customers are willing to pay slightly higher prices for brand names . . . and designer names. Many brands have a reputation for high standards of styling, appearance, quality, and construction. Designer clothes often offer a unique look.” (Know Your Merchandise, by Wingate, Gillespie, and Barry) An article in The New York Times Magazine similarly points out that “the workmanship and fabric in more expensive clothes are often very different” from cheaper garments. Designer clothes thus tend to last longer and look better than cheaper brands.
Still, for many youths designer labels are not so much symbols of quality as they are status symbols—badges of honor. As 17-year-old Sam puts it, “if you don’t have it, you’re not with it!”
The Power of Peer Pressure
No wonder, then, that a youth named Casey says: “There are tons of pressure to wear designer clothing.” Adds 14-year-old Tennile: “Everyone is always asking, ‘What brand is your sweater, jacket, or jeans?’” According to one youth, the pressure can be so great that if you don’t conform, “people will tease you and talk about you, say you got on no-name shoes or say you shop at [bargain stores].”
Of course, it’s only human to want to fit in with others and be accepted. Fifteen-year-old Andy says: “No one wants to stand out and be an oddball.” But how far should you go to conform? Fourteen-year-old Joe admits: “Sometimes you get clothes you don’t like—just to fit in.”
But does it make sense to allow others to make decisions for you, to strip you of your individuality, or to intimidate you into violating your own tastes, standards, or common sense? Romans 6:16 says: “Do you not know that if you keep presenting yourselves to anyone as slaves to obey him, you are slaves of him because you obey him?” Who wants to be somebody’s slave? But that is what you become when you let peers have the final word on what you wear, or if you let yourself be carried here and there by the winds of fad or fashion.—Compare Ephesians 4:14.
Getting the Bible’s Perspective
How can you learn to think for yourself? Become acquainted with the principles of God’s Word. When your thinking is Bible-oriented, you are much less prone to be controlled or manipulated by others. (Proverbs 1:4) True, the Bible is not a manual on fashion. But it does contain principles that can help you decide what to wear. Consider, for example, the apostle Paul’s words at 1 Timothy 2:9. There he advised Christians to “adorn themselves in well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind, not with . . . very expensive garb.”
Paul was certainly not saying that you have to dress like a pauper or wear clothes that are embarrassingly out of style. Jesus Christ himself apparently owned at least one quality garment. (John 19:23, 24) Rather, Paul was cautioning Christians against drawing undue attention to themselves in the way they dress. Purchasing a garment because of its quality, beauty, or practicality makes sense. But sporting a designer label for the sole purpose of making a “showy display” or “stirring up competition” is selfish and egotistical. (1 John 2:16; Galatians 5:26) You may impress a few shallow souls, but you may also arouse envy, jealousy, and resentment in others.
Paul told Christians to show soundness of mind, or good judgment, in the way they dress. In some areas, wearing designer clothing is a risky business. Fifteen-year-old Michael Thomas, for example, was killed for wearing a pair of $100 designer athletic shoes. Another teenager wanted the shoes for himself. The New York Times reported that in many U.S. urban schools, wearing expensive designer items “can be enough to set off a fight and even a killing.” Young Katherine thus says: “I have found it a protection not to be unduly influenced by my peers in the way I dress. Otherwise, I might attract the wrong kind of attention to myself.”
Of course, not all youths can afford designer clothes in the first place. If you are in that situation, you may have no choice but to learn to be ‘content with sustenance and covering’—even when that covering is not the latest or the best. (1 Timothy 6:8) Rather than falling victim to envy, which is destructive, try to make the most of your situation. (Titus 3:3) Your clothes may lack a fancy label, but they can be neat, clean, and presentable.
What you wear is not nearly as important as what kind of person you are inside. (1 Peter 3:3, 4) Nevertheless, whatever your circumstances, it only makes sense to dress appropriately for each occasion. As a Christian, you also have the obligation to dress in a way that befits a young minister.—2 Corinthians 6:3.
Fortunately, Christian modesty does not necessarily mean that you have to be out of style. Young Tamaria puts it nicely when she says: “There’s nothing wrong with being in style—just as long as you don’t overdo it.” Nor is there anything wrong with wearing clothes of high quality. In fact, according to the book Dressing Smart, by Pamela Redmond Satran, experts “advise buying the best clothing you can afford and emphasize quality over quantity.” Know Your Merchandise similarly gives this advice: “A small wardrobe of good-quality, carefully chosen garments is better than a large wardrobe of garments that wear poorly and may have a short fashion life.”
This may require you to become a shrewd shopper—like the “capable wife” described in the Bible at Proverbs 31:10, 14, 18. She would travel “far away” to ‘trade well.’ And you can learn to ‘trade well’ yourself. An issue of Ladies’ Home Journal suggested: “Ask for the sale price—even at big stores. . . . Do your homework. Research prices at several stores.” You might even learn to negotiate prices with sales personnel, particularly at smaller stores.
Consumer Reports magazine reminds us, though, that “price and prestige are not faultless guides to quality.” Indeed, their researchers found that some moderately priced garments were almost equal in quality to the higher-priced designer clothes. The book Dressing Smart says: “Sometimes, clothes are priced sky-high simply because of fashion, a designer’s name, or pure nerve.” Designer labels are sometimes affixed to counterfeit goods of inferior quality. And even when the label is legitimate, manufacturing errors can occur.
So do not be fooled by labels or price tags. Be cautious. (Proverbs 14:15) Carefully examine the garment—its fabric, construction, stitching, and so forth. Does it hang properly? Is there ample material for alterations? Are there hallmarks of quality, such as lining and interfacing? What about details, such as symmetry and matching of patterns?
By being shrewd and discerning, you can avoid letting the lure of the designer label entice you into making poor choices. You can dress well, without dressing extravagantly.
[Blurb on page 24]
With a designer logo, denim trousers suddenly become the key to popularity, excitement, and romance!
[Picture on page 25]
Don’t be fooled by a label. Carefully examine any garment before you buy it