Christian women are so often reminded to be modest – modest in appearance, behavior and speech. Christian women, especially Plain women, are more visible than their male counterparts. We get the most attention, with our long hems, aprons, headcoverings, lack of make-up and jewelry. Even Christian women who do not cover are sometimes asked why they dress modestly or always wear skirts. People assume, in today’s world, that everyone wants to be on display as a sexual object.
But Christian men are rarely identified as such by their dress, unless they are consciously dressed in the way of the Old Orders or the Conservative Quakers. Yet this does not free them from modest appearance and behavior.
The Conservative and Anabaptist standard for male attire is simple. Broadfall trousers or respectable plain pants, long-sleeved neutral coloured shirts, suspenders instead of a belt, plain black vest, plain uncollared coat, black plain shoes or boots, black or straw hat, unornamented. Many Plain men wear the Brethren beard – a beard of varying length and fullness, but without the mustache. Hair is cut at collar length, may be brushed back from the front or cut into a high bang. The usual male short hair style is considered worldly and vain, and is called derogatorily “roached” or “shingled.”
Sometimes Plain men will wear denim jeans (without any name brand identification) and denim work jackets. These are useful garments for any modest Christian man, on the understanding that the jeans are not name brand and the jacket does not have patches and emblems.
Name brands are not modest. Designer clothes are not modest. If a person can look upon thee and say, “Giorgio Armani” and that is not thy name, then thee is far too concerned with the world and thy status in it.
This is probably where Christian men fail the most in modesty. They are too concerned with the right kind of clothes, cars, tools, boats – well, the usual worldly things. The Christian man following his Lord has no need to carry someone else’s name with him. He belongs to Christ, not Ralph Lauren or DeWitt Power Tools or Dodge Ram trucks. Christian men have no reason to prove their worldly success by what they can buy. They are not in the competition. Remember what is said about the rat race: Even the winner is still a rat.
Just as Christian women should not desire to show off their figures and attract the attention of other people, Christian men should be decently clad. Men, this means no tight pants, shorts, tiny spandex swimsuits and muscle-baring shirts. It means shirts at all times.
Quiet colours and sensible footwear are part of modest dress. Athletic wear belongs in the gym or on the ski slope, not on the street. (Of course, one must get to the gym, so that’s another matter. The point is that it has a specific use. To wear it on other occasions is just showing off.)
Modesty of speech may be a big challenge for some men. Men often like to boast amongst other men, or to impress women. It may be overt, it may be subtle. But to keep the conversation on oneself is not modest. Only God is concerned with thy deeds, and thee should lay these before Him with great humility and probably a certain amount of contrition.
Television and film promote a life for men that seems to involve a lot of time socializing. This social life means a lot of drinking, loud conversation and laughter, and even some fighting. This may be what is promoted in our culture, but it is not a life for a Christian, male or female. It is a juvenile, hedonistic life, not a life of sobriety and service.
Drunkenness is not modest. It leads to a lack of self-discipline that leads to misbehaviour. We have all met men who can’t keep their mouths shut when drunk and have to tell someone what they really think of him. We’ve all known some guy who finds women attractive through beer goggles, and makes a pest of himself. We have all heard or seen the tragic results of men who could drive better, even race faster after drinking, and they were really, really wrong. Moderation in drink is required of Christians. Abstinence is required of some who simply cannot handle alcohol in a responsible way.
Sexual talk, either with other men or with women, is not modest. Men sometimes like to boast sexually, and this is a betrayal of their partner. If it is about sex outside marriage, it is an indication of grave sin, and a sinful attitude. The modest Christian man does not stay to listen to this kind of conversation and boasting. He does not keep company with such friends. They will drag him down to their level.
The modest Christian man is loyal to the way his Lord has given him. He does not draw attention to himself in how he dresses, how he talks or how he behaves. He is sober and quiet. He will make himself a fit companion for a modest Christian woman, or fit to keep company with holy men.