What Should I Wear to Church?

The tech boom of the 90s was a heady time of enormous newfound wealth and human progress. However, in 2001, the spectacular bubble burst after years of euphoric investors bidding up shoddy dot-coms with no earnings and no profitability in sight. The momentary millionaires and billionaires were gone. Pets.com, once a Wall Street darling, failed completely and left investors empty-handed. But the tech boom did leave behind a surprising legacy that continues nearly two decades later: super casual clothing.

The young engineers, programmers, and entrepreneurs who made up the bulk of tech’s workforce didn’t leave their hoodies, jeans, and flip flops at the dorm. They brought them into the workplace. Perhaps it was partly out of youthful ignorance of adult dress codes or simply pragmatism. But, I think part of the reason was to stick a finger in the eye of the establishment as if to say, “we don’t care about your stodgy suits, we wear what we want.” This attitude was on display when Mark Zuckerberg famously wore pajamas to a meeting with Sequoia Capital to demonstrate his disinterest. (He later admitted to regretting the incident.)

This new casual approach to dressing has seeped to other sectors and areas of life as well. Take a look at common styles worn to the grocery store, mall, restaurants, even church.

In Christianity Today’s Clothing Matters, the author makes a convincing plea about why Christians should consider their church attire important. He stops far short of prescribing a certain wardrobe, but laments the comfort is king mentality that has become so prevalent.

We deceive ourselves when we breezily claim that God does not care what we wear to church. God cares about our hearts, and what we wear is often an expression of our hearts. So what does our relaxed worship attire say about us?

“Children in their Sunday clothes pose in front of adobe church, Alamo National Forest, N. Mex. Terr. [now Lincoln National Forest]. By A. M. Neal, May 13, 1908.” Image: Marion Doss via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

I realize this can be a sensitive topic. Different cultures and subcultures define appropriate clothing quite differently. Dressing well does not mean having impeccable style or wearing expensive clothes. It simply means doing the best you can with what you’ve got. Perhaps flip flops are your best. Or maybe they are a tangible representation of a flippant attitude about worship and the corporate gathering.

Many times people are dismissive of clothing as “shallow.” Certainly clothing is not of primary importance, but is clothing less shallow when you thinking only of personal convenience and comfort when it comes to getting dressed? That doesn’t mean you have to don a suit or fancy dress to church, but it does mean letting go of selfish and individualistic notions of clothing. Your clothing is not meant to serve you and you alone; when you gather together with fellow believers it speaks volumes about how you view your participation in worship.

About Lauren Rambo

Lauren Rambo is a wife, mom, and redheaded stepchild living in Louisville, Kentucky. She blogs at South by Style.

  • http://jaket.is-a-geek.com/blog Jake T

    I wonder if the hipster movement’s main (only) legacy won’t be to stick a fork in the eye of the counter-cultural idea (which started in the 60s and really blossomed in the dot-com boom) that clothing doesn’t matter.

    Not that I find hipster fashion particularly appealing, but hipster culture is postmodern enough to realize that EVERYTHING is a presentation, including clothing.

    That said, I think it’s nice my generation is throwing off the idea that the uniform for business is the appropriate uniform for worship (it’s always seemed totally crazy to me that the pastor of a church would dress like a mid-level executive).

  • http://jaket.is-a-geek.com/blog Jake T

    I wonder if the hipster movement’s main (only) legacy won’t be to stick a fork in the eye of the counter-cultural idea (which started in the 60s and really blossomed in the dot-com boom) that clothing doesn’t matter.

    Not that I find hipster fashion particularly appealing, but hipster culture is postmodern enough to realize that EVERYTHING is a presentation, including clothing.

    That said, I think it’s nice my generation is throwing off the idea that the uniform for business is the appropriate uniform for worship (it’s always seemed totally crazy to me that the pastor of a church would dress like a mid-level executive).


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