According to the Bible, Adam and Eve were naked in the Garden of Eden. To me this means two things – (1) they were attractive and (2) they lived somewhere warmer than Canada. But after they ate the apple, suddenly the fig leaf trend hit and everybody was wearing one. The Bible says Adam and Eve felt ashamed and that’s why they needed to cover themselves. So the original purpose of clothing was to hide our shame. Some of us need to remember that as fashion trends come and go, A velour leisure suit is every bit as shameful as a naked body.
But clothing has gone way beyond that original purpose. It’s been used to identify groups of people like cowboys and Indians or armies or the Amish. If armies were naked, the two sides would only be differentiated by the size of their weapons. Many people are more comfortable in a group so dressing the same is a comforting way to blend in and not have to defend any individual choices. But as confidence and ego came into fashion, clothing became an extension of ourselves. ‘Clothes make the man’ my relatives used to say. Except for my uncle who said ‘Man makes the clothes’. He was a tailor. But I know what they were getting at. They were saying people judge you by looking at your clothes. Are they the latest fashion? Do they look good on you? Are they clean? Do they have holes in them? Are they supposed to have holes in them?
I think it’s all a trap. The fashion industry wants you to rely on your clothes to make up for any of your other inadequacies. And they try to get you when you’re most vulnerable – while you’re a teenager. Teenagers are the easiest customers in the marketplace. Strange things are happening to their bodies and their voices and other things. They’re inbetween childhood and adulthood for six or seven years and that’s a lotta time to be in the ondeck circle. They wanna be up to bat. They want to be making their own choices and running their own lives. But they can’t. At least not in most things. They have to live at home and go to school and pretend to listen to Dad.
So whenever they can express their own identity, they do. Through their music. Or their haircuts. But the most dramatic way is through their clothing. They can look tough or slutty or both or neither. Mom has dressed them for 12 years, those days are over. Teenagers want to fit in and stand out all at the same time. They want to be seen as innovative as long as their friends are innovative too. Wearing the latest fashion trends is a way to do that. And once they do that, the fashion folks have them for life. The kinds of clothes they buy will change but the need to buy them will last forever.
Not me. I have a few reasonably nice clothes that I can wear on social occasions. They’re not new but they’re ambiguously semi-classic and most of the time I can get away with them. And if somebody calls me out for wearing a shirt I’ve had for five years, I’m not embarrassed, I’m proud. They call it being out of style. I call it being in charge. Open your closet and take inventory. Chances are you’ve got $5,000 worth of clothes in there, most of which you never wear. My closet is around the $750 mark – $700 for social clothes and the other $50 for the clothes I wear day to day.
I don’t want to wear even somewhat expensive clothes day to day and I’ll tell you why: BECAUSE I DO THINGS. I change tires or replace spark plugs or rebuild carburetors or install toilets. I don’t hang out at the mall all day sipping lattes and looking at what everyone’s wearing. At the end of the day, I want to feel like I’ve accomplished something. I don’t care if nobody complimented me on my jeans. If I got the lawnmower running, that’s a good day.
And good clothes are wasted on me. If I’m dressed up and the furnace goes dead, I’ll be down in the basement with my tools ruining a really nice shirt. I know my wife would prefer it if I dressed better but she also likes the fact that I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty. As long as I eventually wash ‘em.
So if you really like clothes and fashion and want to always look your best, that’s fine. I have no problem with that. But don’t criticize those of us who go another way. Remember clothes were created to hide shame not to spread it.