The War on Modesty, Decorum, and Appropriateness!

February 4, 2019

I have asked but never received an answer why sane people are paying inflated prices for ugly clothes: faded, old, patched, muddied, holey, and ragged clothes. Now there are shoes “dirtied, tattered, and seemingly held together by adhesive” selling for $535 a pair. Sorry, you can’t run out and purchase a pair since they have sold out. You can purchase a “ripped crewneck sweatshirt for $1,165.” Or, for less than a thousand bucks, you can own a frayed red fisherman’s sweater. T-shirts have bullet holes and have been buried in dirt for months to advance disintegration. For an additional premium, shirts and jeans are available that have been ripped by lions, tigers, and bears. 
Is this a matter of style or sanity?
This is called the distressed look. My word would be depressed or disgusted look.
You have a right to look poor and be poor and designers and stores have a right to sell trash clothes, but who in his or her right mind wants such trash and is willing to pay big bucks to get it?
When I was young - back when dinosaurs walked the earth - it was a delight, although infrequent event, to wear new clothes or shoes. Usually, I wore hand-me-downs. When a shirt was torn, it was immediately repaired by Mom. There was no possibility that a torn shirt or jeans with a hole in the knee would be worn. We were poor but not slovenly. Shoes were worn as long as they held together. Often, I put cardboard in my shoes to cover the holes in the soles.
Now I see people with more cents than sense actually pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars for dirty, distressed, and damaged clothes. These are rich people who dress as to appear poor but do not want to be known as poor. Comparatively wealthy people wearing old dirty clothing is demeaning and a public insult to the poor. It is the epitome of arrogance.
Dirty jeans used to reflect toil and sweat, but now they are worn by people who are so guilt-ridden for having riches that they want to appear to live the way normal people live. Many of these people have no experience with hard work and dirty hands.
Nancy B. Diehl, director of New York University’s Costume Studies program may have the answer why sane people want to look like bums. She said, “It’s an ‘I’m going to expose my body if I want to’ type of ethos. In a way, it’s a protest against propriety.” It displays rebellion against what is proper and acceptable and is often a rejection of one’s upbringing.
Charlene Lau, a fashion historian who has taught at Parsons School of Design, said, “At the same time, distressed, tattered and dirty clothing also tend to work against middle-class norms of cleanliness and propriety. In this sense, they are symbolic of rebellion - whether real, contrived or imagined.”
Bingo! I think they are right. This “distressed” trend seems to be youth-driven and has now become acceptable, even promoted, by the fashion world of London, Paris, New York, and Hollywood. The world of high fashion has now embraced “distressed” clothing as chic. Of course, their motive is the buck suckered from people too stupid to think for themselves.
One distressed-wearing female said of trash clothes, “They lend an air of super casualness to your personality and make you just a bit more careless and carefree.” That’s what people need today - more carelessness.
Youth have always wanted to show their independence (while they live in Mom’s basement and live off parents and the taxpayers) but the distressed look is not an expression of individuality but of submission. By accepting what is currently fashionable they become a slave to fashion, not independent thinkers.
Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber, Hollywood and television actors, famous athletes, and even Michele Obama; everyone who’s anyone is seen in the “distressed” look. Most people want to be accepted by the crowd and will follow the herd to be accepted - even if they have to pay big bucks to look like a fool.
Do such people ever ask themselves: “Why am I doing this?”
Many say that they wear such clothes because “they are comfortable.” However, that dog won’t hunt. Clothes are about protection and modesty, not being “comfortable.” That’s like eating a meal because it is tasty, not nutritious and necessary to stay alive. While it is good that food be tasty, that is not the purpose of eating.
The reason for clothes is to protect us from the elements and to present us in a decent way to our friends, neighbors, and others. God warned His people in Exodus 20:26, “Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.” Priests, at that time, wore wide, loose robes; and when climbing steps, they could easily expose themselves. Later, God told them to wear linen breeches to protect against that possibility.
God was teaching Israel that modesty and decency are important to people of character. It was also to remind people of the vast differences in Jehovah worship and the heathen priests in surrounding nations who performed worship in the nude at pagan altars.
Clothes send a message and are not to be used as a deception according to Zechariah 13:4. God warned about false prophets who, as did true prophets, wore rough clothing to pass as true prophets. About 500 years later, some men might dress as did John the Baptist but that did not make them a prophet of the wilderness. 
More than 200 years ago in England, nonconformist preachers and Church of England preachers were criticized for wearing “ruffles, powder, and fribble” as did the wealthy and powerful. Adam Clarke said of them, “Thus the Church and the world begin to shake hands, the latter still retaining its enmity to God.” Such preachers, accustomed to flattery and fawning and fame, were found in palaces, not in a wilderness.
The distressed clothing is another fad that empty, hopeless, purposeless youth pursue to show their rebellion against normalcy, modesty, propriety, and common sense.
Likewise, some Evangelical preachers wear distressed clothing in the pulpit to make them appear stylish while they really look silly - like the youth they are trying to impress.
Clothing has always sent a message from the wearer to the observer. An example is the toga of the Roman youth. It was white, striped, or fringed with purple and was worn until they were seventeen years of age when they changed it for the toga virilis, or toga pura, which was all white.
According to The World of Roman Custom, Romans’ outer garments primarily “signified rank, status, office, or authority... The dress worn by the participants in an official scene had legal connotations...The hierarchic, symbolic use of dress as a uniform or costume is part of Rome's legacy to Western civilization.”
A person’s garments have always carried a message. Today’s message from distressed clothing is one of carelessness, crassness, coarseness, and is somewhat cloddish.

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Dr. Don Boys is a former member of the Indiana House of Representatives; ran a large Christian school in Indianapolis, wrote columns for USA Today for eight years; authored 15 books, which can be purchased below, and hundreds of columns and articles for Internet and print media publications; defended his beliefs on hundreds of talk shows.

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