While focusing on externals is hardly a commendable mindset, it’s valid to argue that clothes communicate. In the same manner that first impressions are rarely forgotten, one’s appearance gives clues about a person’s upbringing, taste, background, or political preferences.
There’s the externals. But what about the internal effects of clothing?
Clothes help or hurt our self-image. Clothes can be therapeutic. Clothes can make us feel beautiful or powerful—whether or not we are.
For example: the classic cozy sweatshirt. There is little to no aesthetic value in a sweatshirt. It is essentially a fleece sack with openings in all the right places for your head and arms and torso. But nothing feels better than a grungy sweatshirt on a cold day when you don’t feel well or you don’t have to go anywhere.
Another example is formal attire. Perhaps girls feel a little more strongly about this than guys, although I have the great pleasure of knowing several men who enjoy dressing to the nines on a regular basis. Pretty dresses make the girls who are wearing them feel pretty. This probably arises from watching too many Disney princess movies growing up or indulging in stories by L.M. Montgomery or Jane Austen (a habit no one in their right minds could condemn.) Any little girl can describe for you the magical feeling that they have suddenly become a princess the moment they put on a pretty dress.
Another item I’ve noticed is mismatched socks, normally in bright neon colors. I see this deliberate mismatching as a sign of quiet, good-humored defiance. There is no law that dictates that we must wear white, matching socks. But several people I know make a point of wearing one yellow sock and one orange sock, even if they cannot be seen, because the thought of not having matching socks makes them happy.
Why? Why do the shells we don like hermit crabs contribute so much to our moods? Maybe this is a uniquely female thing, but I’m sure there are males and females alike who have pondered the same question. It makes no sense. Clothing is clothing—its purposes are warmth and concealment. And yet throughout the long history of mankind, there has always been a theme of “the clothes make the man.”
I have no answers for you. No clever metaphors; no artistic explanations. All I can say is that I’m thankful for God’s gift of creativity to mankind that allows for the creation of an infinite variety of clothing so that, thank goodness, we can all choose to dress so that we can present ourselves in the best possible way. From hoodies to formals and everything in between.