Vivid Independence

I thought it was happening only in the United States. A clear though somewhat hidden expression of individuality, setting oneself apart ever so slightly from the crowd, while being a member of the group in both language and in strict dress code but at the same time having just the slightest hint of independence and irrepressibility. It seemed to have been an emerging though miniscule movement.

Really just the tiniest of hints – You could easily miss it and if you did catch it no one would be the wiser, until it started becoming a trend. At least that is how it seemed to have started. But a trend seems to have developed and it is a trend not just among young American yeshiva men. I have seen it among European and Israeli yeshiva men as well.

You, I am sure, know the standard presentation of this group – the black suit white shirt and if there is a tie it is generally of a muted color except on Shabbat and holidays when a bit more splash is acceptable, some red or perhaps a touch of maroon. This is the uniform the absolute dress code for acceptance as a member of the guild.

If you aspire for a place in the club you must do the black and white thing all the time and most of them do. But as in all aspects of human behavior certain sparks of creativity, separateness and individuality have a way of peeking through, after all, people must be able to express their uniqueness, they must be able to express themselves. As far as I can tell it started within the last year or so. It was not invented in this community but it has taken off like wildfire. And you have to look hard to catch a true glimpse of it. You can see the bursts of visual brightness coming from them that border on rebelliousness only when they are in motion perhaps that is what makes it more acceptable. Look down you cannot miss it.

Look at those colorful socks they are wearing! I am not talking about white or black or even brown or yellow. The socks are boldly and wildly iridescent.  The colors hark back to the ‘70’s or even the hippie styles prior. You can find them wearing socks with neon polka dots of green and red and purple on pink backgrounds – or stripes too, in all kinds of contrasting shades. I have even seen someone wearing two different socks. On the right foot was a striped red and green and bright brown sock while on the left foot was a sock of polka dots all with the same colors, which I guess means that they are a match.

I do not knock the expression of individuality. I actually welcome it. But what will happen when it becomes an issue in the Beit Midrash? How will it be handled by the Heads of the Yeshivas? Will the socks be banned? Perhaps if we are lucky and the colorful socks are banned we may actually see a trend back to light blue shirts again, just as in my days. Is that possible?

Not likely!

About the Author
Dr Michael Salamon ,a fellow of the American Psychological Association, is a 2018 APA Presidential Citation Awardee for his 'transformative work in raising awareness of the prevention and treatment of childhood sexual abuse". He is the founder and director of ADC Psychological Services in New York and the author of numerous articles, several psychological tests and books including "The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures" (Urim Publications) and "Every Pot Has a Cover" (University Press of America). His newest book is called "Abuse in the Jewish Community: Religious and Communal Factors that Undermine the Apprehension of Offenders and the Treatment of Victims."