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Harav Kook was basically a litai, and dressed like one and even had a shtreimel. Today his followers and talmidim from his yeshiva don't even use any kind of suit (long or short) or hat and even make a point dressing like this (with the typical kipa sruga).

In general the tsiburim dress like the rav they follow, so my question is why when and how this change happened.

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Maybe consider reformulating this question to something like: How do Jewish religious groups decide on a dress code? And, why do different groups follow different codes? And, why are there groups that seem to have no code at all? –  David Perlman May 17 '11 at 12:23
    
Please rephrase to exclude implied value judgements (e.g. "claim to be"), or we'll have to close this. –  Isaac Moses May 17 '11 at 12:30
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There is a picture of the current R"Y of Mercaz HaRav here:he.wikipedia.org/wikiיעקב_אלעזר_כהנא_שפירא and he seems to fit the description of 'classical attire' so I'm not entirely sure what the question is even based on, unless you mean the children. –  Curiouser May 17 '11 at 15:04
    
I mean the tsibur in general, apparently the rosh yeshiva is more careful with this, but not all rabanim are like this. –  Avraham May 17 '11 at 17:23
    
Fixing the link posted by @Curiouser: WP –  msh210 May 17 '11 at 18:17

3 Answers 3

Amongst the Religious-Zionist community, like perhaps all communitites, students generally follow the intellectual perspective of their Rav.

In my yeshiva, Yeshivat Har Etzion, Rav Lichtenstein (Rosh Yeshiva) wears a suit as do rabbanim who made aliya from America. Israeli rabbanim and students are more likely to wear coloured trousers/shirts and any type of shoes or sandals.

Although the actual dress varies, the thinking behind the choice is similar. Each individual wears what they feel to be respectable clothing, befitting a ben torah.

A difference between more Charedi communities and more "modern" ones is that Charedi communities receive specific guidance from their leaders on the minutae of everyday life (Daas Torah), ranging from dress code to permissable cellphone model (Badatz give hechsherim to phones) . In the Dati Leumi world people are expected to make their own informed decisions and not rely on the example of their leaders for minor decisions.

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The Kohain Godol dressed differently than the masses. You see amongst Chasidim often the Rebbe wears a different Bekeshe or Gartel than the masses. You see amongst the Litfeshe that often the Rosh haYeshiva wears a Frock or something different than the masses. And you see amongst the followers of HaRav Kook that they wear different clothing than HaRav Kook.

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In general the tsiburim dress like the rav they follow.

I think this premise of your question is mistaken. From what I've heard, dressing like the rav is a practice that the Chassidim introduced and that only spread to other groups relatively recently. In particular, the Lithuanian tradition, until at most a generation or so ago, included much less uniform dress.

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well, today the kipa sruga tsibur dresses pretty much in uniform, the talmidim and rabanim –  Avraham May 17 '11 at 17:07
    
@Avraham That's much more likely due to the natural forces of style than to minhag or explicit rav-emulation. –  Isaac Moses May 17 '11 at 17:12
    
so you mean the change happened because his talmidim decided to follow a style while other groups of Lithuanian emulated the hasidim? –  Avraham May 17 '11 at 17:26
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@Avraham Yes. Regarding timing, R' Rakeffet has spoken about how in his youth in 1940s US, the litvish yeshiva people were not dressing uniformly, so the widespread adoption of uniform dress was more recent than that. –  Isaac Moses May 17 '11 at 18:37
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I can back up @Isaac on this: I heard from my Rosh Yeshiva (R' A.C. Goldfein ZT"L) that in Telz, R' Elya Meir Bloch ZT"L used to wear a white hat, and his beard was a close-cropped goatee. The whole concept of a uniform dress code is completely non-Litvish. –  Shaul May 18 '11 at 8:12

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