The Wonderful Relief of Not Having to Dress Cool

I only own one plaid shirt. And I feel silly wearing it. Sort of like a farmer but for some reason farmers can actually pull it off. Oh, and cool people. Sure, I know plaid shirts are “in” but I just can’t do it.

And tight jeans? The jeans that make your legs look like twigs? No way would I ever even try those things on. I can tell you right now I’m not cool enough to wear them.

Last July, when the national worship leader conference was taking place in Kansas City, I remember following what was happening at the conference on Twitter and seeing a slow but steady stream of comments on how many worship leaders were wearing plaid shirts. Someone referred to them as the “staple of the cool worship leader uniform”. That and thick-rimmed glasses.

And for a moment, I found myself thinking, “I don’t dress like a cool worship leader”. And I was right. I don’t. And I felt self conscious about it. For a few minutes.

There is a wonderful relief that comes from not having to dress cool. A pair of khakis and a blue shirt never get old. Nor do jeans and a polo shirt. Hey, I’ve even been known to wear crocs to a Saturday evening service from time to time. They’re comfortable. Horribly ugly, but comfortable.

By the way, I was roundly mocked by members of my worship team for wearing socks with crocs. Apparently that is not cool. I did take their advice on this one.

In the words of my old youth pastor, I say all of that to say this: worship leaders shouldn’t feel the need to dress cool. Once you start down that road, it never ends. There will always be a new fashion trend, a new shirt you have to buy, a new pair of cool shoes, a graphic tee, glasses frames, and maybe even a tie if you’re fancy. And it’s not worth it. Who does it impress? And why does it matter? Why spend all the time and energy on something so fleeting?

(Caveat: being too far on the “un-cool” side of things can be just as great a distraction as being “too cool”. Rocking a Santa Claus sweater at Christmas time, sporting a nice pair of knee-high black socks with flip flops and jean shorts, or showing off your 1970’s era orange bell-bottoms might not be a good idea either.)

I would argue that worship leaders should be comfortably neutral in what they wear. Be yourself, be modest, be mindful of your context, and beware the temptation to “dress to impress”.

If I accomplish “dressing cool”, but in the process cause the man in the third row to be distracted by trying to read what my shirt says, then I’ve failed. I’d rather fail at dressing cool and succeed in not getting in the way of God receiving people’s attention. Khakis and a blue shirt. You can never go wrong.

2 thoughts on “The Wonderful Relief of Not Having to Dress Cool

  1. Alistair Metcalfe June 16, 2010 / 4:20 am

    It’s funny how these things come around.

    I like a good check shirt – always have, always will. I agree that they bring with them a slight air of a person who sleeps in their car, but the look works for me.

    They are kind of cool again this year in the UK but only a couple of years ago I was mocked relentlessly for my attachment to ‘the check’. On my last Sunday in our old church, my whole band came in checks as a tribute.

    I think on balance that I want my teams to slightly dress up, whatever that means for them. I want them to be aware that there are a lot of eyes on them on a Sunday (there’s no point pretending there’s not) and it’s right to make an effort.

    I also think people bring a better attitude and appropriate self-awareness when they’ve thought about what they’re wearing and why.

    But I would never want to put a barrier up to people wanting to join the team or an invisible divide between the people and the team. Hence no uniform, no code – written or otherwise – just wisdom and conscience.

    Interesting topic mate!

  2. sammydaviesjr June 16, 2010 / 5:33 am

    I heard the other day that the reason Dr.Lloyd Jones wore a black Geneva robe was to obscure as much of himself as possible. Apparently he wished that people could only hear his voice, not see his face.

    While I wouldn’t go that far (after all, facial expressions and eye contact can communicate alot)there’s a sense in which this same attitude needs to be adopted by the worship leader. If our job is to direct the congregation to the greatness and glory of God then the less of us they see the better.

    How do they see less of us? Well not by wearing Geneva robes for sure, but just wearing ‘normal’ clothes. As Jamies has said, not too cool, not too uncool.
    Cheers Jamie, hope studies are going well.

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