A few years ago I remember reading a celebrity magazine which profiled Ben Affleck’s style evolution, as it related to the people he was dating. This magazine stated that the personality of Affleck’s girlfriends directly influenced his wardrobe. For example, from 1997 to 2000, Affleck’s donned the image of a young care-free partier. This was reflective of his relationship with then girlfriend, Gwyneth Paltrow. Move ahead a couple of years (and a couple of girl-friends), his relationship with Jennifer Lopez put Affleck in a perpetual line of tailored suits. His clothes seemed to reflect the high-end glamour that Lopez was accustomed. Presently, after marriage and children, Affleck is often seen in cardigans and sweaters, adopting a more comfort- oriented and down home look – which fits nicely into his wife’s (Jennifer Garner) personality.
If this is true, then you have to wonder what look represents the true Ben Affleck? Where does his personality truly shine? If it is true that Affleck’s style represents the personality of those he is with rather than his own deep abiding identity, who then exactly is Ben Affleck?
Of course, no one really knows for sure, so all the above questions are mere thought experiments. But where there is conjecture regarding this for Affleck’s style, Kim Kardashian has been quite open about the fact that her wardrobe is for the pleasure of her mate. In an interview with US Weakly, Kardashian stated “I dress for my man way more than for myself.” The man she is referring to is rap-superstar Kanye West, who spent his premier appearance on Kim’s reality show insulting her choice of clothing. Then, because this is what any loving boy-friend would do, West threw out her clothes and paid for a whole new wardrobe fit to his own liking.
Now don’t get me wrong. I like to look good for my wife. When we go shopping for clothes, we each ask each other if our selections are good, bad, or ugly. But here’s the difference, in the end the clothes that I purchase are ones that make me look and feel better about myself. They are the clothes that I enjoy and will, in some respect, reflect my own personality, temperament and identity. Yes I want my wife to think I look nice, but it’s more important for me to enjoy what I am wearing, and that it reflects who I am (in one case this mean sporting a bright neon-yellow fleece sweater!)
Now, obviously styles change. That’s not the issue. What is dangerous here is the subtle message that, in addition to our wardrobe, our personality must change as well. After all, a personal wardrobe style should be reflective of the person that owns it. And shouldn’t the men or women we are with love us despite the hideous sweaters we like to wear? Yet if we are made to feel that our wardrobe must reflect the approval of others (and therefore their personality) at what point do we end up losing ourselves in the process? At what point does the self reflected in the clothing I wear become less about me and more about the approval, acceptance, and desires of other people?
See, there is a deep lostness in this. There is an abdication of the self. In the longing for deep approval from the one you are with (albeit possibly only for the moment) there is a snuffing out of one’s internal identity for the purpose of having someone else define who you are. Yet ultimately this approval is empty for it is not a true approval. What is approved is only the manner in which you please him or her and fulfill their own wishes and desires. And so the cycle goes round and round as the self is built up in someone else’s image, only to be jettisoned when either the culture or our relationships move on to something new.
If we are truly to take our creation to heart, then we will turn away from the lie that tells us that we exist for the purpose to please another. We will refrain from seeing our value, beauty, worth or attractiveness as linked to someone else’s dream as to what we should look like, dress like, act like, or be like. Because frankly, the voices that tell us those things are liars. Those things are illusions without real substance, and in the end, despite our best efforts to please or beautify, the standards will always change and we will be left feeling lost and unloved.
Yet constant in all things is God love for the ones He created. A sense of self which is connected to God as our creator is constant through all style changes and wardrobe malfunctions. God has breathed in us his spirit; his presence in us is brings out the very person that we are created to be. Who I am, who you are, is not dependant upon how others view us. Our Identity is tied to the hands of God who formed us as his masterpiece. Unlike the counterfeit acceptances of popular culture, the love of God is extended to us regardless of what we wear. The purpose of His work in our lives is not to change us into some thing we are not, but to redeem and uncover that true image in which we were cast. We do not lose ourselves in the gracious arms of God. Rather we find in Him the true expression of our purpose, creation and identity.
How do you reflect your identity as made in the image of God through your own personal style?