Simple Living Works!

SLW! eNews #39 – Send a Message! Be the Message!

Posted on: December 1, 2014


Living Generously Action Team

What Do Our Clothes Say?

Clothes say much about us without spoken words. For most Americans the message is, “You can like me. I’m much like you. I’m a faithful capitalist consumer. ‘Most everything’s fine.”

Our clothes tell others our status. Fancy clothes tell others about an elevated status. Everyday clothes hide religious and political beliefs.

Some folks – such as police, fire and military – wear uniforms that tell us important things; nuns used to wear habits; some ministers still wear clergy collars. Those uniforms used to say, “You can trust me.”

Jewelry may say something about status or taste. Now many folks wear body art, such as piercing and tattoos. One of the most common body symbols for Christians – the cross on a necklace or lapel pin – now carries mixed messages.

Some folks wear shirts and caps that promote rock bands, sports teams, clothing lines or beer.

Different Messages

I’m urging all of us who care about the Earth and its many species of occupants to be more aware of what our clothing says and then to say what we believe. We don’t have time to be subtle anymore. We can’t afford to hide our beliefs and values.

At Fair Trade events I wear a lovely indigenous-style shirt from Guatemala. It’s just one of many shirts that tell people who I am. Some may consider them silly. I don’t want anyone to wonder what I’m about.

Part of my “prophetic ministry” is a pledge I made to wear a “Message Shirt” whenever I’m in public. Some shirts are pro-environment, such as or Interfaith Power and Light. Some promote independent, non-commercial media, such as Free Speech TV, LINK TV or Democracy Now!

I usually get a positive comment, which I use to encourage the other person. I wear the shirts less to confront opponents then to build up allies. Sometimes when I speak at events I give a good-natured fashion show of some of my message shirts and tell brief stories about them.

New Resource

I’ve added a new chapter to Simple Living 101: Tools for Activists (shy or bold). The current chapters give guidance to Share the Joy of a Simpler Lifestyle Through Speeches, Workshops, Events, Study/Action Groups, Simplicity Circles and Social Media.

The new chapter is subtitled Prophetic Personal Promotion, which gives suggestions and sources for simple ways to Send a Message! through clothing and other items, such as bumper stickers, posters, postcards, greeting cards, etc.

My collection of Message Shirts has taken almost a decade to accumulate, so I wouldn’t expect one to appear over night. I’m urging people of faith to see the benefits to Send a Message, and to Be the Message!

Yes, the approach you take and the speed you take it may depend on the tolerance of others in your family. My wonderful spouse, Rita, for example, detests bumper stickers. So, out of respect for her, I only use small car magnets, such as the ribbon, “End the War! Bring Our Troops Home!”

She knows that I have pledged to wear a Message Shirt every time I’m in public, but I ask her opinion about how the whole outfit works together. (I haven’t worn a tie for over 20 years when I identified it as the symbol of Western consumer capitalism. So, wearing a tie hasn’t been an issue for us for a long time.) I complete my outfit with plain slacks and shoes, some from Thrift Stores.

Since SLW! does not sell anything – our resources and services are free of charge – we give the sources for these items in the new online chapter. Some sources are companies, such Syracuse Cultural Workers: Publisher of Peace and Justice Products since 1982. Some are non-profit organizations, such as Sea Shepherds.

SLW! has collections of free stickers and fliers for do-it-yourself’ers to use at Christmas or year ’round through the mail and email.

For more encouragement, read my blog Seeds of Influence, part 1 | part 2.

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