We have often heard that clothes make the man/woman. Indeed, being sartorially splendid is to be desired and the quest is the backbone of a large part of American industry.
However, consider the many expressions we have that seem to concern themselves with apparel and often the divestment of it.
If times are tough, you may be encouraged to tighten your belt. (If you have lost a lot of weight, this is also good advice so as to avoid a “wardrobe malfunction.”)
If you become overly self-important, then you may be cautioned that you are getting too big for your own boots or britches. Or if you are determinedly sure of something, you may bet your boots on it. If you are considering retirement, then you may be ready to hang up your boots. (Cowboys do it with spurs.)
Being careful how you treat others; be warned that often someone needs to be treated with kid gloves.
Now, if you were to divest yourself of all apparel, you would be in your birthday suit. But there are expressions where only some items are disposed of; this is a much safer consideration in mixed company.
Recognize someone’s accomplishment and say, “My hat is off to you.” Join the political arena and throw your hat into the ring as a candidate.
An amazing discovery may astound others and truly “knock their socks off!”
Pants seem to be a popular item to have someone lose idiomatically. If you can frighten, you can “scare the pants off;” if you best someone in competition, you “beat the pants off;” if you are a tedious conversationalist, then you “bore the pants off.” Rather, choose to be amicable and interested and you can “charm the pants off.”
Someone who is generous to a fault would give you the shirt off his back. Gamble and you risk losing your shirt. Demonstrate your impatience and you may be asked to keep your shirt on.
Do you know of someone who is a likely winner? He may be described as a shoe-in. If the tables turn on him, he will find the shoe is on the other foot. If an outcome is unsure, he may be waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Well, if you are critical of my findings and then slip up and use such idioms in your conversation, I may demand that you eat your hat! How’s that for a dressing down?