I had this random thought today and im curious to hear what others think.
I was noticing today how children in the Torah observant communities dress like mini adults.
The boys sport little blue suits with white shirts and if they’re teenagers a black hat/fedora. They have black dress shoes and buzz cuts. They look like mini men.
The girls wear little pin striped suits, or long skirts and button down shirts.
They remind me of businessmen and career women, mini mommies and daddies, completely at ease in these nonflexible outfits. The girls wear their hair up and sit cross legged, the boys, mischievous as they are, sit properly and adult like when in the presence of grown-ups.
I just looked at them today and thought – these are not the kids im used to, these are mini adults – adults in training.
Now contrast that to what we are used to seeing out in the world. When was the last time you saw a little boy in a suit, or a girl wearing a dress? Boys wear jeans, ripped t-shirts, baggy, comfortable clothes and the girls wear funky little outfits, bright tshirts with their bellybuttons showing and denim mini skirts. Everything is stretchy, bright and fun.
Now my initial reaction was.. oh these poor little religious kids, cant they dress more casually, have a little fun, they’re just kids after all? But then it occurred to me. At what point does a child switch from “just a kid” to a responsible, mature adult, in terms of clothing and more importantly, in terms of mentality?
When you look out into the world, you realize, it’s not only the kids who are wearing stretchy, bright and fun clothes. More and more this has become the way adults dress too. Casual Friday at work, lycra gowns, baby T’s, platform shoes, mini, shiny, stretchy, comfy.. that’s the dress code today.. but not for kids alone, for adults as well.
So what’s wrong with adults also dressing comfortably? creatively? fun? I don’t know if anything is wrong with it but it makes me wonder where this tendency comes from? Is it from an unhealthy desire to remain child-like, from a selfish yearning for childish freedom?
It seems to me that in today’s society, the emphasis is on ‘fun’ and ‘easy’. Everyone wants to be happy, but happy is often associated with having fun and feeling good – and that shows in the clothing of our generation. In a society where it’s common to lie about one’s age, where botox is a lunchtime beauty procedure and where every effort is made to stay looking young, children are taught that adulthood and maturity is to be avoided at all costs. People are getting married later – if at all – and its not uncommon for women to start having children much later, balding men ride in their red convertibles, everyone’s teeth are capped, and not a grey hair can be seen. The message is – avoid getting old – at all costs! Maturity, wisdom and experience are not valued. Youth, entertainment and a carefree existence are this generation’s aspirations.
In the Torah world, the focus seems to be different. Children are in training for something much more serious. They will have to live a life focused on spiritual growth and community service and the training can’t start when they turn 18. It’s a process that needs to begin during childhood. Of course children are children, and have needs specific to childhood, but the focus is on training responsible adults.
I don’t know if this idea is a little far fetched, but today, as I sat in synagogue and watched this little girl in her pinstriped suit in contrast to the (not so young) woman in her lycra army print clothing (much more suitable for her grandaughter!) it occurred to me that there really was a difference in the way these two communities dress. Not a differnces based on the laws of modesty, but one based on perspectives, on life focus, on direction. It made me proud to be part of a community that sees so much potential in its children and dresses them in a way to inspire them to grow up unafraid of growing up.