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WHAT YOUR APPEARANCE SAYS ABOUT YOU

To see how people respond to a person’s appearance, John T. Molloy, author of Dress for Success, panhandled money around the Port Authority Bus Terminal and Grand Central Station in New York City. His approach was to stop people and say that he was terribly embarrassed, but he had left his wallet at home and needed 75 cents to get home. He did this for two hours during the rush hour. During the first hour he wore a suit, but no tie; for the second hour he wore the same suit, but added a necktie. In the first hour he made $7.23, but in the second, with his tie on, he made $26, and one man even gave him extra money to buy a newspaper.

His conclusion? “No question then: The tie is a symbol of respectability and responsibility; it communicates to other people who you are, or reinforces or detracts from their conception of who you should be”.

After conducting hundreds of studies, experiments and tests over a period of years, Mr. Molloy concluded that what a person wears is directly related to the success he will have in life. Of clothing in general, he concludes: “We all wear uniforms and our uniforms are clear and distinct signs of class. We react to them accordingly” (p. 29).

The clothes we wear do say something about us! They openly reveal our attitudes – toward ourselves (self-esteem), toward others (relationships), toward our work (its importance) and toward God (reverence or lack of reverence toward Him). Immodest clothing is a dead giveaway of a person with loose morals or someone who does not know God’s views. What we wear indicates the importance we attach to what we are doing.

 

 

 

 

WHY CLOTHING MATTERS – CHRISTIANITY TODAY

Verbal behaviour refers to all those ways we use language to communicate: speaking, writing, sign language, etc. Nonverbal behaviour focuses on all those ways we communicate without words: facial expression, gesture, posture, eye behaviour, vocal inflection (“paralanguage”), our use of space (“proxemics”), or touch behaviour. Some experts estimate that in our everyday relationships only a small percentage of what we communicate is conveyed via verbal channels. The rest is conveyed nonverbally.

Of special interest here is that avenue of nonverbal communication we will call physical appearance and dress.

 

  1. The wearing of clothing is exclusively a human characteristic. We share many attributes with other creatures, but the inclination to clothe ourselves is not one of them. Those who know the account of Adam and Eve will understand why this is so. There is a moral and even spiritual dimension to human clothing.
  2. Our clothes serve a variety of practical, social, and cultural functions. Protection and modesty spring first to mind, but our clothes do far more. We sometimes dress to conceal or deceive. More often our clothes serve to reveal. We use clothing for decoration, for sexual attraction, for self-expression and self-assertion. By our attire we display our gender, our religion, our occupation, our social position, or causes with which we identify (e.g., sports jerseys). Our apparel may express our group membership or our role in society (e.g., company or police uniforms). Many dress to impress, while others choose the reverse: they express their rejection by intentionally flouting accepted clothing norms.
  3. Our clothing is one of our most elemental forms of communication. Long before our voice is heard, our clothes are transmitting multiple messages. From our attire, others immediately read not only such things as our sex, age, national identity, socio-economic status, and social position, but also our mood, our attitudes, our personality, our interests, and our values.
  4. We constantly make judgments about one another on the basis of clothing. Common wisdom has it that you can’t judge a book by its cover. But this is only partly true; we regularly read one another’s covering. What’s more, we’re better at it than we think. Research suggests that if you stand someone before an audience of strangers and ask them to draw inferences merely on the basis of what they see, the audience’s inferences will tend toward consensus, and those inferences will tend to be more or less accurate. Why should this be? We spend our lives making judgments based on appearance and then testing those judgments in our subsequent relationships. In this way, we become rather adept at the process. Judgments based on appearance are scarcely infallible, of course, and we are wise to hold them tentatively. But it’s almost impossible to avoid making them in the first place.
  5. Because our clothing is one of the fundamental ways we communicate with others, what we wear is never a purely personal matter. Our attire exerts a social influence on those around us. One famous study, for example, discovered that unwitting subjects were significantly more willing to jaywalk when following individuals wearing “high status” clothing than when following individuals wearing “low status” clothing. What we wear can shape patterns of communication around us, depending on what messages people are picking up. Consider, for example, the varied cues we send by the way we dress: “I want people to notice me.” “I’m very confident.” “I want to hide.” “I care only about comfort.” “I want to look seductive.” “I repudiate you and your expectations.”
  6. How we dress not only affects others; it also affects us. This dynamic is often circular: how we feel influences the clothes we put on, and the clothes we put on in turn shape how we feel. Changes of clothes can generate a change of mood; the soldier feels different in his uniform than he does in street clothes. In some settings our choice of attire can make or break us. If we like the way we look for a job interview, for instance, it will tend to strengthen our confidence. We feel better about our chances, as reflected in improved posture, more fluent speech, more dynamic gestures. On the other hand, inappropriate dress can sap our confidence. We have all experienced the uncomfortable effects of feeling under-dressed in a particular social setting.

 

 

 

PRINCIPLE ONE: Dress and appearance are an important index of Christian character. Clothes and appearance are most powerful nonverbal communicators not only of our socioeconomic status, but also of our moral values. We are what we wear. This means that the outward appearance is an important index of Christian character.

Our outward appearance is a visible and silent testimony of our Christian values. Some people dress and adorn their bodies with costly clothes and jewelry to please themselves. They want to be admired for their wealth, power, or social status. Some dress in accordance with certain fashions to please others. They want to be accepted by their peers by dressing like them.

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