An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.”

-Timothy Keller

This week I’m writing about the possibility of worshiping our clothes. No, not necessarily our clothes, perhaps clothes in general, or maybe a brand of clothes. “Brand worship,” after all, springs from the common vernacular beside phrases like “on the altar of fashion.” 

I googled that last phrase, “on the altar of fashion,” and found a string of things being sacrificed there: comfort, spinal health, true beauty, virtue, goodness, money, long hair, one’s cats (for real), faith. Repeatedly women (and men, too) confessed to sacrificing valuable things in pursuit of looking “fashionable.”

Charles Spurgeon once wrote:

The great guide of the world is fashion and its god is respectability—two phantoms at which brave men laugh… You ask, “Is it fashionable? If it is fashionable, it must be done.” Fashion is the law of multitudes, but it is nothing more than the common consent of fools.

Fashion is more than clothes, it’s the ever moving target of public acceptance. As a god, it is needy and difficult to please, never satisfying and never satisfied.

The brand idol rivals the power of fashion as it deceives the masses with promises of security and belonging. Wearing Nike or Coach or Converse or Urban Outfitters puts you into a category of people, a community of the like-minded, a family but more uniformly well-dressed. Brands convince us that our faithfulness will be rewarded with status and belonging.

Recently I bought a shirt from the temple that is Anthropologie. As the clerk wrapped it in tissue paper I asked about the return policy on clearance items. I said, “Here’s the thing, I don’t know if I like this because it’s beautiful or if I like it because it’s from this store.”

Stores convince us that they’re reliable, that the clothes they carry will communicate a certain image, a cool, cohesive persona. And we can sometimes buy into it so fully that our self becomes the one we’re sold. 

When clothes or fashion or the brand on my shirt becomes a source of significance or security, when I judge my value by the contents of my closet, when I let a store tell me who I am—that’s idolatry.

And God really, really, really dislikes idolatry.