Wednesday, 25 May 2011

On Wearing A Dress

There's more value, I guess, in posting stuff that most people don't know. So I thought, as one of the few men who go around wearing a dress, that it'd be good to share something about the advantages and disadvantages of this unusual behaviour. For those not in the know, I ought to explain that this particular dress I wear is technically called a 'habit'.

Advantages of wearing the habit
1.     Visibility: apart from reminding me that I'm consecrated to Christ, the habit also tells other people that I'm set apart to God, even if they don't fully understand in what way. We Franciscans are particularly blessed in having the most widely-recognised habit.
2.    Availability: because of the above, or just out of curiosity, many people feel able to approach me. It may be to ask for prayers, to talk with me about problems, to question me about my beliefs, or simply to ask what and who I am. It all means the habit reaches the people that other clothes don't.
3.    Style: let's face it, long robes are just so cool. And if ever forget the fact, I only have to whistle the theme tune from the Lord of the Rings, brandish an imaginary light saber, or do some kung fu moves. In particular, the resemblance of the Jedi robes to a Franciscan habit is often noticed. Mind you, I take my hood off to the Dominicans, who in my opinion have the coolest habit in Christendom.
4.    Ease: I never have to think about what I'm going to wear when I get up in the morning. It's brown every day, and the only variation is in the colour of the T-shirt to be seen poking above the collar of the habit. And as it's no longer made of rough, undyed wool, the habit is actually very comfortable to wear, and easy to wash. Finally, we Franciscans have a particular advantage in that brown doesn't show stains much.
5.    Football: there may be something against it in the rules, but I've discovered that playing football (aka soccer, for the benefit of North American readers) in my habit does mean that it's almost impossible for somebody to put the ball between my legs. Especially useful if you're playing in goal.

Disadvantages of wearing the habit
1.     Confusion: although most people recognise the habit as of religious significance, I have been mistaken as a Jew, a Moslem, and a Buddhist (once all on the same day!). Some people don't even recognise the habit as religious at all.
2.    Bum-magnet: the flip-side of availability is that I can get approached by confidence-tricksters, angry and argumentative types, drunks, the mentally-ill, and Mormon missionaries. I console myself with the thought that Jesus was also a bum-magnet.
3.    Mockery: many people, alas, fail to see the utter coolness of my clothing, and it is an almost-everyday occurrence to have jokey or derogatory remarks thrown in my direction. (Those who shout, "Hey, Jesus!" aren't too wide of the mark, however.) Actual anger and hatred are rare experiences, but not unknown.
4.    Sweat: in the summer-time I can get very hot, especially as the dark colour of the habit soaks up the Sun's rays. Once I've ensured that I'm wearing minimal underclothing and I've rolled up my sleeves, there's not much left to do except sweat it out.
5.    Impracticality: despite its usefulness in one respect when playing football, the habit isn't ideal for sports or other strenuous activities. I can't run quite so fast in it, and I rapidly get sweaty (see above). The long skirts, wide sleeves, large rosary, and the knotted cord all tend to catch on things or otherwise get in the way. This was brought home to me very strongly the day I climbed a tree to pick apples whilst wearing my habit (although I did get a good homily out of the experience).

Of course, many of the disadvantages can, by the grace of God, become advantages. Mockery, for example, helps to make me humble, and can provide evangelistic opportunities. So I am, after nearly eleven years in the religious habit, very glad to be wearing it.


  1. Yes, we've had some particularly agressive ones around Preston of late.

  2. Wonderful post, brother, and I agree with all you've said. Especially about the black & white habit given us by Our Lady!