I am so intrigued by the number of comments surrounding my posts about how I believe men should dress. I’d like to address some of them here.
A gentleman named Pavel commented on my last post. He stated that, “If you have no money, it is hard to dress right.” well, Pavel, that’s only half true. Let me explain.
As a home-schooled young man many years ago, I made many trips to the library. I’m talking about the actual library. This was in the early 1990’s, just prior to the internet’s ubiquitousness as we know it today. We had to do this thing called research. It involved card catalogs and microfiche and interacting with people behind desks. During one of my journeys downtown to the main branch (complete with actual stacks) I ended up taking out a book on etiquette. It was, in fact, the book on etiquette – Emily Post’s Etiquette.
I found it fascinating. Look, I was homeschooled. The freedom I was given over my own didache meant I could follow all kinds of interests. I saw the title on the shelf while looking for something else and was intrigued. So I checked it out.
The first lines of the book stood out to me not only because they made so much sense as to be self-evident, but also because they seemed contrary to everything I’d ever heard about the subject. I will paraphrase.
“Etiquette is nothing more than making the people around you as comfortable as possible within the bounds of good taste.”
That’s a great rule to live by. Miss Post herself was spelling out the formula right off the bat. It didn’t matter if you knew whether or not to extend a hand to a lady who hadn’t introduced herself first or whether you should use the tiny fork first. If you used your common sense and your cogitative powers and if your intention was to practice fraternal Charity (setting others at ease in a tense social setting), then you’ve already won. I have used that advice in life so many times it isn’t funny.
And good dress is like an extension of good manners.
Think about it.
1) Common Sense: dress appropriately for your state in life and the task at hand. I’ve talked a lot about wearing a jacket to daily mass. I would not wear that same jacket while digging a trench. Duh.
2) Cogitative Powers: Think before you dress. God gave you the ability to reason and to discern. Who are you? Where are you going? With whom will you interact? Pull it all together and make your decision. Is the thing I would like to wear outside the bounds of my budget? Then be prudent.
3) Fraternal Charity: This goes both ways. Dress in a way to put others at ease but also remember that others should never be offended when you’ve done your best. I’ve seen college students (proverbially poor) show up to events looking phenomenal because they wore the best of what they have and they held their heads high with dignity. I’ve also seen millionaires (in fact, a well known Catholic TV personality) show up to Sunday mass week after week dressed to golf – because that’s where he was going immediately after mass. The thing is, I knew he owned suits far nicer than mine. It bothered me.
Pavel, if you are short on cash at the moment, do not fret. Cleanliness and being your best do not cost a dime. I remember reading stories of the saints when I was a boy. I was amazed at how, for instance, the father of St. Catherine Laboure, despite laboring in the fields, kept one nice set of clothes to wear on Sunday. It wasn’t “fancy” but it was his best. Seriously, Pavel, email me and I’ll help you figure it out. More than anything, it’s an attitude.
So to drive home the point about the appropriateness of one’s attire… While traveling across the southern tip of Florida today we stopped in the Everglades and took a tour on a fan boat. Our pilot stopped within a few feet of a gator who hissed at me. I thought I would die. But for that excursion, I was in shorts, a tee shirt, and a ball cap. I was in a literal swamp.
Hours later, I found myself at St. Agnes church in Naples, FL. This is the location where Corpus Christi Latin Mass Parish has a daily Mass. I pulled into a gas station, went inside, and, you guessed it, changed into a shirt and trousers with a jacket. I’ve got one jacket with me this week as I travel light but it works for its purpose.
Also, the Mass was pretty well-attended. This makes me happy to see packed Latin Masses. I will be there every day this week. So for a fun experiment, if you also worship at this parish and you see a stranger in a light blue sports coat, don’t be afraid to approach him after mass and say hello. If, however, you think his writing is garbage, then approach the older lady in the veil seated nearby and tell her. That man’s mother-in-law will not mind at all. She just loves making new friends.
Bonus: Swamp Vid
Virgin Most Faithful, pray for us!
St. Maria Goretti, pray for us!