I had a discussion with my shabbos host Saturday afternoon in which he expressed annoyance at receiving dirty looks while at nearby Sha’arei Tzedek for wearing a blue Oxford short-sleeve shirt and no tie. While it’s wrong to be critical rather than welcoming, I replied that for Sha’arei Tzedek, a recently remodeled shul with a beautiful interior, he should throw a jacket on if he wants to attend on shabbos. In our society, occasions that require formal dress have fallen almost completely by the wayside. They are often limited to job interviews and life-cycle events such as weddings and funerals. (Just six percent of men wear ties to work daily. Fascinating.) I appreciate the orthodox Jewish expectation to dress formally for the Sabbath. While I don’t expect all men to go full jacket-and-tie, as I do, I maintain that the Sabbath is not the occasion to bust out the business casual. Short-sleeve polo shirt? Stay home! At least reach deep in the closet for the rarely-used Oxford shirt (long sleeve, please), and add a tie. And ladies: all Hillarys aside, the pantsuit must go! Please wear a skirt. I’m not saying that for modesty reasons, although at an orthodox shul it’s expected. It just looks nicer and more formal, and it’s a step away from another day at the office. A pair of ladies’ slacks sends a message: I’m not trying that hard, and I don’t much care about how I look.
I posted a Chicago Tribune article a few ago about dressing for church. It’s worth re-reading. “G-d cares about what’s in our hearts, not how we dress,” says a woman in a workout suit. Yes, but….there are occasions for workout suits, and there are more formal occasions that require people to dress accordingly. Church and shul included.