Can you judge someone by the clothing he or she wears? Even if you can, should you?

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    For the sake of clarity, judge is meant in the context of "assess" or "gauge", not in terms of the actions of a court of law (of any sort), no? – Ellie Kesselman Oct 10 '11 at 7:07
  • I don't think that Even if you can, should you? was answered... – Adam Mosheh Jun 28 '12 at 3:31

The problem is that the term "judge" is one open to different meanings and often has a negative connotation.

The truth is that you can certainly make inferences about people based on their choice of clothing. Some inferences are more accurate than others.

I saw a couple of gentlemen on Friday, at least one had tzitzis and at least one had a yarmlke (under a cap). It is a reasonable inference that these gentlemen were Jewish but they were both self professed non-Jews (Messianic though). The inference that they were Jewish would be technically incorrect but they clearly wore their clothing out of an affinity towards Jewish belief and practice (albeit incorrect in major aspects) so it is not totally without basis.

If you see someone dressed not in accordance with halachah, this speaks to their fidelity to those halachos (though we must be dan lkaf zchus when possible).

People present themselves how they want to be perceived, and if they don't care then that will typically be made apparent also. You can not always tell the authenticity of the presentation, but the fact that such is how they want people to perceive them in and of itself tells us certain things about them.


Of course you can.

If a man wears only white shirts and black pants, he is likely trying to fit into the 'yeshivish' crowd. If he is wearing a large knit kippah and a colored shirt (or even a non-button-down shirt), he is likely trying to fit a more modern type. Likewise, with women and their styles of dress.

To be honest, it is very easy to judge people based on their clothing. Most of the time, these judgments are accurate.

The real question, then, is whether you should be doing such judging.

  • that is exactly it. you cannot judge someone by how they dress. you don't know what is going on in their heart and mind. it could be that their dress keeps them wore or is comfortable or this is their last clothing. i personally don't wear a tie on shabbos not because, davka, i don't want to, its because it is hot in the shul and i don't like being choked while Davening! i don't think you can judge someone by their clothing! – my rebbi's talmid Apr 18 '10 at 4:06
  • Just by your very statement you've opened yourself up to judgment. You're not going to get heat stroke by wearing a tie around your neck. Obviously, you're the type that does not find wearing a tie on Shabbos to be all important. That's okay, I am also part of that group, as are many chassidim. The bottom line is that if by mincha today, you were the only one not wearing a tie, you were self-excluding yourself from your shul's 'type.' Similarly, if everyone else was wearing a hat but you weren't because you were "hot," you are leaving yourself open to more judgment. – Tzvi Apr 18 '10 at 4:14
  • You should Know that in The Sefer Alinu Lishabach it says that someone asked the Chazan Ish about the tie on Shabbos and he said if it is uncomfortable then there is no need to wear one it is even in the English translation version when I find the Page I will quote it. – SimchasTorah Apr 18 '10 at 4:22
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    Just a disclaimer I a am Anti Tie. – SimchasTorah Apr 18 '10 at 4:23
  • @SimchasTorah why would anyone have Hava Amina that MUST wear a tie? – Hacham Gabriel Feb 15 '13 at 17:40

There is no straight answer to this question, but usually the way a person dresses as the people or group he identifies with so usually you can.

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