Apparel Does Say Something – Tom Wacaster

There was a most interesting editorial in the Dallas Morning News on Mat 2, 2001. It was entitled: “You’re right to be wary of gangsta chic,” by Leonard Pitts.  I must admit that there were two words that caught my attention, mainly because I was unfamiliar with the meaning. Gangsta is slang for “gangster (the “r” has migrated to who knows where), and chic means “style or urban fashion in clothing.” The gist of the article was avoidance of certain contact with strangers who dress in a style that classifies them with a specific element in society; in this case, youth gangs. He writes, “Kids always have outfitted themselves according to every shifting ideas of what constitutes cool. But gansta chic is about more than cool. The universal perception and frequent reality is that it also is about sending an implicit threat.” And this he makes this most astute observation:

“I often hear kids insist that dress is neutral and how dare you stereotype them based on what they wear. Fine. It is the argument you would expect them to make. But it is an abrogation of responsibility for adults to encourage them in that delusion. Better to explain to them that what you show the world, how you allow yourself to be perceived, will have profound implications for the way people treat you.”

The world judges us by the way we dress. If a woman dresses like a harlot she is going to be propositioned. If a young person dresses like a gansta, he or she should not be surprised if otherwise cautious folks avoid any contact or association with them.

Now, lets apply this rather obvious truth to some other areas beside gansta chic. First, the principle is true with regard to “modest apparel.” Scanty clothing says something to those who see us. It is a come on to the opposite sex. Some of you may remember the hijacking of T.W.A. Flight 847 back in July of 1985. The Houston Chronicle carried this interesting bit of news about that event. One lady passenger was being molested by one of the hi-jackers. Fortunately, for her, he was restrained by his leader. The leader, after restraining his fellow hi-jacker explained to her that the short pants she was wearing was inappropriate and had conveyed to the terrorist that such advances might be welcomed by her. A few minutes later he brought her a blanket and told her to wrap it around her waist. In spite of the 100-degree temperature in the airplane, she kept the blanket on the rest of the ordeal. But I can hear someone say, “Well, this is a free society, and I can dress the way I want.” Evidently some think that what is lawful in the eyes of society is automatically acceptable to God. Evidence suggests that some of our sisters in Christ have bought into this lie. The Bible still says that we are to dress in “modest apparel.” Meanwhile, let a man gaze after a scantily clad woman, and she will be the first to cry, “foul” should she become aware of his gazes (or worse).

But I must address another area that concerns me no little. There is an increasing trend toward sheer sloppiness in what we wear to worship. It used to be that we had our “Sunday-go-to-meeting” clothes and the first day of the week was one of those rare occasions when you could tell that a person was going to church by the way he dressed. Neatness tells us that we respect ourselves and others, but sloppiness says we just do not care. While there may be some who cannot afford a nice dress shirt and tie, or a nice dress, this is the exception rather than the rule in our affluent society. I have attended high school graduation exercises, and Baccalaureate services where young people were dressed in decent, neat, and respectful clothing, only to see them appear the following Sunday morning in rags, blue jeans, and baggy, and sloppy dress as they come to worship God. We are witnessing young ladies wearing shorts, loose blouses, and skin-tight jeans as they gather to worship their God; and that with the parents’ consent (or at least without any voice of opposition from mom or dad). Mr. Pitts was right on target when he pointed out that it is “an abrogation of responsibility for adults to encourage them in that delusion.” Unfortunately, parents are often derelict in this area as well. When we come before God in worship we are to have a contrite spirit (Isaiah 66:2). That spirit is reflected in the way we dress and conduct ourselves in our worship, as well as our everyday behavior. Brother Mack Lyons hit the nail right on the head:

“No! God does not have a dress code for worship and work! Of course He does not. He assumes the humble; worshipping heart will dictate proper attire and behavior. A true spirit of awe, reverence, and worship dictated dignity and propriety in dress and demeanor. God does not command us to kneel or stand or bow our heads when we pray, but doing so manifests a humility of heart that honors and respects the sovereign God whom we praise and petition. So does proper dress.”

Before you dismiss this as so much “preacher talk,” why not stop and think seriously and soberly about it.

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