Simply put, what is meant by the term, “Christian Clothing” in today’s culture? As one researches the topic, there are a host of images and concepts that will come into view. It can become bewildering to track down exactly what someone is talking about when the term is used. Here, in this article, we will examine some points with regard to this topic.
In the 1980’s, companies in the U.S. began selling t-shirts, pants, sweatshirts, and other accessories with a different twist—–for a different market. As Christian bookstores were making a splash around the country selling inspirational merchandise, the thought occurred to bring inspirational apparel to this built-in market of faith-based consumers. As a backlash to the increasingly godless culture, the “cool” merchandise like Christian music and Christian clothing began to appear to meet the need of people (particularly youth) who wanted an answer to combat that culture and express their faith at the same time. At first simple and straight-forward, clothing began (and continues) to stretch the boundaries of nice, plain text and fashion wear. Increasingly, the music and the clothing in this market has grown more “loud” and “offensive” in the desire to make a statement for their King. Both in what is said on the clothing, and how it is being worn, a question might be asked regarding this booming trend of Christian clothing: “How effective is this apparel to those who wear it, and those who see the clothing displayed in the culture?” What follows are some observations I have made as a fellow professing Christian.
I have noticed that no matter how blunt and “expressive” the message on the clothing (t-shirt, pants, tank top, shoes, etc.), the test of real faith being lived in this environment is still a life lived, not just another “witnessing tool” to tell everyone about Jesus. In fact, history teaches us that just “talking the talk” does not result in people being transformed by a message; rather, we remember special people in history by not only their words but by their acts. And further, I’ve noticed that when someone does “great” acts, then it serves as a platform for people to listen to what they have to say because folks understand that that individual has authority to state his/her philosophy. When Jesus healed people, for example, the multitudes came by the droves to get healing also, and in the process hear the gospel of the Kingdom of God.
No doubt there are many people (particularly youth) wearing Christian clothing who gain a lot of approval with their believing friends in friendly settings (youth groups, Christian concerts, church, camps, etc.) In these types of environments, it’s easy to talk the Christian lingo and wear the Christian verses, godly sayings, and symbols—–because it’s friendly turf. But what happens when one wears this type of apparel in unfriendly settings, like public high school or parties? Does the fact that one wears faith-based clothing grow their faith to the point of being mature in a wide variety of situations? Can Christian clothing teach someone to be a more powerful and influential vessel for the King of Kings? I have observed that no matter how “cool” your clothing makes you feel around your friends and Christian family, when the environment changes and the world works its charms, that clothing that you thought was so “hip” wilts in the face real, human needs. I mean, will wearing a t-shirt with a cross on it at a football game give you peace, approval, and a sense of belonging when everyone around is have fun without God? When God is irrelevant to your environment, will your religious garb keep you in tight unity with the Lord? My sense is—–no.
What is needed by the Christian is a deep-rooted faith that goes beyond using outer expressions to gain approval before man or God; or even to get a spiritual conversation going. Paul, in 2 Corinthians chapter 4, spoke about something deeper than clothing to keep you “cool.” He says, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body, (verses 7-10).” Whatever clothing you put on, as a Christian you are going to face warfare, and when you do, life is hard—–real hard. The armour that we use as believers is spiritual, as Ephesians chapter 6 tells us. But the clothing for the Christian is also spiritual, as Galatians chapter 3, verse 27 instructs us. Only this “Christian clothing” is deemed to be effective by God. So, my advice is to wear whatever type of apparel you like (that shows godly modesty), but if you’re “signing up” to follow Christ, then please don’t count on some “cool” fashion to save the day and give you meaning and purpose for your faith. Not only do fashions come and go, but that type of protection will have no value to engage in warfare without suffering great harm.