Menu Close

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Is it a Sin to Wear Distressed (Torn) Clothing?

distressed clothing

Clothes don’t have to be clean anymore. People can wear clothes that are deliberately ripped, stained and full of holes without fear of rejection. Clothes don’t even have to be clothes anymore. They can be shredded rags, the dingier the better.


Such tattered garments are called “distressed” clothes (rightfully so), and they are becoming increasingly fashionable. It’s not just amateurs haphazardly ripping up faded jeans or retailers making random tears anymore. It is going mainstream.

The world of high fashion has now embraced “distressed” clothing as chic. Fashion designers are using new technology and hiring special effects technicians to get that natural moth-eaten, threadbare look that makes it seem like you’ve been wearing the garment for twenty years.


You should not have to explain why you don’t wear ripped clothes. This is something your mother should have taught you at an early age. She would sew up your tears the minute she saw them. If she found a hole in a purchase, she would make you take back such clothes to the store for a refund.

Times have sadly changed, and so have some mothers. A lot of fashion conscious moms can now be found in shredded shorts and custom-holed t-shirts.


Perhaps the first place to start is by affirming that a ripped garment is not modest clothing because it is not real clothing. This claim is guaranteed to raise a firestorm, but from a purely metaphysical perspective, it must be admitted that such garments fail to fulfill their purpose.

Most people would object that it is still clothing, but just a different kind that is more comfortable and thus makes people happier. People should do that which makes them happiest. Therefore they should wear ripped clothes so as not to worry about their appearance or condition. It is all about comfort.


Deliberately ripped garments work against the purpose of clothes. They are caricatures of what clothing should be. Far from adorning the body, the process of ripping turns that which should be strong, beautiful and orderly into something weak, ugly and frayed. Tattered attire is disordered and therefore should not be worn.


The second reason why ripped clothing should not be worn is that it is immodest.

Again such a claim raises hackles. Most people would object that as long as tattered clothes stay outside the extreme point of undress that is considered morally and socially unacceptable, you cannot say that it is immodest.

And here is the crux of the problem. People have completely lost the notion of what modesty is and how it is manifested. People lack even a catechism definition of this virtue.

People confuse modesty with chastity and thus only associate it with sensuality. Modesty does play a major role in preserving chastity, but it is much more than that. It is often mistakenly associated only with female attire, but it also applies to men.


Modesty is the virtue that safeguards the dignity of a person in association with others. It benefits both the individual and society because it governs the exterior appearance and behavior of the person and thus helps make society civil and harmonious.

Beyond dress, modesty is concerned with the manner of speech, posture, gestures, and general presentation of the person. Modesty calls upon people to behave well with others and conform to standards of decency and decorum found in the healthy customs of an ordered society.

When you present yourself properly to others, you are modest. When you control yourself in your external actions and manners in society, you are modest. When you act erratically and speak in a manner that offends and disregards others, you are immodest.


In matters of Catholic dress, this means holding to all that is proper to a soul that is a temple of the Holy Spirit. That is to say, you dress in a manner that is ordered, dignified and reasonable to who you are. Adults dress like adults; children dress like children. Authorities dress in accord with their office.

It also means you should not dress carelessly. Saint Thomas Aquinas states that you are immodest when you are unduly negligent in your appearance and fail to present yourself according to your state in life. You are also immodest when you seek to attract attention to yourself by showing a lack of concern for presenting oneself well (Summa, II-II, q. 169, a. 1).

Immoral and revealing clothing is of course immodest. However, improper, soiled and ripped unisex clothing is also immodest. It is not proper to the dignity of a person made in the image and likeness of God. When Our Lady spoke out against immodest fashions at Fatima, she was referring to this kind of immodesty as well.

— Catholic John Horvat II, Return to Order, Is it Immodest to Wear Deliberately Ripped Clothes?


Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.


  1. Avatar

    Yet he expects everyone to tolerate bad toupees on old Baptist preachers and tacky polyester suits. If the rest of us have to put up with that then he will have to put up with the young people’s latest fashion trend. Except why is he grumbling about it now? Because the shredded jeans started in the 1980’s and is just returning.

  2. Avatar

    Ok, I disliked this style in the 80’s and I still dislike it. But I could not care less if someone wears this style. Fashion is a personal thing, and may be a statement, or status, or rebellion, or peer pressure, or conformity, basically it is an expression of the person wearing the fashion. Taken to a certain level, fashion can be a unique expression of an individual.

    I will say his title is correct. He is preaching that all should wear the properly proscribed uniform, and become automatons who all think the same and do not step outside the expected norm. Only then can the world be what his version of god desires.

    And reading the comments on that site…apparently there are a lot of holier that thou fashion judgers in the Christian world.

    I’ve seen their fashion, they should not be judging others…

  3. Avatar

    I’ve never wanted to buy clothing that already had holes in it, live in those jeans and make your OWN holes, it’s more authentic that way!

    I don’t actually care what other people wear, I made that clear to my daughters as they grew up and had earned money, “If you want to buy those torn jeans, have at it. I simply won’t spend my money on it. Where’s the personality in thousands of girls wearing jeans with the same hole in the left thigh? Boring! The hole in the right shoulder of your denim jacket that came from carelessly throwing it on top of a marine battery? That has a story to it!

  4. Avatar

    OTOH, Hovat, some of us are concerned about waste, about the environment, about fast fashion being made in dangerous conditions in asian sweatshops etc. Pretty much my whole wardrobe – and that of my clothes-loving fundy daughter’s – are bought for very small sums from charity shops (thrift shops to those over the pond.) Her salary is eye-wateringly high to me, but she sources so much from them, household goods, toys she knows her kids will maybe only play with for a few weeks etc cos she hates waste. One outcome of C19 in the UK has been that home working has meant less being spent on smart working clothes, suits etc and folk are allowed to, and happy to, wear old casual garments. So I roundly applaud this latest distressed look, though I don’t personally like it, if it keeps millions of tonnes of reasonably good clothing out of landfill and helps ‘save the planet.’
    Dare I say it….Hovat would probably love to compel of all of us vagina-possessors to wear burquas only!

  5. Avatar

    These folks just can’t seem to mind their own business, can they? I, personally could care less what someone else wears or doesn’t wear. I have too much on my plate to worry about my attire too much, with exception of going to work or going out in public and I especially don’t have the time to worry about others’ clothing chouces.
    I wear clean, stain-free, no-holes clothing when going to town, but, I am no fashionista and refuse to wear anything uncomfortable, with the exception of funerals, weddings, etc. I simply don’t care about what others’ think of my attire.

    Back in my EMS days, I had an older male patient once comment to me about my appearance. He said, “You know, you would be so much more attractive if you wore make-up”. I was insulted and told him, “Sir, that is an incredibly rude thing to say to someone about to stick you with a needle”. He didn’t say anything else after that, but I’m sure he was seething the whole trip to the ER.

Want to Respond to Bruce? Fire Away! If You Are a First Time Commenter, Please Read the Comment Policy Located at the Top of the Page.

Bruce Gerencser