Answers to Quora Questions by Yair Davidiy (22 January 2018, 6 Shevet, 5778)
Before Hasidism, how did Jews dress that made them distinguishable from others? Many non-Hasidic Jews don't make their religion apparent by the way they dress.
The tone of the question as well as the other answers already given imply that before the Hasidim the Jews did not have a distinctive dress of their own.Â
Â The question was,Â
"Before Hasidism, how did Jews dress that made them distinguishable from others? Many non-Hasidic Jews don't make their religion apparent by the way they dress."
Â There are sources that say otherwise.
Â There is a Midrash (Shir ha-Shirim Rabah 4;24) dating from the early Middle Ages or much earlier that says the Hebrews were redeemed from Egypt by virtue of the fact that they did not change their name, nor their language, they did not spread potentially harmful gossip ("lashon hara") about each other, and they were not promiscuous.Â
Â Other sources of this Midrash have a version saying they did not change their dress. Some of the sources with this version are quite early and there are several of them. This would indicate that the Jews had their own distinctive dress from an early time and that they were proud of it and that they attributed a religious value to it.
Note:Â The point we are trying to make does not concern the historical reliability of the Midrash regarding the time of Moses but RATHER about the time of the Midrash itself. The Midrash (even in its later versions) definitely preceded the time of the Hasidim by several centuries and it is ascribing a positive value to the Jews having their own distinctive dress!
For a Hebrew-language source with references, see:
Â Admittedly Jews in the past would not necessarily have looked like Hasidim BUT they may well have looked different and distinctive.
The picture below shows a Jew being stoned in England at Lent time (before Easter). The Jew is dressed similarly to those stoning him. Nevertheless he is obviously recognizable as being Jewish.