We Are What We Appear
It’s always interesting to watch old footage of sports meetings—you know, the clips from the old black-and-white 16-millimeter newsreels. They were filmed in an age when amateurism often triumphed over the paid professional. The pleasure comes not only from viewing the triumph of true, gentlemanly sportsmanship, as compared with the sheer “gamesmanship” of sport today, not only from the pleasure of seeing natural strength and skill of human beings tested against each other—without drugs—but also for the sheer pleasure of observing the elegance of the dress of the spectators! It’s an exercise in observing just how a nation will portray itself when it has confidence in all that it stands for as compared to when it has completely lost its way.
The descent in the quality of the dress of the Anglo-Saxon peoples over the past 40 years is staggering. It directly reflects the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy relating to these very peoples. Speaking to our ancient forebears, Almighty God declared that if they refused to submit to His law, then He would break the pride of their power (Leviticus 26:19).
There was a time when the British peoples were admired and copied by other nations in their form of dress. It was, as Luigi Barzini commented, “a spontaneous homage, a flattering imitation” (The Europeans). Barzini observes that the typical English gentleman of the 19th century was “well-educated, well-behaved”—largely attributable to “good upbringing.” Aldous Huxley commented that what made the typical English gents of the time so admired as models for the rest of the world was “their confidence, their ease … their prestige which the other people would like to deny but can’t” (Antic Hay).
It’s no great coincidence that the time of the well-dressed, well-mannered, well-educated English gentleman coincided with the time of British greatness. We simply are what we appear. Just as “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34), so the very image we project of ourself and the social or national group to which we belong will be reflected in our outward appearance.
There is such a thing as a right type of pride. Not that ugly, self-centered expression of ego so often seen in our so-called celebrities. But a natural, humble pride vested in a real confidence stemming from knowing truly who and what we are and what is our true destiny in life. Simply put, if we think we are evolved from a lower form of life, and equate ourselves with a form that has descended from a dumb ape, we shall have no aspiration to embellish our appearance or modify our behavior barely beyond that of a gorilla.
On the other hand, if we know that we are the progeny of a far higher Power, a far more supreme intelligence, created in His image, after His likeness, and we apprehend—to the degree that a human is able—the revelation of the brilliance of that Creator’s appearance, we shall do all in our power to dress ourselves so as to reflect a degree of elegance reflective of that image.
Unfortunately, as Stanley Marcus wrote even a couple of decades ago, the age of elegance is long dead.
I’m not an avid fan of these “idol” or “talent” shows. They are such a far cry from the Amateur Hour of the ’50s that produced real talent, such as renowned soprano Joan Sutherland, that I personally view them as an abomination by comparison. Yet, recently, while surfing the available 200 channels to find the—perhaps—three that might provide something uplifting, educational or possessing at least some vestige of artistic value, I happened upon a British “talent” show.
What struck me as even more profound than the low level of talent on display in the brief viewing that I gave the show was the adolescent bearing of the three adult adjudicators. One, by the on-camera appearance of her wrinkling skin, was, I presumed, the oldest—I would guess at in her late 40s. Yet this lady was dressed as I would think her teenage daughter would appear, if she had one. She sported a weird version of a compressed cocked hat—black—pulled down sinisterly to the eyebrow and wore a V-necked, low-cut dress deliberately pulled down one side to reveal loads of a sun-cancer-dotted shoulder flesh. Added to this were those ridiculous, deliberately too-long, sleeves that almost completely hid her hands! It was, I assume, an imitation of the so-called Goth look, sans black makeup. The whole impression was most unbecoming for a woman of her age, such as would have only appeared on stage in a comedy piece half a century ago.
But that is what our baby boomers have produced. It is what Washington Times columnist and author Diana West refers to as “chucking maturity for eternal youth,” creating a “culture of perpetual adolescence” (The Death of the Grown-Up). West is astute enough to make the connection between state of mind and state of dress. She observes that the post-World War ii baby boomers are now “grown-ups who haven’t left childhood.” Consequently, “father and son dress more or less alike … both equally at ease in the baggy rumple of eternal summer camp. In the mature male, these trappings of adolescence … reveal a state of mind, a reflection of personality that hasn’t fully developed, and doesn’t want to—or worse, doesn’t know how” (ibid.).
To judge by the lack of commentary on this phenomena, and the speed with which the population has taken to the standard of the ugly, the slatternly and the downright unkempt, few there be indeed who are enlightened sufficiently to make the connection between how we appear in public (and for that matter, in private) and the state of the nation.
Hence it is a joy for this particular observer to see the matter taken up in a recent edition of the American Thinker.
Steve Amoia and Andrew T. Durham swing right into full motion with their introduction to their article “Why Is Dressing Down the New Dressing Up?” in the Thinker’s July 6 edition:
Even as something as monumental as the twilight of the American way of life stares us all in the face, some time should be spent on the arguably trivial point of the way we dress ourselves. … [C]oupled with the complete lack of common courtesy, common decency and common sense in this waning culture, the “insult to injury” shows itself in what we can now call our National Dishevelment. …
The simple civility of showing respect to others by respecting your appearance—which has been replaced by so-called fashion—has been lost. Apparently the need has arisen for our populace to express themselves by how closely they can mimic the homeless.
Amoia and Durham make the same connection as Diana West between the way we dress and the broken moral fiber of the nation. “In the United States, there is a general lack of respect and civility for other people. We convey that by how we dress. Sadly, the standard has declined in massive proportions” (ibid.). The authors point to the trashy example of “adult men wearing baseball caps backwards and indoors, failure to comb their hair properly, and wearing dress shirts outside of their trousers. Adult women showing inappropriate bare skin, undergarments, tattoos in an office setting or in public.”
Drawing at least one possible worthy difference between Islamic culture and what has become the subculture of American society, setting the pattern for other Anglo-Saxon nations, in respect of women’s appearance, Amoia and Durham muse, “Perhaps in strict Islamic societies, women cover themselves because they understand that certain things are not for the whole world to see.” By comparison, the duo observes of Anglo-American womanly norms, “It seems that if you don’t have a tattoo, or ‘body art’ it is the exception. Suburban women, with kids in tow, have a new acceptable fashion statement: the ‘tramp stamp.’ … What was de rigueur in red light districts is now as common as a barber shop on Main Street” (ibid.).
There is no doubt that the institution of the American presidency has been subject to a great and often deliberate process of denigration over the past 15 years. This is the chief office of the nation that, of all Anglo-Saxon nations, has exemplified the economic, political and moral standards of the English-speaking world since the conclusion of World War ii.
In the office of the president of the United States of America rests the prestige of the collective of allied Anglo-Saxon nations. National pride in—and international respect for—that office has been broken significantly.
We are what we appear, and the level of deference that we show to the office of commander in chief is not only a reflection of our degree of respect for that office, it is a reflection of the degree of national pride we feel. Amoia and Durham related:
In 2005, a group of college students from Northwestern University’s women’s championship lacrosse team went to the White House. In a photograph that was widely circulated, many were wearing flip flops. Parents spend thousands of dollars on college tuition so that their children can attend a “good school,” but is it too much trouble to teach them to show the president of the United States a modicum of respect?
Broken pride, broken morals, broken will, all go together. We are what we appear.
Are we too inured to reality that we still cannot see Isaiah’s great prophecy for these times slamming us in the face?
“And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them. And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable” (Isaiah 3:4-5).
Read Isaiah’s End-Time Vision for more on this subject.