What is the Sikh view of following fads and fashion?
An ordinary man lives his life superfluously, seldom pondering deeply into the meaning and purpose of life. He lives his life uninvestigated. As a biological being, he eats, drinks, plays, works, sleeps, and reproduces. This cycle continues throughout his life. Man, being social in nature, likes to interact with others. To fulfil his need of belonging, he tries to earn the appreciation of those with whom he interacts, with a view to make friends with them. His concept of himself is a reflection of the opinions people form of him. He looks into the mirror of society and takes his reflection to be real.
Why Man Follows Fashions
It is his body with which he identifies himself the most. He identifies himself with it the most because it is his outer covering which others notice first and by which they remember him. Therefore, with a view to glorify himself, he gives much importance to the clothing he wears. For the sake of earning the appreciation of people and with a view to be accepted by them, he puts on clothing which are in fashion. He does not care about the price, usefulness, or durability of the garments. His primary concern is to be accepted by his peers, irrespective of their odd, unusual, and sometimes even crazy ways of dressing.
Ordinary people copy others. They neither have original ideas nor reason out logically the purpose of whatever they do. Normal human minds are prone to any suggestion just to be accepted and appreciated. All their actions are motivated towards this end in all areas of life. This is especially true with regards to their outer appearance. People blindly copy others and indiscriminately wear flashy clothes with crazy prints; clothes made of synthetic fibres and barely covering their bodies; stone-washed trousers with holes in the front and back; short shorts exposing their thighs; shirts and tops with deep, low-cut necklines exposing their chest area; and skin tight shorts, blouses, and sweaters to show the outlines of their bodies. Although these are worn mostly by girls to show off their bodies, boys also wear them to show off their muscles. People believe that as long as they keep up with the current trends in clothing, no matter how revealing or uncomfortable, they will look attractive and be liked.
They try to please others without being true to themselves. By putting on an outer garb in the latest fashion, they are not showing a great sense of style as is commonly believed. In fact, they are only showing their weakness and lack of individuality by copying what is dictated by the latest fashion designs and by the media.
People with higher minds act out of reasoning and the principle of necessity. They do not get influenced by what the masses do. They decide the righteousness of an action based on reason and rationality. But, this is not the case with ordinary people. People with an ordinary mind never ask themselves, “What is so good about buying new trousers, making holes in them, stone-washing and decolouring them, and then putting them on?” They never inquire, “What is motivating me into this craziness?” The purpose of clothing is to cover and protect the body. By making holes in the fabric, the whole purpose of clothing is defeated. By stone-washing it, the durability of the fabric is reduced. And still worse, people are willing to pay more for such clothing. Thus, it is clear that wearing stone-washed trousers with holes is irrational. Buying new clothes and having them worn out artificially, and paying to have holes made in them is a great test of man’s intelligence. Is he regressing?
Clothing as a Show
Where is the comfort, and the freedom for muscles to expand and contract with ease, when one is wearing tight clothes? They prevent proper breathing and proper functioning of the body. Being so tight, the shape and detail of the whole body is virtually seen. Why do people want to expose themselves to the view of all? Are they trying to invite people towards them? For what purpose?
The idea behind body-revealing clothing is to attract members of the opposite sex. In such cases, the motivating factor is not only ego recognition, but sex and body glorification as well. Society hypnotizes children by telling them that such garments look good. Television reinforces these values by showing actors dressed in the latest revealing styles. Glamorizing such clothing encourages children to ask for them, and so parents purchase the same.
Some wear trousers with many different colours, with legs of unequal length, and having various patches adorning the front and back. Actually, they look more like clowns and jesters, but they think they are wearing the latest style. Why wear heavily printed material? It is so confusing to look at, that people do not know whether to look at the person or at the clothing. During a conversation, thoughts might get deviated to the clothing and physical appearance of the other person. The design or message of the print can sometimes be very distracting. The attention is then on the clothing.
Very little is left for a meaningful exchange. What is the need for heavy prints and flashy colourful designs, if not to upstage and impress others, to compete, to assert oneself, or to show more wealth? Why does man have the desire to attract other people? Is it for his own personal glorification, and the pleasure which he draws out of it? Provocative clothing may also lead to lustful suggestions in the minds of onlookers. Indirectly then, the person wearing such clothing is responsible for suggesting lustful desires in the minds of others.
The Purpose of Clothing is Defeated
What is the purpose of clothing after all? It has a very practical purpose: to cover the body and protect it from heat, cold, and dirt. Then where is the need for low necklines and sleeveless shirts? What about mini skirts? People wear them when it is not hot at all; in fact, they wear them even when the temperature is below zero. Added to this ridiculousness are trousers half cut with flares. What purpose do they serve? Why is society pushing insane ideas into the minds of their children?
Why is it inculcating lustful desires in children through such clothing? By prompting them to put on such clothing, parents promote exhibitionism in their children. Eventually, children get used to drawing the attention of others by putting on such clothing. This is harmful to their inner freedom, and healthy growth of personality. It goes without saying that dignified people with refined tastes choose to clothe themselves in simple garments made of natural fibres.
Synthetic clothing is worn just for its convenience (less ironing to do), its glamour, and its shine. This is the fashion promoted by society. Seeing these types of clothes on television and in magazines, people are led to believe that this is the standard to follow, no matter how uncomfortable they are. They do not care to find whether or not these clothes are detrimental to their health and hygiene.
It is known that synthetic fabric neither absorbs sweat nor lets air pass through to the skin, thereby creating poor circulation and increasing the chance of infection and rashes. Synthetic fibres allow a build-up of static electricity which makes people uncomfortable,
restless, and irritable. Such fabrics harm the body as well as the mind. On the other hand, natural fibres like cotton and wool absorb sweat, let air circulate, and do not create static electricity. Furthermore, as opposed to printed clothing, plain coloured clothing is very appeasing and serene both to the wearer and to the onlooker.
On the other hand, natural fibres like cotton and wool absorb sweat, let air circulate, and do not create static electricity. Furthermore, as opposed to printed clothing, plain coloured clothing is very appeasing and serene both to the wearer and to the onlooker. The principles of necessity and economy demand that man wear comfortable clothes and not have more clothing than required. He should have a minimal number of clothes for his daily functions; some loose clothing for meditation, some clothing for work and exercise, and some for sleeping. It does not make sense to have an abounding number of clothes.
Guru Saheb enjoins man to be humble, and wear only that clothing which is simple, which does not cause pain to his body, and which does not bring lustful and egotistic thoughts in his mind.’
Guru Saheb tells man that though beautiful, flashy, and expensive clothing may earn him some appreciation here, in the court of God, he will not be judged on his clothing, but on his merits. He shall have to suffer for wasting his effort, money, and human life on pleasures of the body and egotistic assertions coming from his possessions and power. In the court of God, he will go naked; the show of his expensive clothing and wealth will not go with him; he shall then repent for having wasted his time on bodily glorification and gratification.
Clothing is one of the basic necessities of man, along with food and shelter. The purpose of clothing is that it must cover and protect man’s body against heat, cold, rain, and snow. Thus, clothes must be durable and flexible enough to allow free body movement, and made from natural fibres to assure comfort.
In many societies, the purpose of clothing assumes a supplementary function which, quite often, contradicts its primary function. The primary role of clothes is to cover the body, but man uses them as a devise to attract others and compete with them. Society creates different styles of clothing and glorifies the thought that those who wear the latest style are better. Thus, fashion industries keep on designing outrageous new styles to allure people to keep on buying more and more. Many of these clothes arc uncomfortable, not durable, and made from synthetic fibres. Nevertheless, this does not stop people from buying them, as ordinary people simply follow the crowd. Reflective and rational people realize that society teaches many wrong values. All wrong values of society are set by material-oriented sleeping people who are unaware of the intrinsic value of human life. People with higher minds understand the futility of first earning money, then of spending the same on unnecessary clothing.