Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Careful Indifference

I understand why tans are considered attractive, a sign of health. They communicate, at least to the subconscious mind, that the tanned person has been outside a great deal, perhaps working, perhaps exercising, but in some way active. But is it a lie to seek to communicate that message by a. lying down at the beach or worse b. lying in a tanning bed or worst c. smearing on a liquid tan? In like manner I understand that there are people out there that are too blasé to be bothered with fixing their hair. But what does it say about a person who spends time and money carefully trying to make his hair look careless? Just the right cut, just the right shampoo, just the right gel rightly applied, all to say, “Too cool to care.”

Underneath many of these purposefully shaggy heads we find faded and torn blue jeans. Which might bring us back to the tan. That is, don’t torn jeans suggest that the wearer has been out on the farm working hard to earn bread from the land, that the wearer isn’t so much too cool to care, but is too earnest to care? Don’t ripped jeans say, “Been out plowing the back forty. That’s the kind of guy I am.”? Not if the type of guy you are is the one who gets his tears pre-fabbed in his jeans that he buys at the mall.

Put these things together and we get the authentic look, which can be yours with a simple swipe of the credit card down at the Galleria. The bizarre thing is that this is no secret. We all know where to get a tan. We all know how to muss up our hair. We all know where to buy torn jeans. No one is buying it, despite everyone buying it.

Of course the same is true for those of an older generation. Clean cut hair, well preserved clothes, pasty white skin also communicate a message- I’m mature, responsible and well behaved.” But maturity, responsibility and good behavior don’t actually come from khakis and button down collars any more than sincerity, authenticity and “edginess” come from torn jeans and Jesus tats. The irony, however, is that the uniform of the company man is actually more care-free than the rebel. No man needs to apply mousse to part his hair on the side. No man needs to tear a hole in the knees of his khakis.

The reality is that we are what we are, not what we wear. We can lie with our clothes both about our indifference, and our character. Clothes do carry a message. We ought to want them to speak honestly, rather than to earn us a reputation we don’t deserve. That we fail, however, is why the clothing that matters most is the clothing we can’t see. Liars like us would be doomed, were it not for the righteousness of Christ that covers us. We are neither authentic nor respectable. We are instead phonies, who are saved by grace.

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