Donald Trump’s Baseball Cap

Googling pictures of Donald Trump, I failed to find many pictures of the 45th president not wearing a suit and tie. In fact, checking other presidents, Mr. Trump is by far the most formally dressed president since Bush 41. So, what is with the red baseball cap?

To explain that, I must first try and persuade you to purchase and wear a coverall with a fine brass zip down the front.

Whenever I am fortunate enough to be enjoying a vacation of my preference on a small boat, I often wear my coverall, of which I own two. Boating, you see, also involves a fair bit of marine repairing. Most machinery feels about salt water the way a vampire feels about a crucifix. So, of necessity, coastal boating in a small vessel is typically less lolling around in the sun and more crouching in the engine room trying to will a recalcitrant fuel pump to work. And for all mechanical repairs, I don one of my fine utilitarian coveralls. With repairs completed, I change back into a pair of flannels and a polo shirt.

”But why?” I ask myself. The coveralls would protect me from sharp pointy objects whether encountered in the innards of a boat or on a nature hike. They keep me adequately warm in chilly conditions, they have handy pockets, and they cost about one twentieth the price of a suit or a dress. Yes, they are also conveniently uni-sex, working as well for women as men. What is more, they are appealingly egalitarian, everyone’s coveralls look pretty much the same. They are wonderfully durable and easy and cheap to launder. They do not require dry cleaning. If you are not already convinced to ditch your regular outfit for a pair of coveralls, this should push you over the edge. One can be fully dressed in one’s coveralls in considerably less time than it takes to fasten a tie. What more could you ask for?

I don’t know if I have successfully persuaded you to make this drastic but altogether sensible change to your sartorial style, but I have certainly failed to persuade me. In spite of their numerous admirable qualities, I wear them only a few times a year. Most of the time I wear a jacket and tie.

The reason few of us have switched to the admirable garment, the coverall, is that most of the reasons we wear clothing are spiritual not physical. Seldom do we wear clothing for protection against the elements. Most of the time we wear clothing for the sense of dignity and identity it provides us. That is why so many of us prefer clothing from a specific designer or brand. The entire fashion industry is proof of our spiritual natures.

The desire to signal identification with a certain group of people is an innate spiritual need we all have. For some the signal of identification is the conspicuous cost of the clothing. For others it is a style that announces your tribal affiliation, as it were. For a long time, upper-level tech workers wore khaki pants and light blue shirts. The late Steve Jobs of Apple and his countless imitators wore a uniform of a black polo neck sweater and black jeans. For IBM employees, being part of the crowd meant wearing dark suits and red ties. The desire to show that one is not alone but part of a group is a deep spiritual need.

In ancient Jewish wisdom there is a serious moral discussion about which poor person should receive your charity. Imagine that you have only enough to distribute money to one of two recipients. One needs money for food, while the other needs money for clothing. The conclusion of the discussion acknowledges that the spiritual need takes precedence. A person’s dignity and identity is often more precious than a full belly.

Attire that does not overly draw the eye of the observer to the body of the wearer is what we think of as proper attire. Clothing that is neither transparent nor too tightly contoured to the body is dignified. Clothing that does not draw the eye to the junction of the legs, for both men and women, is respectful of the true reality of a human being. Clothing not chosen with convenience and comfort as the paramount criteria demonstrates a respect for the civilization upon which we all depend.

When a woman chooses a dress and when a man eschews shorts and a T-shirt for a suit and tie they are both acknowledging their essential spiritual natures. They are saying, “I took some trouble over the appearance I will impose upon those with whom I will mix.”

Just as I help maintain civilization by not appearing in public reeking of an unclean body and by not inflicting conspicuous bodily noises upon those around me, I dress in a way so as to emphasize the spiritual and not the physical. It is an act of consideration to others and to our social structures. It is also a signal of identification showing that I am part of the team that is trying to strengthen civilization.

And President Trump’s red cap? It, too, is a signal of identification. Precisely one of the spiritual functions of clothing.

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