• Clothing

The clothing industries made a killing last month. People came out from under the rocks to wrap themselves in new Easter threads, shoes, and hats. Kids were dragged from store to store as their little frames were fitted with Sunday dress-up stuff. The boys didn't want to, but they had to wear stiff shoes, dinky caps, bow ties, and (ugh!) long-sleeved shirts with cuffs that go halfway over their hands.

Now the girls—that's different. With glee, they waltzed from shop to shop, picking up new frills, white gloves, patent leather purses, and round hats with long ribbons. To them, heel blisters, starchy pinafores, and hair clips to hold on big bonnets were hardly noticed. Not so with the guys! What the fellas hated most was their discomfort, posing for camera shots, nutty-looking vests, pants that hadn't been “broken in,” and Mom's adamant refusal, “No, you can't wear your sneakers!”

I've been through the Easter-apparel torture chamber too many years to ignore this great contrast between fellas and gals. I'm now ready to make a startling declaration: most boys never outgrow their shrug-of-the-shoulders attitude toward new clothes…and most girls will maintain their ecstatic delight for such. Why? Now that's a question worth some thought.

I'm of the opinion that most men buy their clothes for purely functional purposes. A suit of clothes serves a set of practical purposes—to hide his underwear; keep him warm (or cool); provide pockets for wallet, coins, cards, a pen, sun shades, and a cell phone…and little more than that. But when most women buy a comparable garment, it is not mainly a material purchase. It is more of a “moment of magic.” I suggest that she is not looking, basically, for something to cover her, but something to, well, change or enhance her. Now wait before you reject that suggestion of mine.

Sydney J. Harris, the syndicated newspaper columnist, agrees. He wrote:

Husbands who are impatient and derisive and superior about their wives' clothes-buying habits fail to appreciate perhaps the most fundamental difference between the male and the female. The male is idealistic in his beliefs, and practical in his conduct, the female is practical in her beliefs, and idealistic in her conduct.…It is in their conduct that idealism displays itself: and nowhere more so than in the purchase and wearing of clothes. Here, all practicality deserts them, and they become the victims of abstract delusions with no basis in fact. [Harris said that, not Swindoll!] What a woman wants in a new dress, or suit, or coat is another facet to her personality.1

Frankly, this helps explain three mysteries men often wrestle with:

  1. How can a woman stand before a closet full of garments and say, “I don't have a thing to wear!”?
  2. Why do so much of women's clothes seem to be made in such a flimsy fashion with loosely held snaps and hooks? (You see, they are not supposed to last eight to 10 years!)
  3. Why is a woman so distraught when she sees another lady wearing the same garment?

Well, so much for my philosophizing. Maybe it will help some husbands to be more tolerant…and some wives to not feel guilty about having fun in Nordstrom's, Macy's, or Dillard's this week. Relax! We men love the difference between you and us. If clothing helps express another facet of the real you, have at it!

Simon Peter was married. He knew what he was talking about when he wrote a reminder to the ladies—lest they try to substitute outer garb for inner godliness:

Your beauty should not be dependent on an elaborate coiffure, or on the wearing of jewelry or fine clothes, but on the inner personality—the unfading loveliness of a calm and gentle spirit, a thing very precious in the eyes of God. (1 Peter 3:3–4 PHILLIPS)

I close with one final plea. Enjoy your shopping, but when it comes to clothes for your little guys, have a heart! Go easy on the vests and caps. They look funny with jeans, T-shirts, and beat-up sneakers.

1 Harris, Sydney J. On the Contrary. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1964.