The New York Times reports: When the mercury passes 90, most New Yorkers start to wilt. Many resort to shorts and tank tops, even in the office. More than a few bankers and lawyers reach for their seersuckers.
Yet amid all the casual summer wear, in some neighborhoods more than others, Hasidic men wear dark three-piece suits crowned by black hats made of rabbit fur, and Hasidic women outfit themselves in long-sleeved blouses and nearly ankle-length skirts. To visibly cooler New Yorkers, they can look painfully overdressed.
Some New Yorkers who are not Hasidic surely ask themselves: How on earth do they stay cool?
The answer is a mix of the spiritual and, yes, the creatively physical. The Hasidim will tell you they have learned to live comfortably in all seasons with their daily attire.
“I think I’m not as hot as other people because the sun is not on me,” said Chany Friedman, who was shopping recently in Borough Park, Brooklyn, with two of her five children in tow, wearing a sweater and dense stockings in addition to other concealing clothing. “If I’m covered, the sun is not on me. I’m happy that I’m not exposed to the world.”
Using a Hebrew name for God, she added, “That’s what Ha-Shem wants from us.”
In the Hasidic world, the traditional fashion code and interpretations of ancient Jewish law dictate modesty for a woman – a concept known as tzniut – so even on sizzling days women conceal their necks, arms and legs, and married women don wigs, head scarves or turbans to hide their real hair. While Hasidic men do not feel the modesty obligation to the same degree, they believe that it is a mark of humility and respect for others to dress formally when encountering the world.
They also found some humor in the question about the Hasidic wardrobe.
“Does anybody ask a congressman why he walks into Congress with a suit or a Wall Street executive why he goes to work in a suit?” asked Isaac Abraham, a leader in the Satmar Hasidic community.
Hot and cold is all in the mind anyway, argued Shea Hecht, a Lubavitch Hasid who heads the movement’s educational outreach arm. In his dark suit and gray fedora – Lubavitch garb differs from that of other Hasidim, though it is still conservative – he sometimes chuckles at people in Bermuda shorts.
“Why are they spending so much money on only a half a pair of pants?” he said.
READ MORE: NY TIMES