This is a hard question to answer because while some aspects of Jewish life have a definite source (eg the rules from the Bible) thee is much that is due to tradition and a long evolutionary process, which is then further complicated by the fact that for the best part of 200O years (from the year 70 till today) Jews have been scattered across the world and therefore been subject to the influences of other countries and the different cultures and faiths in operation there. Thus the head-coverings worn by Jews in some Arab countries in the middle ages looked much more like turbans than those worn by Jews in Christian Europe. On top of this you have to add that even amongst Jews in one location today (eg England) there are different types of Jews (just as Christians are divided in Catholic and Baptist etc) and so traditions will differ depending on which grouping Jews in London or Manchester belong to. Some Jews, for instance, will only cover their heads when in prayer; others cover their heads at all times (either as a sign of Jewish identity, or because they feel they are constantly in the presence of God). Even those that do wear a permanent head-covering will have different types: some with a cloth head-covering, others wearing hats, and with great variations in style in both cases, reflecting a mixture of family tradition and modern fashions.

There is also a general rule – for men and women – that one should dress modestly and certainly not show bare skin (ultra-Orthodox women in particular will wear long skirts, and not go around sleeve-less or with low-cuts dresses). The tradition of men wearing black clothes is limited to a small circle of ultra-Orthodox Jews. It was originally done as a sign of modesty (ie not being flamboyant or showing off one’s wealth) but has now developed almost into the status of a group uniform.

As for hair: for most Jews there is no definite Jewish style and they wear their head as they feel it suits them; for a small group, however, usually designated ‘ultra-Orthodox’ there is a tradition to grow very long a strand of their side hair between the head and the ears. This is because a verse in the Bible bans cutting that part of the hair excessively short (Leviticus 19.27) – possibly because that was a pagan rite at the time – and so some Jews chose to grow a strand of their side hair very long to make it abundantly clear that they are observing that ban. For women, there is a tradition in some circles that once they are married, they should cover their hair as a sign of modesty. Here, too, traditions differ: with some women considering a hat sufficient, others wearing a scarf, and others cutting their hair and wearing a wig, so that their natural hair is not visible It should be noted that this is a minority custom, but it will be observed in areas where ultra-Orthodox Jews live.