By: Matt “Gadget” Latchaw
In my last post, I gave five ways to maximize the potential of your clothing. (5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Wardrobe at College) Why would anyone follow these steps? Habit dictates what we wear more than anything so why go to the trouble of changing individual patterns in life? Because what we wear affects more than how we look. No, it doesn’t matter if your style is athletic or hipster, polished or grungy, and you don’t have to pull the old camel-hair-and-leather-belt approach like John the Baptizer to be mindful about what you wear. Here are five reasons for thinking critically about clothing.
1. Save time, money, and space
This one’s simple and practical. If you keep new purchases to a minimum, limit laundry frequency, and reduce the size of your wardrobe, you’ll find more time in your day, money in your pocket, and room in your closet. With fewer shopping trips comes less time and money spent searching for the perfect new item. By doing laundry less often you’ll also save time and precious quarters. If you cut down your clothing collection, you’ll spend less time trying to find the perfect outfit, and there will be more room to store that guitar that has gone untouched since freshman year.
2. Reduce energy usage and waste
Obviously, doing less laundry means less water, soap, and electricity used, but the effects of clothing go beyond the scope of an individual. Clothing is made from raw materials which take energy to harvest or manufacture, and the industrial processes for fabrication creates waste in the air and in landfills. When the product is completed, it still has to be transported to retail space which must be climate-controlled and lit. Finally, you drive to the mall, stop at Chick-Fil-A, buy the garment, drive home, and launder it once a week. All this can add up to a sizable carbon footprint.
3. What you wear sends a message
No, clothing doesn’t define you. Your identity cannot be contained or expressed solely in what you put on your body. However, your clothes describe you to others. Whether we like it or not, our clothes immediately align us with a larger group. Basketball shorts and a sports jersey tells others how important athletics are to you, and a suit and tie lets a business partner know you take your work seriously. Your t-shirt can tell others how you love Family Guy or that one band. First impressions come from outward appearances. What does your wardrobe say you value? Think about it.
4. It’s biblical
Yep, I pulled the Bible card. Seriously though. Scripture talks about clothing more than you might think. In Isaiah 20, God tells Isaiah to go naked and barefoot for three years as a symbol to Egypt and Cush. Micah did the same to show God’s remorse about Israel’s sin. In Luke 3, John the Baptizer tells a crowd that anyone with two shirts should share with people who have none. Jesus says in Matthew 6 that we shouldn’t worry about what we wear. I don’t think he was talking about being fashionable. He says that the flowers don’t work or make their own clothes, and God clothes them more beautifully than King Solomon. Being mindful about clothing doesn’t mean distressing more about what to wear. Jesus says we shouldn’t spend our time worrying about such things. He does say we should worry about what others wear. In Matthew 25, Jesus tells us that when we clothe or don’t clothe the needy, we clothe or don’t clothe him. Those who don’t clothe him are sent to eternal punishment! It would make things a lot easier if we could all just go Garden of Eden style.
5. Clothing can promote materialism, idolatry, and social injustice
When we focus so much on what we wear, we run the risk of valuing physical possessions more than we should. We may idolize certain types of clothing or people who wear them when we spend too much time concerning ourselves with clothing. This applies to all types of styles. Advocacy groups have criticized companies like Nike for supporting sweatshops and oppressive labor institutions (Low Rating for Nike, other Industry Leaders on Labour Rights). Although there is debate on this topic, we may indirectly support such injustice when we purchase from these companies. Even welfare-oriented companies like TOMS have been accused of causing more harm than good (TOMS Shoes: God Marketing-Bad Aid). What are we to do when it seems like every option causes problems? Fair trade and sustainable models may make more expensive clothing, but their impact on the world around us seems to be much more positive. Also, most thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army support humanitarian efforts with their shops.
Being careless about what we wear can lead to waste and corruption, and caring too much can become unhealthy devotion to clothing. The point is not to wear one type of clothing or another, nor is it to put forth a certain amount of effort and thought. We need to be aware of what impact our clothing has on ourselves, our neighbor, and the world.