Aaron, the Rapper and His Versace Vestments

Lou Vuitton ain’t gon’ pay you for that bragging/Donatella prolly never heard your album
Lecrae

I feel like ‘f**k Versace’/they raping n***a’s pockets/and we don’t get acknowledged/just thank me for the profit

– Vince Staples

Versace, Versace, Versace, Versace
Versace, Versace, Versace, Versace
Versace, Versace Versace, Versace Versace
Versace, Versace Versace, Versace Versace

Migos

A work colleague of mine once tried to argue that wearing a smart shirt and trousers to work was an arbitrary part of our jobs, only but an unnecessary conformity to societal rules and norms. All well and true, except the same person wouldn’t dare come into work dressed differently apart from on casual Fridays. You can say then that he has somewhat became shackled to culture, though a hermit life is simply not an alternative. The point he missed is that, it is not the clothes themselves that makes the man, but what they signify, the clothes talk, calling you a professional or a slut who is up for it (difficult truth, I know). However much we like to wish or grind these things away they still remain true. Hipsters, Goths and B-boys talk without saying much.

Hip-Hop as a genre of music born out of poverty has an affinity for the showy and blingy which is often an announcement that the artist has arrived and successfully navigated out the squalor that they once were part of. The artists painful aware of this past existence, so deeply ingrained has to announce his rid of it through ostentatious accoutrements. It is simply not enough to know it with a rather large bank balance, but the story must be bodily told.

In the book of Exodus we are given a detailed description of the garb of Aaron the Priest in Exodus 28 of which the purpose or what is bodily represented is clearly spelt out:

“You shall make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, ‘Holy to the Lord‘. And you shall fasten it on the turban by a cord of blue. It shall be on the front of the Turban”

Christ the High PriestThe Priests were by what they wear clearly meant to be recognised as set apart for the Lord’s service, wholly his for use (and delight) and a representative of the people before him. By calling them a representative, we must also recognise that this title of being the Lord’s also extends to the average Joe in Israel, of which Aaron and his household are but a token of. It is easy to simple skip over most of what we find here as long-winded, mundane and irrelevant to the Exodus narrative but we should not miss the picture we are meant to vividly see here. Here is another description of what the priests looked like:

Their appearance makes one awestruck and dumbfounded; a man would think he had come out of this world into another one. I emphatically assert that every man who comes near the spectacle of what I have described will experience astonishment and amazement beyond words, his very being transformed by the hallowed arrangement of every single detail“*

We cannot talk about clothes without some reference to the novel idea of the lack of it called – Nudism. And we cannot discuss this without an excursion to Eden or a return to it as the members of these groups tend to want to emphasise, afterall in Genesis we are told that “the Man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Gen 2:25). Simply using this as justification for your lack of clothes will be to miss the rest of what ensues in Genesis that led to the termination of their tenancy agreement with God. This also brought about their need to be clothed to begin with, something which the Lord despite the covenant he had with them being called that of works, still graciously made for “Adam and his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (Gen 3:20) to replace their ridiculous fig leaves. From then on, our flesh becomes the problem, increasingly we are told “he is (man) [but] flesh” (Gen 6:3) and especially in the flood account that God is “determined to make an end of all flesh“. The flesh language is also picked up by the Apostle Paul, prominently in Romans 8. All of this will probably then lead us to conclude that the ‘Body’ in Christian Theology is all bad, must and will be rid of and replaced with a wispy, floaty, lighter, spiritual version which for some reason is still able to play Harps. This is however wrong because it begs the question of why God would create us as embodied beings one minute, in the next trying to be rid of it.

Back in the modern day,  Identity is such an issue. So much of it is today at stake in the value of lives – black lives to be specific – and in specifying we are recognising it as distinct from white, yellow, brown lives, which funny enough is not even the right colours on a scientific spectrum, just socially ascribed ones with a bitter, colourful history. As one of those of the chocolate coated of the human species, I cannot help but think about this coating, and clothing, here in relation to the chosen uniform of your average Gangster rapper and also to the apparent inequalities that exists in humans. Racism as it is known also occurs within this apparently persecuted of races, within its own gates, at least if we now agree that in putting on of the ostentatious by the Rapper, that he is distinguishing himself from the lower of the species. Their clothing as a representation of their bank accounts though is to be expected and it will be simplistic to expect them to still shop at their local Primark, but before it seems that their decisions on fashion is entirely justified, here is list of 20 who have gone bankrupt.

The Bible does not outright condemn riches or bodily adornments as a sign of it, what you instead find is a thinking that is more rich and nuanced. In Psalm 49 for example you find:

even the wise die;
the fool and the stupid alike must perish
and leave their wealth to others.
Their graves are their homes forever,
their dwelling places to all generations,
though they called lands by their own names.
Man in his pomp will not remain;
he is like the beasts that perish. Psalm 48:10 – 12

Also, half of Psalm 73 is a lament of the showiness of the rich, only for the second half to pretty much conclude – ‘nothing to see here’, he’s going to die and be judged, just like everybody else. But before we conclude then that riches are bad we come across the book of Ecclesiastes with its advice:

Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept that as his lot and rejoice in his toil – this is the gift of God” – (Eccles 5: 19).

We must however reach a conclusion, found in a return to Eden. In the first few chapters of Genesis, in which the book of Ecclesiastes is said to be an extended commentary on. In returning we must determine exactly what man is, or now isn’t. Man is a god (John 10:34), created to rule, judge and mirror God, but in his sinning has rightly fallen below what he is. Now less than what he is must be adorned or re-dressed to be again what he was in order to remain or become what he was purposed to be, to be begin with. If that is so, then we must recognise that clothing, in so far as it bestows honour to man, only does so temporarily and earthily, in so far as we know that these things will be eventually rid of, each in its own succession progressing from the fig, animal skin, priestly or kingly vestments to the final adorning in white robes in revelation which itself points to the believer being clothed ‘in Christ’ as a pointer to final restoration of the dignity or divine approval back to man.

There are several passages in the New Testament that make use of the metaphor of taking off, putting on, clothing and nakedness of these Colossians 3, Ephesians 4&5 and 1 Peter 1:1 – where the Apostle quoting Isaiah reminds us in verse 24 that:

All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers, and flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains for ever

Therefore, adorn, cloth, work out and beautify the body, it is created by God for your benefit and enjoyment but we must in doing this always remember that whatever we seek to make it, it is but a shadow of what it is meant to be, our hearts should not have too much of an investment in it but rather in a restoration of what was and to be, in a glorious new creation of which Christ is the first-born. We must also remember that his resurrection is a glorious bodily one, so that when we do adorn (if we so choose to) we do so in the anticipation of the imperishable to come which we have been given a picture of and When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Col 3:4).

Notes

*R.Kent Hughes, Exodus; Saved for God’s Glory. Quoting from “The Letter of Aristeas”

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