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Clothes, from "Play with Fire," a song by The Rolling Stones

Subthemes: Attractiveness, Sex Appeal, Nakedness, Charity, Hand-me-down

The Rolling Stones start their tough-guy song, Play with Fire, by highlighting a woman’s expensive jewelry and pretty clothes, or more precisely the stylish and expensive outfits of an heiress who is attracted to the singer’s machismo. What she wears marks her as wealthy, educated, and upper class, but immaterial if she flirts with the aggressive tough. What she wears conveys other subthemes about Clothes.

Here are the official video and the lyrics.

Well, you’ve got your diamonds and you’ve got your pretty clothes
And the chauffeur drives your car
You let everybody know
But don’t play with me, ‘cause you’re playing with fire

Your mother she’s an heiress, owns a block in Saint John’s Wood
And your father’d be there with her
If he only could
But don’t play with me, ‘cause you’re playing with fire

Your old man took her diamonds and tiaras by the score
Now she gets her kicks in Stepney
Not in Knightsbridge anymore
So don’t play with me, ‘cause you’re playing with fire

Now you’ve got some diamonds and you will have some others
But you’d better watch your step, girl
Or start living with your mother
So don’t play with me, ‘cause you’re playing with fire
So don’t play with me, ‘cause you’re playing with fire

Attractiveness, Sex Appeal: The song starts with admiration for a woman’s pretty clothes. We all want to look our best, and our clothing, if clean, chosen well and worn to complement our physical features, goes a long way. Maybe it’s a white suit of Cybill Shepherd or posh spectators at horse races. Whatever Warren Beaty as Clyde Barrow wore, the ladies liked it. Knowing your outfit looks good to the people you care about gives you confidence; you too can demurely float down a staircase in movie-star looks(https://themesfromart.com/post/2021-08-30-clothes-from-my-fair-lady-a-movie-starring-audrey-hepburn/clothesfair/). Marketing campaigns, magazines by the shelf-full, bloggers and other influencers devote themselves to maximizing the appeal of clothes and those who wear them.

Promoting varying degrees of sexual attractiveness guides a part of choosing from our closet and drawers. Skinny jeans, bicep-bulged sleeves, spandex underwear, push-up bras, shoe lifts, shoulder pads, cinched belts, un-buttoned blouses, low-riders, and high heels are a few of the myriad choices people weight to help their clothes boost their erotic pull. Of course, it’s not only the clothes but also their color, fabric, and design that contribute to that appeal. Our country is in the midst of sorting out how you can look attractive but not deal with #metoo misbehavior, how to make the most of your physical assets yet not be harassed, how to attract without attack.

Nakedness: We can contrast being clothed with its absence, being naked. Putting on clothing ends nakedness. Several religions prohibit women believers from showing their bodies, such as Muslims who wear burkas that cover nearly the entire body. Orthodox Jewish women and Amish women also wear faithfully modest clothes; they believe that halter tops, short shorts or almost anything worn at a posh Miami swimming pool (thongs, speedos, high-cut bikinis, and other tiny swimsuits) lead to evil. For many Western men and women, however, almost everything can be revealed, accentuated, or hinted at by sheer fabric, high heels, butt cracks, midriff gaps, short-shorts, clingy material, plunging cleavage, or other sexually provocative choices. The outfits of Super Bowl performers at half-time outdo suggestiveness.

Charity, Hand-me-down: As for the song’s rich mother shafted by her husband, unable to afford silk,

Now she gets her kicks in Stepney
Not in Knightsbridge anymore

as she has to resort to the humble shops in the poor neighborhood of Stepney rather than the glitzy emporia of Knightsbridge. If you are poor, you get by on old clothes, gifts, worn outfits, schmatta, Good Will, Salvation Army and its piles of rejected garments, whatever you can manage of tatters that can be foraged. Consignment shops handle higher-end outfits, but people without money sew repairs, put on patches, and make do with worn-out clothes. Poverty wears rags.


The gritty song by the Rolling Stones features the contempt of a working-class lad for the high-falutin woman who finds him attractive. Her pretty clothes sums up the social class, economic, and educational gap between them. The kind of clothes she wears symbolizes to him why he holds her in contempt and feels entitled to misuse her if she pursues. She may have sex in mind but he warns her.

If you are interested in further thoughts on the concept “Clothes,” consider other subthemes that don’t fit as directly to the poem, painting, rock song, and movie written about in this series. For an overview, this article explains Themes from Art or click on the navigation bar, “About.”

We invite you to read about other songs discussed on this blog, and their themes. Here they are:

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