The song Amish Paradise by Weird Al is one of his best-known songs in his entire discography.
Why Do the Amish Dress That Way? (Answered by Someone with Amish Family)
Despite how well-known they are, the Amish are one of the most enigmatic American subcultures in the country.
They're known for their refusal of everything form modern conveniences to anything that could induce nearly any level of pride.
In fact, modesty -- in addition to family, faith, and work -- is one of their primary values.
But with all of that in mind, why do the Amish dress that way?
Why do they wear such simple colors? Why do the men always seem to have long sleeves? Why can women wear more than just black and white?
We'll answer all of those questions in this blog.
To best answer them, we'll split up the answer between the attire worn by Amish men and Amish women.
1. Why Do Amish Men Dress That Way?
Amish men are recognizable for their notoriously plain dress code.
In essence, Amish men wear a "uniform" of sorts that consists of:
- A hat (optional)
- A white, long-sleeve button-down shirt
- A vest (for formal occasions)
- Black slacks
- Black shoes (sometimes boots, when working)
This attire is so universal because of its simplicity, modesty, and tradition.
The simplicity aspect is important because it allows an Amish man to go about his life without concern for what he'll wear on any certain day.
Even despite record-setting heat in Lancaster County, Amish men are still walking and working in their above "uniform."
When you only have one outfit, choosing your clothes every day becomes much easier.
As we mentioned above, modesty is a key factor of the Amish way of life.
This extends to an enormous variety of principles, but in the context of clothing, it makes all Amish men look more-or-less the same.
This means there's no one person who may "look better" than another, and the men standing next to one another will have no basis for feeling competitive pride against another.
The Amish were founded in the mid-1600s. As a result, they have a shockingly deep and rich cultural history, even if much of it is only consumable through oral tradition or hearsay.
Regardless, the tradition of simple Amish dress harkens all the way back to the sect's founder, Jakob Ammann.
His emphasis on simplicity and modesty pushed his followers to extremes in terms of their dress, even by the standards of the 1600s.
Now, four centuries later, Amish men may as well dress that way because their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents (etc.) did.
2. Why Do Amish Women Dress That Way?
Similar to men, Amish women dress in a way that is intended to reflect modesty, simplicity, and tradition.
However, the emphasis on modesty is significantly more pronounced for women because of the Amish's innate sexism.
Even a few decades ago, this sexism may have been classified as "antiquated" or even acceptable in some circles.
But today, an Amish woman's expected subservience and limited access to influence in her community would more accurately be described as sexist.
Most of the time, you will find an Amish woman wearing:
- A covering (similar in appearance to a doily or bonnet)
- A solid-color dress
- Sneakers, tennis shoes, or black footwear
For women's dress, we'll explore it from the lens of modesty.
Amish women are instructed their whole lives to be concerned with family, faith, and service.
That service can be in creating families of their own, helping their parents, performing chores around the house, and more.
It may even be in the form of an occupation like selling produce to help supplement a family's income.
Even so, all of that work must be done in a way that reflects some degree of modesty more expected of women than men.
Dresses are long and flowing, and a head covering of some kind is worn at all time that serves no pragmatic purpose -- just to show humility before God.
But in contrast to men, Amish women are able to wear additional colors than the simple white and black.
In fact, it's not unusual to see Amish women dressed in blue, purple, or even pink -- colors that are far more eye-catching and perhaps even contrasting to the idea of modesty.
The truth is that this is true of some Amish in Lancaster, PA, but not necessarily all Amish women.
The more liberal denominations of Amish are more likely to permit variations in color. The thinking in this instance may range from the idea that solid colors are more important in clothing than the actual color choice itself.
Younger women on rumspringa may also make the effort to break the mold of their attire in an attempt to experience a part of life outside of the Amish faith.
However, the more conservative denominations are more likely to prohibit it.
The thinking here is most likely to be a hardline adherence to the original vision of Jakob Ammann, exercising an extreme degree of simplicity and modesty.
It could also be viewed as a way to reduce the risk of pride, refusing to conform to the world at large, and much more.
Regardless, the dress code of a woman is more likely to vary than a man, and the reasons for that variation could themselves be varied as well.
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