Why do all religious people dress like they’re in mourning? Why should they all dress in black?
And the answer is black is not a sign of mourning. Black is a sign of nobility. They dress like an important person. Don’t you know many senators wear black Homburg hats? They used to anyhow; senators used to wear black Homburg hats. It was a sign of importance.
And so when Jews wear a black hat, it’s a sign that they’re mamleches kohanim. It’s a nation of important, dignified people. And this dignified clothing reminds them that their behavior should be dignified.
Now it doesn’t mean if you wear a white straw hat, that you’re permitted to be undignified; nevertheless when people choose dignity in their garments it has a very big effect, an unfailing effect on their character.
Here is a tough Puerto Rican bum and he is admitted to the police force because now they lowered all the requirements. You don’t have to be six foot anymore; you can be a runt. You don’t have to pass the police academy test, he failed all the tests but there’s affirmative action and he’s a policeman now. So he puts on a uniform. And now he stands on the street and he’s determined to enforce the law. And as he’s twirling his baton, his club, he’s looking for trouble-makers. The truth is some of these are better law enforcers than the white fellows.
Now, what makes the change? The uniform! Clothes make the man. Sartor Resartus. There’s a book on that subject. The clothes make the man!
And so when you dress in a dignified way, you become dignified. And that’s why it’s always important for men and women to remember dignity in clothing.
I was walking on Kings highway and from a distance I saw a woman approaching. Now everybody on King’s highway is naked; it’s a naked street. But here I thought it was a rebbetzin coming because I saw she was wearing a sheitel, a well styled sheitel, and a nice long dress, and nice sleeves. But as she came close everything was alright except one thing – she was black. I was thinking this black woman is mechayav all the Jewish women because now Hakadosh Baruch Hu says, “If she dresses decently, then you, the children of the chosen people, what’s going to happen to you?” She’s mechayav them.
We have to learn how important it is to be dignified in dress. That’s what Hakadosh Baruch Hu wants at all times and that’s going to change a man’s inner behavior; his mind is attuned to his externality.
TAPE # 519 (September 1984)