Dressing as an Orthodox Jew
29 SEP 2017
The clothing customs for Orthodox Jews relate to ideas of modesty and humility; they also can mark someone as belonging to an Orthodox community. Although the term Orthodox is applied to traditionalist Jews, there are many different groups who vary in the strictness of their adherence to traditional Jewish law, falling roughly into broad categories of 'Modern' and 'Ultra' Orthodox. One notable Ultra-Orthodox movement is the Hasidim, which originated in the 18th century and has maintained its clothing practices from this time.
For Orthodox Jewish women, the emphasis is on modesty so they tend to avoid high heels and bright and tight-fitting clothes. While there is no universal rule governing all Orthodox communities, women often wear skirts longer than knee-length and blouses with high necks and sleeves that fall below the elbow. Many women also wear socks or stockings as well. Married women usually cover their hair with a scarf, hat or wig.
The dress code for men is less concerned with modesty and more with the humility and respect. Hasidim tend to wear white shirts with black pants and long black jackets. There are various styles of hats depending on the community, but the Hasidim commonly wear a tall fur-lined hat, known as the shtreimel. Men also wear their hair very short apart from long, curly locks at the sides of the head according to Kabbalistic teachings.
The Jewish skullcap has become a generally accepted tradition among Orthodox Jews, even though it is not listed in the Torah as an obligation. The custom is derived from the Talmud, which is the oral component of Jewish law, where it is stated that the head should be covered to show respect for God above. The cap, called the yarmulke or kippah, is worn by boys from a young age and most Orthodox men cover their head at all times. The different types of yarmulke can signify what sect a Jew belongs to – modern Orthodox Jews tend to wear knitted caps whereas Ultra-Orthodox Jews often wear velvet ones.
The tallit, or Jewish prayer shawl worn in the temple or synagogue for Saturday services and holidays, is made of wool and has four corners, each with eight fringes, or tzitzit, corresponding to guidelines in the Torah. Often the tallit has black stripes on it according to an old custom, but some Jews use other colors or all-white prayer shawls. Depending on the community, this shawl can be worn from the time of the bar mitzvah or else after a man marries. There are two types: the tallit gadol, or big tallit, draped over the shoulders during prayer or at the synagogue, and the tallit katan, or small tallit, worn under the shirt.
Orthodox Jewish boys often adopt the skullcap and prayer shawl from an early age but this depends on the individual community: for some it may be as early as age 3, whereas in others it is not until the bar mitzvah or even marriage. Girls dress in modest clothing -- long skirts, blouses and the like, copying their mothers, but girls are not required to cover their heads until they are married.