Men of the Cloth: Fashion Advice for Pastors, from Pastors?

It turns out that some pastors lack fashion sense. One Pastor, Ed Young, has taken it upon himself to start Pastor Fashion, a website devoted to the way that our clergy dress. Evangelical ministers are the not exactly who you would expect to set the next fashion trends, but Ed Young wonders why that can’t be:

Pastors aren’t typically known for their fashion. Most people don’t think of the runway leading up to the pulpit. But why not?! Why can’t the men and women of God set the standard for the rest of the world in fashion as well as faith? That’s why we’re launching We want to set the trends.

People have, of course, been reacting to this new website. Many believers are hesitant about the benefits of it, and are quick to say that this site is a waste of time and resources. The Gospel Coalition, for instance, says that:

This is for real. Young’s focus on fashion provides a prime example of Carter’s Law of Pastors and Prepositions: As the celebrity of an evangelical pastor increases, the risk of confusing the prepositions “in” and “of” rises exponentially.

There are a lot of valid points, here. I’m actually in agreement with the general sentiment: this seems like a waste of time for a pastor. I don’t think fashion is always a waste of time; we are created in bodies and with a desire to look good, and I don’t think that is necessarily something to be pushed against. The hesitancy here, though, is a pastor spending his time teaching other pastors to dress well. After all, pastors are in a position where they are expected to tend to the needs of the body: this includes preaching, studying the Word in depth, and meeting with and encouraging believers in their daily lives. It strikes me as odd that a pastor would spend the time required to maintain a website about fashion instead of getting to know his congregation better, or studying the scriptures more, or something similar. This sort of work seems like an odd use of time, as a pastor.

An interesting question, though, is whether it is a good use of our time to critique this pastor’s work on fashion. Some things are worth writing blog posts about, and others are just not worthy of our time. There are plenty of blogs that I read and decide they need no further comment, but this one struck a chord with me, for some reason or another.

I think it hit me because I’ve read so many blogs about this topic in the last week. I’ve read a variety of posts, talked with a few friends about it, and I even posted it to my Twitter so that I could have other people read it and respond with me. On the one hand, this is awesome: I have the sort of network built up where I can quickly get a variety of opinions, and if many of them agree with one perspective, there may be something to that reaction.

The flip of that, however, is that we could easily find ourselves discussing something that seems vaguely interesting that isn’t ultimately worth our time. There is benefit to wisely dissecting a great number of less-than-fundamentally-important things, of course; this is how we hone our skills and practice our wit. But if we never move beyond that, and start talking about things that really matter, we’ll get ourselves stuck in the practicing, but never doing.

So, is fashion advice from a pastor worth talking about? Perhaps the role of the pastor, the importance of appearances on how effective public speaking is, or some other related topic, would be worth a prolonged discussion. Maybe we should even talk about fashion, generally speaking. But should a pastor spend his time talking about fashion? I suspect not.

Note: This is all assuming that the website is intended to be exactly what it appears. If the site is, say, some sort of message about how consumeristic we are as a society, and will be talked about in tandem with a sermon series, then the discussion will shift to the need to publish this on the internet and other similar topics.


Image via Flickr.

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J.F. Arnold

James received his MA in Philosophy of Religion at Talbot School of Theology in 2013. He holds a BA in Biblical Studies from Biola University, and is a graduate and perpetual member of the Torrey Honors Institute. James blogs on a number of subjects, including technology, theology, and hip-hop. He has written for Biola’s Center for Christianity, Culture, & the Arts, The Gospel Coalition, and he is an editor for Mere Orthodoxy. You can also keep up with him on Twitter (@jamesfarnold).

  • Pastorcasey

    Silly as I think it is, I remember lots of conversations in divinity school about appropriate dress, especially difficult for women pastors.  

    As I’ve thought about this, I now see that this was only a matter of time given the faded glory of vestments.  Pastors used to throw vestments on over whatever they were wearing.  But I admit, I’ve obsessed a bit about what to wear because I don’t wear them.  

  • Dvnilsen

    Couldn’t a similar argument be used to rule out the Pastor having any personal free time period? Suppose this fellow ran a website where he commented on sports. Is that not allowed because he could use of all those wasted minutes on sermon prep or visiting someone? And what if fashion happened to be his hobby or interest instead of sports? Where does the “that’s a waste of time for a pastor” argument draw the line? Is there a line?

  • Anonymous

    It’s possible that the argument could be extended, yes. I’m not convinced that I’d be required to take it there from what I’ve said, though.

    My main point here is that we should all be thoughtful about the way that we spend our time. This is true for everyone, of course, but I don’t mean to say we shouldn’t have hobbies. My pastor likes to play golf, and I don’t condemn him for that. In fact, I’m really glad that my pastor spends time doing something he enjoys, for a couple of reasons. First, I think that joy in Christ can and should lead to joy in activity on this earth. Second, recreational time has benefit aside from simple enjoyment: it helps recharge us so that we can do the hard work we are called to more effectively.

    My concern is when something takes up enough time that is prevents us from working on our calling, rather than helping us be more effective at it. That’s my primary concern with running a website about fashion. These things take a lot of time (I’ve worked on a couple of websites, so I know how much time they take), and might end up taking more time than it should for someone who is a pastor and has another calling.

    Maybe someone has the calling to encourage good fashion for pastors, but it strikes me as an odd thing for a pastor to be called to.

    I don’t know the man’s heart, but those are my thoughts.

    Does that make sense?

    Christ Abide.

  • Joshua Charles

    Male pastors seem pretty interested in commenting on and directing/dictating women’s fashion choices. Also it seems how a church is designed, what sort of rhetoric a pastor should use, and how a pastor should generally look are all pretty obvious considerations people make. I’m not saying this is good or bad mind you, just it is. If a male pastor showed up in garb that was other than his community expected, ie “unprofessional,” (especially if they were “effeminate” clothes, like skinny jeans and a loose blouse, showing off his chest etc) certain communities would be in an uproar. 

    I think what people are shocked by is how explicit the website is. Or perhaps how honest it is. There are some things we do that we cannot say we do. This strikes me as sad but hey I recognize people are going to disagree. Fashion is rich with symbolism and beauty and depth and, although I am not a huge fan of the fashion choices on this website, the very idea about what a pastor should or should not wear is a very old and traditional one. And insofar as there is no officially codified dress in some evangelical strains, unlike in more “high” church traditions, it sorta makes sense that something like this would emerge.