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Someone has said that ‘clothes make the man.’  I am unsure if I agree with this; actually I am unsure if I understand what this statement means.  I do know that a person’s clothes (which has a large impact on his/her appearance) does communicate something about the person.  A person’s clothes or ‘fashion statement’ might communicate the following messages:

  • ‘I am being creative.’
  • ‘I am being my own individual.’
  • ‘I am going against socially expected norms.’
  • ‘Clothes are not that important to me.’
  • ‘My appearance is not a priority.’ or perhaps,
  • ‘Clothes or how I look mean much to me.’

I appreciate nice clothing; I like wearing nice clothing.  I drool over (ok, covet) the suits, hats, shoes, etc. often advertised in GQ magazine.  These are all items I can not afford however.  Nevertheless, I like dressing up.  I also like ‘dressing down’ (an African-Americanism); I like wearing jeans, sweat pants, baseball cap, shorts and T-shirt (weather permitting).   I love this freedom and flexibility.

I think sometimes people who don’t place a great priority on their appearance consider themselves ‘morally’ better or superior because they have opted for the simple life.  I think often we criticize someone’s choice of clothes too hastily.  Often we don’t know a person’s story.  For instance, I spoke with a professor who drives a very nice luxury car.  He told me that what people don’t know is that he and his wife are quite generous to charitable organizations.  Others who don’t wear nice clothes may have been raised in a context where money was tight or appearance was not a high priority.  Maybe a person’s view on clothes is related to one’s generation.  For instance, postmoderns frequently view ‘well dressed’ and well polished people with suspicion.  Postmoderns tend to buck against what has been socially accepted in terms of attire.

As a society do we have the right to impose a certain prescribed attire on people like imposing a salad fork should be used for the salad; the other fork for the main entree?  I think we can be too rigid with our demands on what to wear.  Do we have a right to criticize others who like a nice tie or Fedora hat?  

Statements like, ‘clothing makes the man’ evaluates fashion and clothing much higher than it ought to be.  In my humble opinion, there are much larger issues to deal with than someone’s attire.  Issues like social injustices, quality education for all, medical coverage for all, etc. demand our attention.

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