"But if my jacket and trousers, my hat and shoes, are fit to worship God in, they will do; will they not?, " Thoreau questions his reader. He wonders if man is led more often by the love of whimsy and intent to impress others, than he is of valuing true necessity or utility. Thoreau reminds us that the object of clothing is to retain vital body warmth and cover nakedness. "I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, rather than a new wearer of clothes." He goes on to point out that manufacturers play on man's desire for novelty merely by changing a thread here or a color there, and marketing to the masses what is considered fashionable. All the meanwhile, the manufacturer may care less that his customer is well dressed or properly warm. What the manufacturer desires is to enrich his own business and line his own pockets with the funds from the masses at the expense of those willing to pay.
Thoreau shares a similar philosophy in regard to shelter. Clearly, less is more. Although he relates that shelter is a necessity of life, he offers examples of human beings, no hardier than ourselves, who have lived without shelter for longer periods in colder climates. He also speaks of Indians living in the town of Concord in tents constructed with thin cotton cloth, and compares them with neighbors who spend about eight hundred dollars, which would translate to about fifteen years of their lives, on their dwellings. It seems that for Thoreau the essential consideration, whether it is for clothing or shelter, becomes how much is absolutely necessary? And at what price? What is the amount of life that must be expended to obtain these dwellings or articles? Thoreau suggests "when the farmer has got his house, he may not be the richer but the poorer for it." He furthermore suggests that the process of providing clothing and shelter for one self, that of being self-reliant, is a freedom that is being lost to the modern world of manufacturing and consumerism. To be a man who can build his own home and provide for himself, debt free, affords him the riches of being able to enjoy his life on the pursuits that are essential.
After reading Clothing and Shelter, it is apparent that Thoreau's thoughts on both center around the fundamental properties of simplicity and utility. He centers on these aspects as he argues that without such purpose, one wastes his life in the aimless pursuit of attaining possessions. Thoreau points out something that we can all learn from. "Clothing is to retain vital warmth and cover nakedness." Clothing and shelter are all about protecting the well being of our bodies. It really isn't about how expensive the clothing or dwelling one possesses. It only matters that you have the basic necessities to protect your body and sustain life.
Thoreau's contrast to what the ordinary person thinks amazes me. His writing seems so critical of the surrounding societies around him. It astounds me how he has the guts to speak out negatively about how the people around him live their lives, especially in Concord. His critical points entertain me. It is not merely the fact that he can just express negative traits out about the people around him. It is the fact that he can actually back up his harsh statements with true realities.