Orthodox Jewish clothing

Posted by Yevgeni Kuritski on 3rd Jun 2014

Jewish clothing is rather different from the clothing that people of other religions or confessions wear normally. Given the emphasis laid by the faith on the soul rather than external looks, Orthodox Jewish clothing is dominated by modesty rather than striking appearances. There are differences on the clothing rules for men and women, being rather tight with regard to the latter.

Moreover, there are small but significant clothing differences as far as the Hasidic and Yeshivish traditional pieces of clothing are concerned.

The Yeshivish tend to wear rather modern clothing, quite resembling the European style. Men wear dark-colored pants, a short suit, a white shirt, and a hat. However, during the Sabbath and special holidays, it is very common among men to wear a tie.

Such bold clothing (meaning the short jacket) dates back to the 19th century, when Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish leader encouraged young men to wear more fashionable clothes. Such courage was noteworthy at the time, as ever since clothing became again more somber.

However, Yeshivish clothing differs from the weekday to Sabbath, when a more elegant suit and better hats are worn as a sign of appreciation and cherishing of the day’s significance.

Given that the general rule is to wear short jackets, longer suits are only to be worn by rabbis, heads of yeshivas and a small group of Yeshivish called the Chazon Ish.

With a few particularities, the Hasidim Jews wear similar clothing to the Yeshivish. However, the length of their suit is of three quarters of their body, and some, more conservative, prefer wearing a coat and a black robe which is called ”Halat”. Another piece of garment of the Hasidim is the Tzitzit worn on the shirt or under a vest. On Sabbath and holidays their regular coat is replaced with a shiny, silky garment called the ”Kaften” or the ”Bekitsche”.

As far as the pants are concerned, they differ from one sect to another. Even if in the past it was common to wear long pants, now some wear them shorter, bound at the knee, while others wear three-quarters-long pants. The latter case is a feature of the Gur Hasidim sect and often, the men belonging to it stuff their pants into a pair of socks.

Again, depending on the sect, the wearing of a belt called Gartel over the suit varies. The majority of the Hasidim wear it only when praying, the Gur Hasidim wear it while studying as well, while others, such as the Beltz and the Skver Hasidim wear it on an everyday basis. The type of hat varies also, depending on the sect - a traditional Jewish hat is tall having bits of fur sewn on it. On Sabbath and holidays, the hat is replaced with a ”Shtreimel” or ”Spodik”, the first being a cap made out of fox fur tails, while the second is made of synthetic fur.

Orthodox Jewish women tend to wear plain-colored clothing, not tight-fitted to the body curves, taking care to have their elbows covered by sleeves and knees covered by longer skirts. If the skirt is not ankle –long, it is common for women to cover their legs using socks or stockings. In addition to this, married Orthodox Jewish women usually wear something to cover their hair, as a sign of their new status.

Depending on the community, men might also be discouraged from showing too much skin and thus be prevented from wearing shorts.