No More Blue Jeans In Church…or Another Black Church Memory

If I could make one rule for church it would be this…don’t dress for church like you would for a day hanging around the house.

Church is different, people. It is all about exploring the mystery that is our existence in this universe and giving voice to all that goes with that–the good/joyful and the bad/painful. Doesn’t that deserve better than you rolling out of bed and putting on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt?

Now…before you jump down my throat for voicing this opinion…am I saying that we need to return to the suit coat and tie or white gloves days of yesteryear? Much as I would like to say yes, that’s not what I’m asking for. I’m asking for more thought put into the clothes worn to church than the clothes worn for an afternoon in the park.

One of the things the black church taught me was that you always want to bring your best to God. That when coming into sacred space you want the way you look to match how you feel about the place you’re entering. I understand that we are not going to all agree on what one should wear when entering sacred space, but could we at least agree that what you wear to church/worship should not be the same thing you wear to spend Sunday afternoon in the park with George?


24 thoughts on “No More Blue Jeans In Church…or Another Black Church Memory

  1. Growing up, I would take the tie and jacket off after Sunday service when I went out to eat. Now as an UU, I put the tie and jacket on, after Sunday service when I go out to eat….

  2. I grew up where you dressed up for church. Husband is still adamant about it, so you will not see our family in jeans on Sunday – no matter how relaxed the UU church.

  3. I dress nicely for church–I was raised in New England, it was expected at my home UU church (still is, for that matter). But lots of folks come to church in, shall we say, less formal attire. While I would prefer that people do exactly what you’re asking, I can’t help but feel that you can’t have your cake and eat it too: you just recently went off on people for imposing their narrow cultural mores on UUism, and now you’re trying to say people should dress the way you want them to, not the way that feels welcoming to them. I can’t escape the nagging thought that you can’t have it both ways.

    • That’s why I said…if there was one rule I would make.

      And I think that my argument about cultural mores is different than this argument. Partly because I’m not saying that anyone is less than because the dress in blue jeans, but partly because as cultural as this sounds…I don’t think it’s that cultural. While clothing is/can be cultural, I’m not complaining about people wearing native garb…far from it. I’m complaining about people being less dressed-up for church than they are for a day at the mall. To me there’s a disconnect there.

      And I’m not asking for the suit coat and tie days to return (much as I would like that to happen). I’m asking for clothes that show respect for the institution. And that respect doesn’t require a closet full of new clothes. All it requires is a little thought and attention paid to the clothes one already has. And since most of us own more than blue jeans, I’m suggesting that the blue jeans can wait til after church–wear khakis to church.

  4. I wonder how this “no blue jeans in church” thing would work with the “emergent church” movement that appears to be more casual in dress code than the more traditional Protestant worship styles.

    • Having gone to a few services in “emergent” styles and places, I think it would come as a surprise at how much attention and intention those in emergent churches put into their dress.

      I think that’s what I’m really talking about. So that will probably be my next post.

  5. I tend to do a half and half for myself: when I wear jeans, I make sure to wear a nice sweater and a scarf. I wear the jeans for practicality, mostly: I work with the kids the first hour and I never know if I’m sitting on the floor or working with paint or what.

    While I would prefer that my children took a little more effort with their approach, I’d rather they attend and so opt NOT to harp on them about attire. I actually had a church member comment about how nice my children dress, which cracked me up. Her point of reference, though, is that my daughters cover themselves and she didn’t care that they were covering themselves with jeans and t-shirts.

    That said, I do agree with you that we should make an effort. But, for some people, there really are such things as “dress jeans”.

  6. Pingback: Music and dress in worship, serving others, and other UU blogging « : The Interdependent Web

  7. I don’t care what you wear, as long as you bring your whole self. Few things annoy me more than people showing up in church so they can check the “been there, done that” box without contributing to the community with (and in spite of) their strengths and weaknesses, gifts and needs.

  8. My own church attire tends to be “business casual.”

    What I remember most about “dressing for church” as a child is that it was often uncomfortable. When clothes are tight and/or scratchy, it’s sometimes hard to pay attention to the service.

    In her 90s, one of my grandmothers wore a “dress sweatsuit” to a wedding. Though I noticed her very casual attire, what obviously mattered to the bride and groon was that she attended, not what she wore.

    Doesn’t “bringing your best to God” have more to do with internal spiritual states than external appearances? Any God worth believing in ultimately does not care about our net worth. . .or what we look like.

  9. I live three miles from my church and, in the spirit of our principles, walk or ride my bike to worship when I can. I don’t arrive panting, sweaty, or disheveled, but I do arrive in sensible shoes and clothing appropriate for my journey. We got rid of a portion of our parking lot two years ago to make room for a bigger auditorium. When complaints arose about parking, we reminded one another that we need to walk our talk, literally. Not everyone who shows up at worship has taken a “green” route, but I don’t feel that dressing in clothes that help one feel at home is disrespectful. Church is supposed to feel like home.

  10. If its like home, does this mean I can take off my shoes and throw my dirty socks on the floor? I go barefoot at home about 90% of the time. You guys really want me to attend your fellowship wearing just my bathrobe? T-shirts with profanity OK? How about Tees with sexist comments? Food stains?

    Not many folks really dress in public like they do at home.

    • More than once, after service, when I was helping to put up some wall decorations, or running around with the kids in our RE wing, I’d slip off my birks (because, yes, I was that UU who wore birks to service, april thru october) and run around barefoot.

      And sometimes during the service I’d slip off my shoes and sit crosslegged on the chair. I wasn’t the only one.

  11. As Unitarian I often dress casual. I don’t shave, I wear a hat and jeans. Every time I do this I am very conscious of the way I dress. I feel I am being very intentional to this process. God, whatever that might be, loves me regardless of such things. Visitors may think I look like a bum, but my passion and thoughtfulness quickly shine through. People can look past superficial qualities to see the dynamic humans who are behind them. In fact, I challenge them to do so!

  12. I go to a Unitarian discussion group but not to the service because I worry about exactly this type of judgmental attitude.

  13. Sorry, I’m not the typical well to do UU. Blue Collar here. The best I can do is wear my best jeans. I admit though, that I pick from the best of my meager wardrobe. Luckily, I still feel very welcome in my UU Church

    • I’m sorry at how harsh I’m getting ready to sound…but the Church Mothers that I grew up knowing…women in their 70s and 80s and who were living ONLY on Social Security dressed better for Sunday than I’ve seen many UUs dress.

      It doesn’t cost much to not wear blue jeans in church and could be cheaper. A person could spend a few dollars at WalMart and get a pair of black twill pants. And just to let you know, I made many of the clothes that I wore to church.

      And for those of you who think I’m being judgemental–many of my best church friends wear blue jeans to church. They know I wish they didn’t. I love them no matter what.

      • Yes, I do suppose you’re right there, Kim. But being an atheist, it was hard enough for me to accept going to any church. I really liked the UU environment of accepting me as I am. Also, for me dressing up is the very definition of UNcomfortable.

        But… you make some good points. Peace!

      • I.) At risk of reigniting the “UU culture” debate. . .

        Many UUs don’t shop at Wal-Mart and other big-box stores for ethical/economic reasons; some of us haven’t for years, long before the “buy local” movement existed. UUs with average and lower incomes are known to frequent consignment/thrift shops, but resale options can be limited, especially if one wears an XS or XXL. As for sewing, it is like baking and woodworking. . .some have the talent to do these things well and some don’t.

        II.) At risk of being accused of worse than cultural elitism. . .

        Years ago, I worked in an office where several of my co-workers were black people who lived in public housing. Many of them regularly wore new “designer” clothes and made frequent salon visits. Personally, I have known two (middle-class, middle-aged) black people who were as critical of such spending habits as I am. I would never say that those living in poverty should deprive themselves of all luxuries, but how much debt do people run up, probably on subprime credit cards, that they will never be able to repay?

        Though I appreciate it when people dress nicely, I think it’s more important to be neat and clean than anything else. . .and when people are homeless, even neat and clean is not a regular option. I cannot imagine that any UU congregation would turn someone homeless away, regardless of cleanliness or attire.

      • The nigger in me so wants to come out and respond to you. But I’m going to be nice and not let that happen. I will say that I believe that you are deliberately mis-reading my posts. Maybe my next post will be clearer.

  14. The idea that someone living in public housing uses credit cards to buy clothing does indeed win my “worse than cultural elitism” award. it’s hard to know where to start. Or if i should on Kim’s blog. I won’t candy coat those living in or near poverty, they’re just as likely as the middle class to make poor finical decisions. but they have to go to Pay-day loans, car title loans, loan sharks, or even regular loan companies to get money. I’ve known a multitude of folks living in public housing quite well- they don’t get credit card applications.

  15. I used to have to dress up for church as a kid. As soon as I was able to choose my own clothes, I stopped wearing dresses and nice shoes to church. Now, as an adult, I do see the good in distinguishing your church attire from your weekly attire. If one is to bring one’s best to church, then surely the clothes one wears should reflect that.

  16. Finally someone like minded
    I agree, give God your best. U can buy a nice pair of slacks for about same as jeans.
    Wearing jeans says you don’t care.
    Keep up good work and God bless.

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