One such issue is the perpetual discussion of modesty as a Catholic principle. Msgr. Pope has an interesting post on that matter, titled Modesty and Men:
- Tight and tiny swimwear for men seems just as inappropriate for men as for women. There is simply no good reason to wear tiny speedo suits outside of certain very limited swim-racing situations. The purpose is obviously to arouse sexual interest and to display what ought not be displayed. Further, I will say, most men look just plain silly wearing such swimwear. Larger “boxer-shorts” style bathing suits seem far more appropriate.
- Going shirtless should be limited. I am not aware that women are all that tempted by shirtless men, even those who are slender and muscular. But if the women on this blog tell us men that it is at times problematic then we ought to stop. A further concern about going shirtless other than in beach settings and limited sports settings is that it just seems a bit rude and far too casual. Our society has become so casual about everything. Men walking through city parks without shirts just seems too informal and frankly I don’t care for it. Such behavior was not commonly accepted in this country prior to the 1960s. Find a cool and comfortable shirt men and wear it. It does not belong tied around your waist. Neither should your t-shirt be pulled up over the back of your head to expose your belly and chest. It’s just ugly, inelegant and far too casual for public parks. Save it for the back yard or the beach.
- Saggy drawers have to go – no one cares to see your underwear. Please! Pull your pants up. This dumb trend that emerged from gansta culture is thankfully on the wane but it isn’t disappearing fast enough.
- Tight fitting jeans and open shirts are retro and wrong. Back in the 1970s we went through a lot of dopey stuff where men’s fashions started to take on rather feminine notions. The disco era brought this to its high point. It was an era of extremely tight jeans. Men started unbuttoning their shirts two and three buttons down. In those days hairy chests were in and an exposed hairy chest with gold necklaces was not uncommon. Jeans were worn low and large belt buckles to draw the look below the belt were being worn. Boots were also often worn. It was all silly and stupid looking: Men getting dolled up. The purpose was to strut your stuff. Men trying to sexualize themselves. I don’t really remember what the women thought at that time. Were they attracted by this? That seems to have been the purpose and if it was meant to tempt women, it was wrong. Every now and then these retro fashions try to make a come back. Bottom line is that men should dress modestly in loose fitting comfortable clothing. Shirts should be buttoned. Large belt buckles or things to draw attention to the waist are inappropriate and can be sinful.
I think that often times these conversations are derailed by a lack of what Msgr. Pope calls for: reasonableness. A man may reasonably ask that women not wear tight-fitting, revealing, skimpy clothes so that he can battle the impulses he might have toward illicit or lustful thoughts--but a woman may also reasonably point out that garments which show her elbows or her knees are not necessarily immodest. A man may reasonably object to skinny jeans on women; a woman may reasonably point out that looser-fitting slacks have become such a customary item of female attire that the proposition "slacks are immodest on a woman" is no longer really tenable.
Catholic men and women really should consider each other's immortal souls, and how the choices they make--in dress, conversation, manner, etc.--impact those souls. A modestly-dressed woman may be quite immodestly flirtatious with men to whom she is not married, and if her argument is that she's merely being "feminine" and enjoying the male attention with no harm done, she may be ignoring the impact she's having on those men; a modestly-dressed man may tell all sorts of "off-color" jokes under the impression that these are acceptable in present-day culture, and ignore that he is leading others to sin by these sorts of stories.
The consideration of the souls of others, and how they may be affected by our choices, is a reasonable and prudent sort of consideration to make. We may not always choose rightly, and sometimes our actions may have effects we could never have considered, but we will be held accountable for those times or circumstances when we should have known better, or chose thoughtlessly or in spite of morality. Looking at the modesty debate through this lens makes the whole subject--what was that word, again? Oh, yes: reasonable.