Thursday, September 2, 2010

Who changed the uniform?

Grunting posted a video of Slichot in 770 in 1965.

I thought that the video was interesting because it is rare to see pictures (let alone footage) of the Rebbe that were taken before the 1980s. Almost all the pictures that we see plastered over everything were taken in the last few years of his life.

What struck me as interesting is that no one in the video is wearing the wide brim hatmobile that we associate with Chabad today. Today the Chabad dress code is extremely rigid, A Fedora with a very wide brim often worn with a long “frock coat" and of course an un-trimmed beard.

In contrast in the video Most people (including the Rebbe) are wearing hats with much smaller brims, a few are wearing homburgs, and many are clean shaven.

I know that when Chabad moved to America they replaced their Chassidic Shtreimel with a more modern American Fedora. But at some point since the 60s they decided to codify their uniform with a much more distinctive look (although not as destinctive as the elaborate dress code worn by other Chassidim)

At what point in the last 30 years did Chabad adopt the hats and jackets that we see today? Who made the decision?


Garnel Ironheart said...

What's more interesting is how Chabad engages in historical revisionism around these changes?
Mention that the Rebbe showed up in America wearing a straw hat and had to be told by the local elders that he had to switch to black and they'll deny it. Mention that Chabad wore shtreimls in Europe and they deny it, saying only the Rebbe of the time wore one.
Pictures like this are a real inconvenience.

Michael Sedley said...

Not to mention that after the Chupa the Rebbe changed into a modern brown suite at his own wedding.

There are also photos of him bareheaded at university in Paris

Garnel Ironheart said...

I hadn't heard about that last point but it doesn't sound shocking to me. Until a couple of decades ago it was standard for many folks to not wear kippot in public. They either wore hats or nothing but a kippah was seen as a bullseye target for trouble. The "constant kippah" and the idea that what kind you wear defines your entire Judaism is relatively new.

Michael Sedley said...

There is a photo from 1928 here (Berlin, not Paris) where the Rebbe seems to be bareheaded

Garnel Ironheart said...

Oh, oh, I have an answer to that one. My father's only picture of his family (the rest were lost in Auschwitz) is of his older brother and sister. Although they were frum, his brother is bareheaded and I asked him why. He says that in those days it was standard for people taking photographs to remove any hats from their head. Remember most folks wore hats except when davening in shul in the mornings because they wanted to put their tallitos over their heads. Therefore when the Rebbe shows up for this photo he was in all likelihood wearing a hat which, with the lighting technology of the day, would have interefered with the quality of the picture.
The photo at this link would be similar - the Rebbe probably took off his hat for the picture at the requst of the photographer, then put it back on after the picture was taken.