I just saw a movie about a Hasidic family and was quite taken with the style of dress.
Streimel, special topcoat, kittel, stockings (they were Bobovers*), women’s dress governed by principles of modesty, all served to create a complete sense of who they were, expressed by their distinct manner of dress. One wonders if clothes make the man or if the man makes the clothes. Phillip Roth asked this question in his short story “Eli the Fanatic.” As Eli dons the religious garb of the man he planned to push from the community, the clothing begins the transformation of Eli into the very orthodoxy the modern community is rebelling against.
I think we liberal Jews need uniforms too. Not that we do not have them. We dress in the uniform of the greater society in which we live. We have suits and ties, lab coats, cocktail gowns, jeans and t-shirts, flip-flops, side-ways baseball caps and the like. And we adopt the actions of those conventions we wear. So what if we wore things that reflected other aspirations? What would happen if we surrounded ourselves in uniforms that proclaimed we belonged to tzedakah, grace, compassion and good deeds? Our more observant brothers and sisters wear tzitzit to remind them of the mitzvoth and sheitels for tzniut (modesty). What happens when we start dressing a bit more Jewish? What might it look like and how might we change?
*The Bobovers are a Hasidic sect originating in Bobowa, Poland