Gateway to the Classics: Ruth of Boston by James Otis
Ruth of Boston by  James Otis

The Fashion of the Day

I am afraid it may be almost sinful for me so to set my mind upon the garments which one wears, and yet I cannot but contrast my father with some of the common men in the village.

The ruff which he wears around his neck is always well starched, clean, and stands out in beautiful proportions. On his low, peaked shoes, mother ever has fixed rosettes, or knots made of ribbon. His doublet, which is gathered around the waist with a silken belt, is slashed on the sleeves to show the snowy linen beneath. His trunk hose, meaning those which reach from his waist to his knees, are of the finest wool. His stockings, when he is dressed to meet with the Council, are of silk, while his mandilion, or cloak, is always of silk or velvet.

Perhaps one may think such attire hardly befitting a wild place like this, yet I know of nothing which serves to set off a man's figure, making him seem of importance in the world, better than that he be clad with due regard to the fashion of the day. Master Winthrop would not present the gentlemanly appearance which he does if he wore, as do the common people here, a band, or a flat collar with cord and tassels, breeches of leather, and a leather girdle around his waist. If he had, as do they, heavy shoes with heels of wood, or if his clothing were fastened together with hooks and eyes, instead of silken points, and if his hat were of leather, would we be pleased to call him Governor?


My mother often says that it is unseemly in a child like me to speak of the clothing worn by gentlemen, and yet I have noticed often and again, that she is as careful of my father's attire when he goes out of doors as she was at home in England, where all gentlemen were dressed becomingly.

Verily one need not go abroad in tatters, or oddities, simply because of having come into this New World, where much of work is required, and he who cares for his personal appearance, to my way of thinking, is to be given due credit.

Surely so the Massachusetts Bay Company thought, for they furnished to every man who came from England to settle here, save it be those who could afford such things for themselves, four pairs of shoes and the same number of stockings; four shirts; two suits of doublet, and hose of leather lined with oiled skin; a woolen suit, lined with leather, together with four bands and two handkerchiefs, a green cotton waistcoat, two pairs of gloves, a leather belt, a woolen cap and two red knit caps, a mandilion lined with cotton, and also an extra pair of breeches. Of course such an outfit was for the common people, not the gentlefolk.


In our company, the boys are clothed exactly as are their fathers, and many of them present a most attractive appearance, although my mother would not think it proper for me to say so, much less to put it down in writing.

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