Ultra-Orthodox Men Ditch All-Black Attire as Fashion Trumps Tradition

Style-Conscious Chabad Youth Edge Away From Dress Code

Break With Tradition: Yosel Tiefenbrun, an ordained Chabad rabbi, has a fashion sense that is a bit un-Orthodox.
jta
Break With Tradition: Yosel Tiefenbrun, an ordained Chabad rabbi, has a fashion sense that is a bit un-Orthodox.

By JTA

Published May 16, 2013.
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Yosel Tiefenbrun looked in the mirror and he liked what he saw.

The 23-year-old Chabad rabbi and apprentice at Maurice Sedwell, a bespoke tailor’s shop on London’s Savile Row, was wearing a vintage double-breasted jacket with gold buttons, tasseled Barker shoes, a claret bow tie and matching handmade hat and square handkerchief. Then he ran out the door to attend the “Oscars of tailoring” — the Golden Shears Award ceremony honoring the best in British fashion.

Several of his colleagues were in the running for a prize. They came back empty, but Tiefenbrun did not. Nick Carvell, the online fashion editor at British GQ, snapped his picture and posted it the following day on the magazine’s website, naming Tiefenbrun “best in show.” Within days, the photograph of the hasidic rabbi and his natty attire was picked up by Jewish publications around the world.

“This is a very important message,” Tiefenbrun told JTA. “You can be a [religious] man and still be successful in whatever you do if you are constantly working on yourself and keeping your Jewish life alive.”

Hasidic Jews are well known for flouting the conventions of contemporary fashion, adhering to a strict dress code that originated in Eastern Europe and emphasizes modesty and piety. For men, the uniform mandates a black hat, coat and pants with a white shirt.

But in recent years, some haredi Orthodox women have sought to push the limits of tznius, or modesty, wearing more elaborate and, in some cases, slightly more revealing clothes. Now a group of young men affiliated with the Chabad hasidic movement are doing the same, in some cases breaking dramatically with their community’s sartorial codes.

Last year, Rabbi Dovi Scheiner and his wife, Esty, a Chabad couple who run the “boutique” SoHo Synagogue in Lower Manhattan, were named among the Big Apple’s 50 best dressers by Stylecaster, a fashion news website. The 36-year-old rabbi posed for the online outlet sitting on a velvet chair wearing a smart gray suit and laceless Converse sneakers.


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