A recent article in the YU Beacon about males wearing jeans caught my interest. The article interviews guys in Yeshiva College, some of whom wear jeans, some of whom do not, and asks each the reasoning behind their choice. It continues to interview Stern College students who for the most part express the fact that they would not date a guy who wears jeans. I found the article insightful and well-written, and underlying the article is the following question:
On the one hand, it is not the external clothes that a person wears that matters (as long as the person is Tznius and keeping Halacha), it is the internal, who a person is, that really matters. Yet, on the other hand, clothes clearly do signify some level of religious observance, as is clear by the fact that a Chassidish men and women do not dress the same as a non-Jewish men and women. Then there is all the nuance of dress in between, not just for women, but for men as well. A while ago I wrote about Kippot. Perhaps it shouldn’t matter what type of Kippah a guy wears, but the bottom line, as sad as it is, is that the social norms within Orthodox Judaism are that those who hold certain beliefs wear a certain type of Kippah, while those who hold other beliefs wear a different type. So if someone were to say, “I don’t want to date a guy who wears that type of yarmulke,” that person would really be saying that they don’t agree with the beliefs of a person who generally wears that Kippah.
The problem is when we start confusing clothing for beliefs. Because as much as we assume that the guy who isn’t wear a Kippah is not religious, the bottom line is that we don’t know if he keeps shabbos or kashrut or any other mitzvah simply based on appearance. Unfortunately, I, too, fall into this trap. If everything else sounded like the match was on target, I would not decline to date a guy simply because of the way he was dressed (either because he dressed in a way that signified he was less religious or in a way that signified that he is more religious than I am), but I admit that certain modes of dress would make me cautious. I would not date guys who dress in a certain way not based on the way of dress, but based on conflicting religious or other beliefs.
One thing that surprised me is that the article in the YU Beacon did not mention women wearing denim/jean skirts, as that is something I encountered personally. I wear denim skirts (*oh no! I might never find a shidduch!*) and one summer in college I was on a learning summer program which had had a program for high school girls as well. In terms of my religious observance, I was to the left of everyone in my program, (which I enjoyed since I had been in environments where I was the most religiously observant and it was nice to be on the other end of things!) but I was even more to the left of the high school program. While the college-age program had no dress code, the program for high schoolers had a specific dress code, one which forbade denim skirts.
One day I happened to be waiting in the hallway with two of the high schoolers and their madricha, who was around my age. One of the high schoolers looked me over and goes, "You're allowed to wear denim skirts??" I self-consciously replied that we could wear what we wanted. She then turned to the madricha and asked, “Why can she wear jean skirts?” to which the madricha said something like, "Well, (pause) she's not in high school." Her reply and the way and tone in which she said it bothered me, for two reasons. Firstly because her words were said as though it's only wrong for high schoolers to wear denim and when you grow up it's fine to wear anything, but also because she was implying that wearing denim is never OK, and she couldn't think of a reason that I was allowed to wear them.
Out of curiosity:
Do you wear jeans/jean skirts? If you do not, would you date someone who does? If you do, would you date someone who does not? Are there other types of clothing that would fall under the category of “I would not date someone if they wore that”? Do you think clothing is a valid reason to say no to a shidduch?