Parable # 28: Do We Have to Wear Our Uniforms?

A Parable by Donald Lee

(This week is the 31st installment of the book, “The Band Director’s Lessons About Life”, which TCRN is publishing as a series during 2020. This week, band director and spiritual author Donald Lee relates a parable about dressing for success. For a complete listing of previous episodes in this series, click here.)

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”MARK TWAIN (Nineteenth-century American writer, humorist)

“Mr. Lee, do we have to wear our uniforms to the concert?” whined Sheila.

I rolled my eyes. I get the uniform complaint before every concert. So, sure enough, we turned the calendar over to December, and the grade nines complained as they began to think about our Christmas concert.

“Of course. That’s what we have uniforms for,” I replied as calmly as I could.

“But they’re so geeky,” she said melodramatically. “Why can’t we just wear nice clothes?”

“Lots of reasons, but what do you consider nice clothes?” I asked.

“Well . . . what I have on right now is nice,” Sheila said innocently.

“Nice?” I was astonished. “Your ‘nice’ clothes are so ripped up I wouldn’t be caught dead in them. Nobody over the age of twenty thinks those are nice—currently fashionable for teenagers, maybe, but not nice.” Some kids laughed, some seemed affronted.

“It’s incredible that you’ll spend $60 on a pair of jeans I would throw away. I just bought a good pair of brand-new blue jeans at Walmart for $17. That’s less than I paid for new jeans when I was in high school during the 1970s. The value of money has fallen by 80 percent in the past four decades, yet I can still buy jeans for under $20. That’s an incredible testament to the ingenuity of man and the benefits of technological progress and free enterprise. Yet you . . .” I was tempted to say “idiots,” but I restrained myself long enough to find a gentler word, “kids spend three times as much for a pair of jeans that is intentionally useless. Why do you do that?” I was, indeed, getting emotional.

“Because it’s in style. You want to be stylish, don’t you?” justified Sheila with a sneer.

“Not if it means freezing my butt off! It’s twenty below zero outside. I’m going to wear warm clothes, not clothes full of holes.”

I had to take some deep breaths, count to ten. I even considered assuming the lotus position and chanting “om” for a while. Some topics just get me riled up.

“Listen, everyone,” I said as I regained my composure.

“The clothes we wear send a message to everyone who sees us. Whenever you get dressed, you subconsciously ask yourself what message you want to send. Every human understands this innately. If you weren’t sending a message with what you wear, you wouldn’t care about what you wore. As a band, we are a group, not individuals; an ensemble, not soloists. Of course, we want to sound like a musical ensemble when we play. But since every performance has a visual component—that is, people see us as well as hear us—we want to look like a group and not like a random collection of individuals. When you wear a uniform, whether it’s your band uniform or your hockey uniform, you are sending the message to yourself and to everyone else that you are a team. Also, we don’t want to have peoples’ attention drawn to the girl in the red dress, the boy with fluorescent-orange running shoes, and the percussionist with the purple mohawk. We want to appear visually uniform. That’s exactly why we call it a uniform.

The clothes we wear are an outward reflection of our inward state of consciousness, of who we think we are. But remember, all three parts of us (spirit, mind, body) are synergistic—they each affect the others. So what we wear on the outside also affects how we see ourselves on the inside. If we dress professionally, we see ourselves as being professional and we raise our own expectations of ourselves. We now ‘play the part,’ as it were, that we are costumed for. Wear sexy clothes, feel sexy. Wear work clothes, feel like a laborer. Wear a tuxedo, feel rich and sophisticated. Wear your band uniform, feel like a musician. The uniform is part of being a musician so you perform like a musician.”


What we wear matters. As the English art and fashion historian James Laver said, “Clothes are never a frivolity. They always mean something.”

Naturally, we dress for the job and for the occasion, but my point here is about our attire as part of our daily “performance” of who we really are. No doubt you’ve heard the expression “He wears his heart on his sleeve,” meaning we can see his emotions in his outward appearance. Really, we wear our consciousness on our body. The way we present ourselves is an outward reflection of our inner self-concept, our I AM consciousness.

There is a symbiotic relationship between what we think, say, and do, and what we believe about ourselves. The creation process works in all directions: acting affects thinking and speaking just as thinking affects speaking and acting. So the way we dress also affects the way we think about ourselves almost as much as the reverse. As we dress for our “part” (our new vision of ourselves), we become the person who is that “part.”

There’s a deeper spiritual metaphor here as well. We see what clothes people wear. We also see their nonverbal body language. In a sense, we “wear” facial expressions, postures, etc. But we also get a “gut feeling” about people that we often can’t describe. We put out “vibes,” as we used to call it back in the ’60s. Whether it’s our aura, our personal energy field, or our intuition, I’m not sure. And each of us is attuned to this to some degree. Yet somehow we “wear” our mental state—our consciousness, really—for all to perceive. Our own state of consciousness actually affects those around us. We have a far more profound impact on others than we realize.

So wear your best—good clothes, good attitudes, good consciousness—all the time. Dress to reflect your highest and best self. Whether we realize it or not, we are always wearing our uniform.

The clothes we choose to wear tell everyone who we choose to be. Let’s choose to be our best.

Donald Lee is a spiritual author and speaker. This article is part of a weekly series for 2020 in which TCRN is publishing his inspirational book, The Band Director’s Lessons About Life: Volume 1 – 50 Parables on Life’s Performance Cycle, in serial form – one parable per week. You can learn more about the author at his website:, or order a copy of his complete book on Amazon, or get his free mini eBook and sign up for his weekly blog. Follow Donald on Facebook.

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