Why This Matters.

June 5, 2010




I can’t make you dress like a grown-up.  If you don’t want to, don’t.  Just remember that if you don’t command respect, you won’t be respected.

The amount of pushback Jesse gets just for sharing his ideas on the internet never ceases to astound me. The man is a testament to pursuing your passions, and I would think that even people who don’t care would recognize that and give him some room.

But here’s the thing: I can (and do) respect Jesse and his ideas while vehemently disagreeing with him. Equating something as silly as clothing with commanding respect only earns you the superficial sort of respect given by those paying attention to what you’re wearing. I don’t care what people like that think of me, because if they stop at the clothes on my back, they’re exactly the sort of person I don’t want anything to do with.

Let me say that both Joe and Jason are great supporters and good dudes, so my respect and thanks go to both of them.  I have to disagree with Jason, though, as you might expect.

First of all, presuming that aesthetics are only “superficial” is a horrible mistake.  Our sense of aesthetics is one of the things that makes us human. I appreciate the beauty that people create in the world every day.  It’s one of my greatest joys.  I would never dream of suggesting that aesthetic choices are superficial, whether they be in the form of art, architecture, design, clothing or even language.  Beauty is important.

Secondly, clothing has much more content than just aesthetics.  Clothing is a way we represent ourselves to others.  This self-representation couldn’t be more significant.  When you dress, you are making a statement; not a fashion statement, but a statement of identity.  If you put on a jacket and tie, for example, you are signifying to others that you take the occasion seriously, whatever that occasion may be.  If someone looks at you and interprets how you dress, they are not being superficial.  They are reading the message that you wrote.  If that message says, “I am to be respected,” then they will respect you.  The language of clothing is as complex as the spoken word, but ignorance of it is no excuse.  Can one earn respect in other ways?  Certainly, and one should.  But that’s no reason to open a conversation with someone by saying, without words, “this is not important to me.”

The mistake Jason seems to be making is to assume that someone who would read the language of clothing would “stop at the clothes on [his] back.”  That’s, of course, absurd.  It’s like saying that no one should pursue literature because if they learned to write, they’d only impress people who didn’t pay attention to anything besides silly words on a page.

We have many tools to communicate and create beauty.  Some are better at wielding some, some better at wielding others.  If you choose to pursue one to the exclusion of another, that’s your choice.  But don’t tell me that I’m silly for pursuing those I care most about.