Thursday, May 23, 2013

What's a Guy to Wear?

My sisters and I have been discussing male style.  Guy fashion.  It's quite the interesting topic.

"Culture is religion externalized."
Art is culture.
Therefore art is religion externalized.

Art is religion externalized.
The way we dress is a form of art.
Therefore the way we dress is an externalization of who we are on the inside- our religion, our worldview, our presuppositions.

So it's kinda important.

As Christians, from a modesty standpoint, we talk a lot about the way girls should dress.

As far as style goes- I think girls naturally talk about that enough on their own.

I tease, I tease;  it's good to analyze style for men and women from a Biblical worldview.  The Botkin sisters' recent "Reclaiming Beauty" webinar was a great resource for this very thing, specifically focused on beauty and style for girls.

But what does The Bible say to us guys about the way we dress?  Or can we just go through life looking like we were dressed by a tornado so long as we have good character on the inside?

Isn't it interesting that the culture around us is very serious about men's style?

What messages does the masculine (or maybe just "male") fashion in America send?

Before We Get Into That

I would like to start off by mentioning something that I think is a serious problem: stylistic apathy.

I suspect that for a lot of us guys what we wear is simply accidental.  Thoughtless.  We don't really consider the messages we're sending through the clothes that we wear.  Yet our clothing and grooming habits are another area of our lives over which Christ claims lordship, and they make up an important part of how we represent our King to the world.

Biblical Principles of Clothing and Style

Before I get into the guy-specific and practical part of the post, I want to look at the general, universal Scriptural principles that should apply to the clothes we wear- and how we wear them.

- Clothing should cover, not reveal the body.  The initial purpose of clothing was to cover shameful nakedness (Genesis 3); therefore, all clothing worn publicly should serve this purpose.

- Clothing should reflect gender distinctions (Deuteronomy 22:5).

- Clothing should not draw attention (1 Timothy 2:9+10) unless it's for a good reason (Galatians 1:10).

- Physical appearance is secondary to the condition of the soul (1 Timothy 4:8, 2:10, Proverbs 31:30).

- The condition of the soul should manifest physically (Mark 5:15, 1 Timothy 2:9, John 14:15).

- The physical will reflect the spiritual (Matthew 7:16).

- We are ambassadors for Christ; it is our responsibility to represent Him well (2 Corinthians 5:20, 1 Corinthians 10:31).

Clothing is not a neutral or morality-free subject (Matthew 28:18, 2 Corinthians 10:5, Genesis 1:28).  This is a crucially important presupposition without which not only clothing but all manners of artistic expression become meaningless.  Just because God's Word does not specifically address something doesn't mean that He therefore has nothing to say about it; we are responsible to "get wisdom" (Proverb 4:7) and to seek the "meat" (Hebrews 5:12).  When we discuss things like music, photography, or clothing, there are myriad principles which we can draw from Scripture which apply, not because they were explicitly applied by Scripture to the specific subject, but because the specific subject is a part of a universe governed by the principles of Scripture.  So when we discuss aesthetics, we should be looking for ways to reflect Godliness that we see elsewhere in Scripture or in nature; principles like those of order (1 Corinthians 14:33) and contextual propriety (Jeremiah 6:26, Revelation 21:2) will take us far beyond simply discussing "how short is too short."

What Does It Say?

When discussing aesthetics it is immensely helpful to ask "what does [the art in question] say?"  Instead of going with the easier, less Biblical routes of either legalistically writing up man-made black-and-whites ("syncopation is bad, pants are bad") or throwing off all restraints and embracing antinomian anarchy ("God has nothing to say about my music or my mini-skirt"), we must seek wisdom to understand the principles that God has woven into the universe, how our art reflects those principles, and what those reflections say.


Yes, there is subjectivity to this.  I contend that there is also objectivity.  I am about to make vicious, sweeping generalizations.  You may disagree with my specific applications; I beg you not to allow that to detract from the broader principles.

In the list below I am going to list some things that I believe that a given outfit communicates.  I do not believe nor do I mean to insinuate that because a man looks respectable, he must be respectable, nor that because a man looks less masculine he therefore is less masculine- etc.  I agree that the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.  I desire to go beyond the heart to the hands; if you would like to do the same, then let's seek wisdom together.

So... what does it say?

- Disciplined
- Dignified
- Buisinesslike
- Considerate of others
- Masculine
- Self-controlled
- Organized
- Well-groomed
- Respectable
- On-purpose (the man takes life seriously)

- Metrosexual (i.e. girlie-man; switch out the guy model for a girl model and it would look totally normal to me.  Note the skinny jeans and the slender cut of the whole outfit.)
- Hip
- Cool
- Easy-going
- Well-groomed

Notice how it's not just a matter of "this one is good" and "this one is bad."  Overall, I don't like this outfit, but it does reflect a man who takes care to make himself presentable.  He obviously thought about what he wore that day.  That's a good thing!

- Boyish
- Obviously immodest, with a sexy look thanks to the goofy belt-wedge
- Easy-going
- Not planning on doing hard things today

- Respectable
- Strong
- Outdoorsy
- Very masculine
- Well-groomed
- Disciplined
- On-purpose

- No comment

- Masculine
- Relaxed
- Not doing anything important at this point
- Outdoorsy
- Relaxed
- Ready to go hunting or grilling
- Masculine
- Concerned with more important things than his appearance

- Likes to show off his physique

I actually think Burton Guster of Psych is a great example of a guy who dresses respectably but appropriately for day-to-day city life.  Just because we're not going out somewhere special doesn't mean that we can throw off Biblical principles of clothing and look like slobs at home; Gus does a great job portraying simple, masculine, appropriate style in everyday contexts.

- Just got rescued from a desert island and had to borrow a (much larger) sailor's clothes OR
- Relaxed, vacationy, probably during a football game or something

- Combs his hair with a blender
- Passing out due to the constrictive scarf as we speak

So... Why Does It Say That?

Minor scales make darker music; three acts make a strong story; what makes these outfits say what they do?

These are just some general thoughts, observations, and pet peeves.

The world loves to push (and eventually destroy) the limits imposed by Christianity; thus we march from R&B to acid rock, from Monet to Picasso, from gender-segregated swimming to bikinis.

Notice the trend towards tighter and tighter clothing, both for men and women; this is an insidious way to reveal the body without revealing the skin.  Scripture, on the other hand, leads to covering the body; that doesn't just mean putting cloth on top of skin, but also hiding all the shapely intricacies of form and structure which tight clothing reveals.

Notice the trend towards gender-ambiguous (and usually effeminate) clothing for men:

- The strong, tough, firmly virile look is replaced with the slender, boyish look; skinny jeans, arm-
and torso-hugging shirts and jackets replace looser, boxier clothing- and thin, slim models replace robust, strong ones.  (Think in shapes: which is more masculine- an oval or a rectangle?  Which one does modern male fashion represent better?)
- A puerile smooth-faced look or the playful five-o-clock shadow replaces the purposeful facial hair or the simple, respectable, businesslike shaven face.
- The simple, practical, disciplined styles of short hair are cast aside for more garish and ostentatious blender-beaten styles.
- Scarves, jewelry, and other decorations replace practical, functional, dominion-task-focused manly attire.

So... What's a Guy to Wear?

I hope that this post has encouraged a more thoughtful approach to fashion and style; guys, we are responsible for what we wear, and what we wear communicates instantly and potently.  Ladies, I hope that there have been some principles here which might have edified you as well; feminine fashion is definitely a separate topic, and, indeed, even masculine fashion could warrant many more posts.

Let's start, though, by applying the things we know to the things we wear.  Our clothing should reflect the attributes of God and the principles of His Word, as well as the attributes of Godly manhood; for example:

- Love (is it really loving to others if I smell like something that's been in the refrigerator for too long or if I look like I really don't care what they think?)

- Order

- Dignity

- Gender distinctions

- Strength

- Humility

- Vision for Something beyond myself

- Etc.

Let's seek wisdom on how to reflect Christian culture in everything from the theology we preach to the way we cut our fingernails.


Gods Country Boy said...

Great post - loved the breakdown of the various costumes. I was really wanting an analysis of the caveman though..... :D
I agree that what we wear speak volumes, I also agree that we as guys tend to hardly realize what we wear and the volumes that it speaks.
I fall into the working class of clothing - jeans, either cowboy or combat boots, and a work t-shirt. Period.
I also agree on crossing functionality with looks. We are not to be so functionally based that looks go out the window. Christians then look like righteous cavemen. That even applies when I am hunting - I go for strict functionality, but near invisibility at the same time - so I guess that qualifies as thinking about looks. :)
I personally find the western end of the clothes line to be a great balance between functionality and looks, letting you do what you need to while not looking monkey-like at the same time. Good looking, yet tough jeans, with some good looking, yet tough shirts and long sleeves.
I utterly detest the thought of having to change outfits in order to do something that requires rough and rugged work. Men were designed to do that type of work, why wear anything that would hinder you from doing that in time of need?
Granted, PC executives might not need to wear the clothes necessary for moving hay or setting a well pump, but should he then completely downgrade and resort to the completely dirt, scuff, and tough intolerant business suit? Maybe a nice balance of both?
I think men should be ready for whatever the world throws at them, and I think should dress appropriately. Whenever I go real far downtown, or otherwise scuzzy areas, I go relaxed tactical. I wear clothes that allow me to react to immediate threats that I would run into in the city, and wear things I wouldn't normally wear in my daily doin's on the farm. But at the same time, the clothes are on a slightly nicer scale than what I would wear in the country, since we are trying to be a good witness for Christ, where a muddy and rust stained pair of jeans might not have the desired affect.
I have to admit, I have been on both sides of this ordeal, from caring minutely how I looked in public, and am just recently coming out of not caring a bit about appearance. I think it is a hard and narrow path, that will have different applications for each person in each situation.
Just remember, in each of those wardrobes, a handgun is never outstyled. :D

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Yep, the handgun is usually appropriate. :-D

"I utterly detest the thought of having to change outfits in order to do something that requires rough and rugged work. Men were designed to do that type of work, why wear anything that would hinder you from doing that in time of need?"

Because it wouldn't be appropriate for your daily task line up. I usually change before working on a car; if it's a day with some physical labor in store, my outfit is different. So I'd be careful with this- though I do get what you're saying.

As far as western wear goes, I would agree that as such it's a great style; however, to wear western outfits in day-to-day modern life has some similarities to walking around in a costume. Arizona is probably a more forgiving area for such apparel, but I'd just issue that caution as well; cultural context should be considered as part of this equation, I think.

Bush Maid said...

Okay, I didn't see the cave man coming. ;)

Brilliant post, Gabriel. I love your focus on what brings glory and honour to God, rather than quibbling over frequently argued points of fashion (e.g., skirts vs. jeans).

Whilst I don't think dressing to the nines is high on the priority list for both guys and girls, dressing to suit the occasion shows respect for the people around you.

And David, I know what you mean about not being dressed ready for a job if the opportunity comes up. We have a habit in our house of taking spare clothes where working outdoor jobs may be an option. That way we pay the people we are with the respect of dressing fashionably, and still be able to get dirty with our yard clothes. :D

Gods Country Boy said...

@ Gabe and Bushy
Yeah, I realized *after* I posted that how that came out. It wasn't supposed to come out like *that*. Oops.
I was referring to the guys who never wear anything you could actually do anything in. Like, Levi skinnies. If you ever wanted to ever do anything besides sit on your couch (which is uncomfortable in those things anyways) you would have to go and change.
Point taken though - certain times demand certain outfits.
Same with dress slacks in my opinion. You can't do anything in them besides sit down or stand up. Now obviously, they have their place, but use them there, in their place.
It's a tough world out there, and guys need to be ready to do tough things. I personally am a fan of tough clothes - real tough clothes - in case you couldn't tell. :)
@ bushy
Good idea, ready for whatever. I just try to wear one suit that doubles either way.
@ Gabe
Good point about the Westy stuff not exactly fitting in outside of the west. Hadn't thought about that. I guess you could find some other relaxed, tough, yet clean and decent looking outfits that weren't westy. Out here anything westy looks perfectly natural. In NY, they might think you were a bull rider dropped into town.
Maybe somebody could make a outfit that is tough, yet looks better than faded blue jeans for town wear? A sorta cross over of each? I agree to looking proper, but I think your clothes should be able to meet a certain level of the unexpected. It seems to me that if we prepare for the unexpected spiritual fights and battles, we should walk into life ready for the physical ones as well.
And yes, like Bushy said, the whole point is to Glorify God, not ourselves. Lets pray that's our focus - my focus.

Patrick, Tsahraf. said...

Hello Mr. Hudelson!

I did not expect to, but I agree with it all.

Here are my comments on the cavemen:


-Bare necessities
-Not easily discouraged or deterred
-Tough, can take a beating

@Gods Country Boy
The handgun could be outstyled, I think. By a blaster.

Kelsianne said...

Hmmm, I hadn't really thought about male wardrobe like that before. Great observations! (I would disagree with you on one point though-the guy ready to "go hunting" really needs to switch out his shoes first!) ;-)
Great post, Gabriel!

Abriana said...

It seems like you spoke negatively of aspects of manly dress which are for decoration. Do you think that communicating beauty through our garments only applies to women?

Emily Lamb said...

Wow, those cavemen are manly! And wearing fur, no less. These days it's kind of hard for men to wear fur and still look masculine. And the goofy striped shipwrecked guy? That's Prince William playing football! Haha while I don't precisely agree with all your interpretations, I'm glad you think about this. The other day I found a good quote on the subject: "A man should look as if he has bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care, and then forgotten all about them." -Hardy Aimes

Anonymous said...

Good article. Not always easy for a guy to know how to dress, if they weren't provided with a good example growing up. I've found the Art of Manliness blog provides good direction for how to dress depending on the task you will be performing. Here is a link to the dress and grooming section of their blog...

RE Parker said...

Great, meaty post... :) Gabe, you make me laugh; "combs his hair with a blender"!

From a girls prespective on guy's clothing: I am generally rather replused by skinny jeans (most particuarly with flipflops); the scarf-thingy around the neck--unless there's a reason for it, like it's cold!; saggy britches (at least those are going out of style somewhat), too baggy shirts, and most anything that looks 'hip'.

I find well-fitted (not too loose, not to tight) jeans, button up shirts (tucked in), and suits with ties to be the most manly garb out there. And uniforms, of course... :)
(And yes, I know tucking in one's shirt can be a hinderance to carrying a handgun...)

@David--I totally understand the functionality and not wanting to change aspect of things. I have the same feeling about clothes!

Oh, and by the way, fellas..."Western" clothes look fine/natural in Florida cow towns. :D

Anonymous said...

Such wisdom. . . Thank you for this reasoned approach to a subject very few think about.

Caleb Mellas said...

Thanks for posting Gabriel! Everything we do is communicating something to others. Do your clothes say that you are a Christian? Or do they communicate I am a hippy rock star?

Anonymous said...

This has to be the most pathetic argument on the face of the planet. Mountains out of molehills. Please man... Find something productive to do with your free time because apparently you have a lot of it.

Lydia Jo said...

Interesting topic for a post! I will read it more thoroughly offline, but thanks for your desire to distinguish God's will in this subject. As for myself, I've read so much on modesty (for girls/ladies) from a myriad of different sources, which I think is a good thing. But it's also great to see a young man interested in searching out what kind of men's apparel would be pleasing to the Lord.

Taralyn Rose said...

Lol. Gabriel, do you not know that that man is Prince William? [I think he's playing in a polo match...]

I am sincerely curious.


Taralyn Rose said...

I just read his shirt. I see that it says Football (so... soccer). I see that you did your research. I'm sorry. My bad.


Anonymous said...

In the past plenty of very manly men did manly things while wearing tights, poofy sleeves, and ruffles. So I don't think skinny jeans or a scarf means a guy isn't doing anything manly. I've seen guys do plenty of activities in skinny jeans besides sit of the couch. I was actually assisted by a man wearing skinny jeans just yesterday in removing a large branch from my yard.
As a woman, I find it a huge turn off if a guy dresses in a way just to show off how "manly" he is. It makes me think that he is insecure in his manliness. Men should dress in a style they like, in clothes they find comfortable, and is appropriate for the activity they are engaging in. A man is no less manly for wearing skinny jeans and a pink dress shirt.

Patrick, Tsahraf. said...

"In the past plenty of very manly men did manly things while wearing tights, poofy sleeves, and ruffles."

Yes, I was thinking of mentioning that. There were always effeminate dandies though, who wore too much or too little clothes, aped absurd fashions, and were sickeningly fastidious and vain.

But I think Mr. Hudelson's post was meant to give some good examples, and some that deviated from them in some points.

I may be underrating the emphasis he put in this post, but I do not think he meant to give any extreme examples.

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Abriana, great question!

"Do you think that communicating beauty through our garments only applies to women?"

No, not at all, however, I do believe that there is a beautification, a decorative process, which is distinctly and wonderfully feminine, but is not appropriate for men.

So I do believe that men should dress in ways that reflect Godly principles (including beauty), but if a guy is "decorating himself" and "accessorizing" then I would be concerned. It's hard to put a finger on; hopefully that kinda makes sense.

Emily- LOVE that quote!

Anon- yes, AOM has some great tips on their site. Thanks for bringing that up here!

RE- tucking in the shirt is no deterrent to packing heat when you live in an open-carry state! :-D

Taralyn, yes, I was aware of that; in most of the pictures I saw he was wearing a suit, too. And I think his garb was contextually appropriate there... though I did find it somewhat humorous. :-D

Taralyn Rose said...

It is rather funny :-D

Jo said...

Just come out and say it - everyone should be in a burkah! Men, too! lol

Honestly, I'm glad the God and Jesus I know don't make such a silly fuss over clothing styles. And I'm thankful to know godly men who wear all sorts of styles, because they show that it isn't the clothes that make a man godly OR manly.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


Patrick, Tsahraf. said...

*shakes head *

Bria Crawford said...

I am so glad a male finally addressed the girly guy outfits. It's even sadder when your friends are pinning those pictures on pinterest and swooning over how 'masculine' they appear. Spot on Gabriel.

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Thanks, Bria!

Amy Jo Underwood said...

Great post. I was about to say what Bria said, but she said it first!
Refreshing to see that a man is addressing the issue, and not just us women getting tired of feminine-dressing men :) Keep up the good work!!

Sam said...

So mocking these guys and tearing them down is what you call a Christian attitude? It's constructive?

And I hate to break it to you, but you obviously don't know fashion if you believe that the guy you label as "metrosexual" is wearing skinny jeans.

Oh, and how can a belt be "goofy" and "sexy" at the same time?

Alexandra said...

I am a bit disturbed at some of your assumptions. Just because a man takes care of himself he's feminine? Just because he doesn't have tree-trunk arms or a huge six-pack he's not masculine? Not all men are built to have "manly" physiques (one of my brothers have a very slim build and the last thing I'd peg him as is feminine), and I agree with Sam - those jeans are *not* skinny. I've seen men wear truly skinny jeans, and those were not it. My brothers are some of the manliest guys I know...and also some of the most stylish. As a woman, a man who wears grubby, ill-fitting outfits is a turn-off because it instantly says to me that he doesn't take care of himself or cares about how he looks - the last thing I think is that he's a hard worker or that he's somehow more "manly".

And yes, what on the earth made the belt "wedge" outfit immodest? It's not like he was baring his abs or something.

Lastly, I couldn't agree more with Anonymous' comment -

"In the past plenty of very manly men did manly things while wearing tights, poofy sleeves, and ruffles." Amen! The men who founded our country did so in poofy sleeves, lace, and ruffles. My favorite literary hero, Sir Percy Blakeney, rescued thousands of victims and wore the same. The Austen heroes so many girls worship showed great chivalry and manliness while wearing the height of fashion and style.

The examples you showed are just your personal taste and *preference*, and the others should not be labeled as "wrong" or "feminine". Then we just fall into the rut we can't seem to get out of...the one where "WE" set what is right and wrong based on what WE think is right or wrong. I agree that there is a genuinely "feminine" style that men should avoid. The pictures featured were not that style.

avenirelectricalconsultants said...
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Gabriel Hudelson said...

Hey Alexandra! Thanks for stopping by. I have a question: do you think that the worldviews of a culture are reflected in its fashion?