Going to a Costume Party?

Last week, I accompanied Penny and the two younger kids to the mall for a bout of clothes shopping. Since fathers in the clothes-shopping process are only slightly less useful than they are during labor and delivery, I spent the bulk of those hours leaning on clothes racks and gawking at the store’s wares.

Browse through the typical, under-twenty-oriented clothing stores–Pac-Sun, Hot Topic, Rue 21, and the like–I came to a simple conclusion. The vast majority of the clothes marketed to young people are freakish, impractical things. We have jeans that look as if they’ve been dragged behind a car for ten miles, acid-washed, stone-washed, pre-faded, pre-wrinkled, pre-ripped and more. I saw jeans made for young men with a 32-inch waist but sporting a 40-inch waistband so that their pants could ride down around mid-thigh. The clothes for young women are even worse. Most of them look like they should be worn by masochistic street-walkers. They have high heels that amount to supported toe shoes.

Let’s be fair, though. When I was a kid, we wore some pretty goofy stuff. I remember, particularly, the fad for overly ornate blue jeans, including ones pieced together from 4-inch-square hunks of denim. We wore t-shirts printed with stupid things every bit of inane as what the kids today seek after. Previous generations wore poodle skirts and zoot suits, so where’s my beef?

The thing about the clothing that I saw last week that seems different from the clothing of years past is that kids today just can’t function very well in their clothes. Buy pink jeans if you want, but buy jeans that will allow you to carry bags of groceries, climb a ladder, and–try this in sagging jeans–run.

Too many young people–and not-so-young people–today feel that listening to an iPod, texting, or keeping up with Facebook are the sort of meaningful activities that ought to dictate how you dress. Why wear lace-up shoes when flip-flops will do the job? Why worry about the fit of your jeans when you rarely don’t have a hand free to hold your jeans up? Why not dress like a hooker when you can’t see yourself doing anything more meaningful with your life?

They say that clothes make the man. I don’t entirely believe that, but I do believe that clothes say a good deal about the man or the woman. They say things about our self-image and about the activities we think might confront us in the course of the day. Dress in a way that makes you happy if you like, but dress in a way that won’t keep you from being the meaningful things that you’re created to be.