13. Massachusetts laws were passed defining acceptable clothing
In Puritan Massachusetts Bay, church elders were concerned with the sin of pride, considering it to be a driving force in ambition, another sin. Excessive ambition, to the Puritans, indicated a rebellious attitude towards God as rejecting the individual’s assigned place in His creation. Pride, which drove ambition, was exhibited in many sinful ways, but not more so than in one’s state of dress. Apparel was the outward expression of pride, and to save their flock from falling into the sin, laws were passed. They were, in effect, a dress code, and they were justified through the interpretation of chapter one of the Book of Zephaniah.
The traditional means of identifying the Puritans – simple black garb for men and plain, unadorned dresses for women – is not merely a cliché. It was how they dressed, as adornments of any sort were considered distasteful, and after laws were passed against them, illegal. Shoe buckles were one exception, and special occasions allowed for more elaborate dress, but not to the point that one transgressed class boundaries. A simple workingman wore buckles of pewter, those of the more wealthy could be of silver.