Gentlemen: How has your dicision to plain dress affected your daily life?

I am interested in learning how the gentlemen are affected in their daily lives by choosing to plain dress.
What are the blessings you attribute to your decision?
What are the challenges?
Has it changed your character in any way?
Have you faced any particular obstacles as a result?
Have you had a personal affect on someone in particular?

Will enjoy reading your comments!

Peace to all,

Nanna Kapp

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My version of "plain" isn't all that noticeable. I basically buy second hand clothes whenever possible. For awhile I was looking for solid colors, but didn't find a lot for lightweight short sleeve shirts for summer so ended up with prints. My main concerns are to not support industries that exploit workers, particularly children and to reuse/recycle. Although what I buy may come from such sources, at least I'm not generating new sales for them and instead supporting causes in line with Gospel Order (that run the thrift shops).

Since my manner of dress is not noticeable, it does not make me identifiable as a Friend or garner inquiries about my faith. I am pondering whether I might be led to dress in a more distinctive fashion for that purpose.
I first dressed "plain" in the Amish sense in 1987 when I had been a Friend less than a year. There was a family from Paris, Texas, that were attenders at our meeting in Oklahoma City, and a gay couple where one of the spouses wore plain clothes, no buttons showing. For years, after leaving field work and going administrative and nerd on the job, I dressed casually. I am a large person so there were no fashionable clothes that would fit me. My favorite shopping was at AMVets and Sam's Surplus in Okc. King Size clothes were outside of my income level. Being a costume oriented person (I was doing theatre at the time), I got a Gohn Brothers Catalogue, wrote a couple of inquiry letters and discovered they would custom fit me for an additional price, which was still low by comparison to my usual shopping for clothes. I ordered the whole dark blue corduroy uniform, drop front trousers, gorilla boots, lined jacket, hat, suspenders, socks, bow tie and union suit. I never did get used to the eye hooks in the jacket so I replaced them with a strip of Velcro. My boss had recently been ragging me to dress more formally at the office for several months prior to my discovery of plain clothes. My first Friend mentor, Bill Byerly, dressed in common second hand clothes, which at the time was heavy in polyester. The natural fiber of plain clothes, worked for me. Then I went to work in my new "suit." The boss never bothered me about my attire again.

When my arthritis and fibromyalgia got severe the suspenders began to hurt my shoulders so I went back to the belted and zippered trousers and old tee shirts. I had one tailored suit for special occasions and one off the rack at an outlet store for First day responsibilities as a pastor. My mentor in seminary, Phil Baisley, convinced me to get a blazer which expanded my choices. As a nigh-time performer, I also had a tux for MC'ing and band work. However, I like plain dress because it attracts the inquisitive and gives me an opportunity to speak about the Quaker Life. Fifteen years ago, I got the chance of analyzing and comparing Quaker and Amish differences on PBS because I was the only one at an Amish auction wearing plain clothes and carrying a camera. That piece airs in Oklahoma, to this day. Now, I rarely don my black hat, though my broadfalls are still the best choice for woodworking and for picking blackberries. I also felt more emboldened to meditate in public when wearing plain clothes. Anyone else would have been arrested for loitering.
I have worn plain garb for most of 40 years. I did try returning to conventional clothing for a few years during that time, but felt relief when I began dressing "plain" again.

During much of my adult life, I have lived in places where plain dress is an expression of community. This is its primary meaning for me. Living away from an area where plain dress is common is, in my experience, difficult.

My appearance has often been a source of irritation for some Friends, and an occasion for puzzlement for others. Usually, I have belonged to meetings where some of many other members dressed plainly. When Friends have challenged or condemned my garb, I have mostly let my life be my testimony.

I taught at various times at Church of the Brethren and Mennonite colleges. My plainness was a problem for some of the people I worked with; they made hostile remarks and "hassled" me for being conservative. I also became a target for abuse by students who were rejecting their conservative upbringing and/or the conservatism of some of their kin (or sometimes because they didn't like the grades they were getting!).

Plain garb can make getting a job difficult. I worked for the postal service for approximately half of my adult life, and my supervisor for much of this time had Mennonite relatives. He understood my situation, and told me to ignore regulations about wearing a necktie on the job, etc.

Around town people are accustomed to my beard and garb, and generally don't say anything about it. When a businessmen in town got into the habit of taunting me, I refused to respond (I mean complete silence!)--which embarrassed him in front of his employees. After that, he stopped bothering me.

When we go to the city, people sometimes stare at me; I smile and go about my business. People sometimes approach me, occasionally speaking to me in PA Dutch--I know only a few words! Store clerks tend to remember me, and greet me as if I were a long lost friend!

Sometimes, people having difficulty approach me for help. To cite one example, a drunk approached me once in a shopping center. I agreed to take him to his sister's home, which was several miles away. During the trip he vomited on the floor of my car! When we got to the house, no one was home. He wanted me to pray for him. We knelt on his sister's porch as rain was pouring down, and approached the Throne of Grace on his behalf! I finally took him to a restaurant in town, and gave them some money to sober him up. They said that they would take care of him. What a relief!!!

Wearing the garb certainly makes me sensitive to my "presentation of self". I try to be friendly, and careful about my deportment. Some people keep an eye on me, looking for inconsistencies and inappropriate behavior.

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