Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Another Reason Why Black Doesn't "Suit" Us

Let's get some historical facts straight. Our ancestors of many centuries ago were not dressed in black robes in the desert. First, the natural fibers available to our ancestors were all light in their natural color. To have made them black would have required an extensive/expensive process of dyeing the fabric made, always assuming there was access to the dyes needed. There was also this: our ancestors discovered early on a "scientific" fact about colors and desert living. Dark colors absorb heat; light colors reflect heat. When you live in an area that has tons of sunshine, the last thing you want to do is to bake yourself to a crisp by wearing dark colors out in the sun. It is not by accident that the best selling car colors today in hot weather areas are all light in hue.

A pox on Beau Brummel for deciding that black was the most elegant of colors to wear for men in England, particularly for evening wear. At least those Polish noblemen so many members of Klal still insist on emulating in their love of black were from a country that is not reknowned for its hot climate. Wearing black in the winter in cold weather areas made sense--the fabric color absorbed whatever heat was available from the sun and added a bit to the comfort of those exposed to the bitter winter weather. Of course, if the weather turned hot they broiled like burgers on a grill.

Now fast forward to the year 2010. Find yourself a seat on Avenue J in Brooklyn--or any of the other avenues in the Williamsburg/Boro Park/Midwood area--and do some people watching. Watch all the women walk by and be able to tell immediately, even if you can only see these women from the waist down, who the frummies are. The lst two weeks we've had some bitter hot and humid weather. What were these women (and I include females of all ages under this title) wearing? Black ballerina flats, about 3/4 of them in black tights, black skirts and basically black tops, with perhaps a touch of grey or ivory here and there. I guess the frum Jews in these areas must be physical anomalies in that their normal body temperatures must be super low and they require heat absorbant clothing to help maintain minimum body temperature.

A local group that organizes hikes in various areas here in the Northeast portion of the States has a section in one of its pamphlets that talks about proper hiking clothing. In addition to describing the type of clothing and shoes that should be worn for absolute comfort and safety they also mention that during hot periods hikers should wear light colored clothing and during cold periods hikers should wear dark clothing.

Yes, sometimes clothing is about what is in style. Yes, sometimes clothing is also about what meets our standards of modesty. But what should also be included is that clothing is an adjunct to our natural heating/air conditioning systems. If you're going to be wearing long sleeves and high necks and long skirts and stockings keep away from the dark colors! You're a walking/talking sweat bath if you don't. And no, enclosed summer gatherings that are a welter of black don't please the nose. [And please, if you've bought into the hype that Madison Avenue is pushing about deodorants protecting you all day, just keep in mind that they aren't visualizing frummie clothing styles worn in 90 degree weather with high humidity and dancing up a storm at a simcha or two.]

You truly want to emulate our avos and imahos--get off the black bandwagon.


Lion of Zion said...

so booooring.
(i mean the black clothing, not the post)

are the girls actually taught/instructed in school to dress this way? does this come from the tznius books? or is this just something people adopted on their own? just curious.

Anonymous said...

Stockings, socks and other forms of hosiery were also not part of the original uniform and make no sense in the heat. Sandals with bare feet undoubtedly were worn under those light colored garments.

Malky said...

School uniforms are all in the dark colors today Lion, including lots of black. When my mom was in school most of the schools didn't have uniforms at all. Then the girls yeshivas started copying the catholic schools and even buying the uniforms from the same places. The colors weren't all black like they are today. My mom went to one of the frummer girls schools and her uniform was burgundy and grey with a white blouse, not black anything. So yes you can blame the schools for putting the girls into the black and insisting that they dress outside of school in the same way.

Mark said...

ProfK - physical anomalies

Nope, it's a mental anomaly.


Anonymous said...

OOT here so I don't really know but do the parents in NY also send their girls to camp with all this black clothing?

Anonymous said...

I like black because it makes me look slimmer (I'm entitled to my delusions..) but even when I wear black, it needs a touch of color (at the neck, or whatever). These young girls in monochromatic black look like they're going to a funeral.

JS said...

Just looking at these poor women in these outfits makes me sweat. You forgot to add in the sheitel. If I were a woman and had to dress tzniusdik on a hot day, it would be a long flowy skirt, a loose top, and one of those Israeli tichels.

As for stockings, they're a 20th century invention. Their invention and marketing push was tied to the new idea that a woman who wants to look attractive should shave her legs. Maybe hard to believe, but the entire concept of shaved legs and stockings is less than 100 years old. Another fun fact is that the original stockings had a seam on them as there was no other way to manufacture them at the time. When the new methods were invented that eliminated the need for the seam, the manufacturers actually added in a dark line to look like a seam as the public, at the time, associated seamed stockings with higher quality.

Libby said...

It's not just the women with the black problem. Think about all those men and boys walking around in black felt hats with the sun beating down on their heads. Temperature under those hats must be unbelievably hot. Hot enough to fry their brains, which could account for some of the strange chumras those black hatters come up with.

Ari said...

Great post.

Anonymous said...

reminds me of all those italian and greek widows who wore black from the minutes their husbands died and never put on any color so they could show they were perpetually in mourning.