Monday, 4 July 2011

The Campaign for Colourful Clothing

You may not have heard before of The Campaign for Colourful Clothing; but that’s hardly surprising, as it’s not got beyond the Catholic Chaplaincy of UCLAN until now. Like many of my ideas, it may never actually come to fruition (the Eucharistic flash mob was an exception), so I thought I’d put it out for people’s amusement and (possibly) edification.

The Campaign for Colourful Clothing is not evangelistic – it falls rather into the category of ‘pre-evangelisation’ (a useful term I first came across in an article about The Lord of the Rings). For it seeks to lift something of that blanket of dullness whereby the devil keeps many people from finding and following the Lord.

I have already written about wearing the religious habit in public. But one thing I didn't mention was how it slowly dawned on me, over the years, that my sober, penitential garb is actually quite colourful and stylish compared to the drab, misshapen clothing worn by most people in this country. It further occurred to me that this was wrong, that the religious habit was originally conceived as a modest and austere contrast to the merry clothing of medieval Europe. Back then, wearing brown made the friars stand out as poor and humble. Now, however, it is the rare person wearing something colourful who stands out from a sea of black, grey, and highly muted colours. Just have a look next time you're out in a busy street or other public place.

Old Tom Bombadill is a merry fellow;
Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow.
I write this at a time of year when the amount of colour on display does go up somewhat. Oddly enough, it's just when the weather is doing a good enough job of being cheerful that many people get out their cheerful clothes. We could really do with these bright colours in the grey and damp of winter; but the prevailing fashion is for grim and grey shades. I was once told that this Western tendency to wear black, grey, and white stems from the age of the Puritans. Until then the normal thing was to wear colourful clothing (although some colours were expensive to come by). We can see this more universal human instinct in the cultures of places like Africa and India. The normality of black and grey in our society is a suppression of natural human joy. Other kill-joy changes also date back to Oliver Cromwell and his ilk: the reduction of Christmastide from 40 days to 12, and the still-extant (but not enforced) law that bans the eating of plum pudding on Christmas Day.

As someone who wears dark brown, I am far from denigrating 'drab' clothing. I appreciate the subtlety of muted shades - including grey, which no fan of The Lord of the Rings can regard as a boring colour. Black, too, has its place. But my point is that there is far too much of the dark or muted colours.

I have therefore resolved to raise my voice against this modern wrong, and start a campaign to encourage a change in fashion. I conceive this as part of a greater movement, which for the time being I shall call Making England Merry Again, and which has yet to develop. The Campaign for Colourful Clothing is but the first battle in this crusade (I use the word deliberately).

In my fond imaginings, the battle will be brought to the streets by cheerfully-dressed people wielding 'Award Cards', which will be handed out to anyone wearing colourful clothing. The cards will carry a simple message of gratitude - "Thank you for brightening up our lives". There will also be a list of the guidelines as to what kind of clothing merits an award card, and the address of a website which will give tips on good colour combinations and other ways of dressing more merrily.

Deep down, they really want to be Benedictines
As I said above, the Campaign may never actually happen. I merely put the idea out in the hope that it will be the beginning of something. But, if after all I've said, you still feel that colours like black or grey are more 'you', maybe you should join a religious order. Now there's a thought...


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. "But, if after all I've said, you still feel that colours like black or grey are more 'you', maybe you should join a religious order. Now there's a thought..."

    Since I was about 14 I have invariably worn a black shirt on 99.9% of occasions. My unchanging appearance is a long running joke amongst friends and I have a collection of between 2 and 6 of them at any one time. I never have to think about what to wear, they seem to suit all occasions (at least in my mind's eye) and if I ever go to a fancy dress party I can fashion a dog collar from a bit of card and hey presto I am a priest or I can style my hair and be Johnny Cash! And maybe, just maybe this is another little avenue by which our Good Lord is pointing the way to His will for my life. Once again bro you make me ponder...