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?
- Considerate of others
- On-purpose (the man takes life seriously)
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!
- Obviously immodest, with a sexy look thanks to the goofy belt-wedge
- Not planning on doing hard things today
- Very masculine
- Not doing anything important at this point
- Ready to go hunting or grilling
- Concerned with more important things than his appearance
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?)
- Gender distinctions
- Vision for Something beyond myself
Let's seek wisdom on how to reflect Christian culture in everything from the theology we preach to the way we cut our fingernails.