Religion & Fashion

Found this great article published back in 2007.

So much emphasis is placed on what faith groups can‘t wear that it‘s easy to lose sight of what they can – and do. Time Out meet the young Londoners making religion hip

The Arty Jew
Joel Stanley
28, MA student in applied drama, community worker and founder of Jewish theatre company Merkavah

‘I’m wearing a pair of black trousers from Jupiter, a stall which used to be on Camden Market; a white shirt bought in Israel; a jacket with distressed hem, bought for £3 from a secondhand shop in Notting Hill; a corduroy trilby by an Israeli designer and bought at Buddhafield Festival; Adidas Galaxy trainers; you can see my tzitzit [tassles tied to the corners of a tallis (prayer shawl) worn by religious Jews] peeking from under my jacket. I bought the tallis in Israel when I was studying at yeshiva (religious school) there. The whole outfit is playing with Jewish religious codes and finding what’s right for me. If you go to an orthodox synagogue for example, you will see men wearing black and white, or wearing hats. I want to recognise that code but don’t want to confine myself to a particular religious group. I wear the outfit mainly for Shabbat [Friday night and Saturday]. I like to feel different on Shabbat than during the rest of the week. It makes the day feel more special if I dress up. Otherwise, I often wear a kippah if I go out, although I also go bareheaded.’

The Christian Rockabilly
Lizzy B Houston
28, hair stylist and make-up artist

‘I’m wearing an anchor necklace from a tattoo convention in London last year. Anchors are a bit of a rockabilly thing, taken from the influence of 1940s sailors. The dress is Betsey Johnson, who is very 1950s-inspired; the shoes are from London store Sniff and the stockings from a shop in Camden. I’ve got “Grace” and “Faith” tattooed on each arm. I had it done about six years ago to show that I have faith but I’ve been saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. They are both amazing words. Grace is a religious word but it’s also about the way you carry yourself and dress; although most people would describe me as feisty. I’m a rockabilly and into everything from the whole 1940s Rosie the Riveter [US wartime working-woman propaganda icon] look, up to the glamorous looks of the 1950s. I am religious but the word really irks me. It’s about so much more than going to church. It’s a mentality and lifestyle. I have conversations with Jesus throughout the day. However, I do go to church on Sundays. I like the Glorious Undead Church in O’Reilly’s pub, Kentish Town, where kids who don’t like the Anglican style go in their punk, goth or metal gear.’

The urban Sikhs
Kulveer Singh and Nivraj Singh Bhander

Kulveer (left), 20, medicinal chemistry student, and Nivraj, 23, medical student
Kulveer ‘I’m wearing a pair of Nike trainers, baggy jeans, an American-style urban T-shirt from Lot 29 and a reversible hoodie. I’m also wearing a traditional Sikh turban and beard. I adhere to the Sikh ‘Five Ks’, which are religious symbols we wear which have spiritual significance. They are: kesh (uncut hair) because hair is a symbol of faith – mine’s about mid-length; kara, which is a steel bracelet worn on the right hand to reflect the bonds between Sikhs; kirpan, a tiny decorated dagger, representing honour. I wear mine inside my T-shirt; keshera are the boxer-style shorts we wear under our clothes, symbolic of moral character; and kanga is a small wooden comb we use to brush our hair, which is slotted in the hair under our turban. I tie my turban every day in front of the mirror. Every turban is unique because each person ties it a different way.
Nivraj ‘I’m wearing Evisu trainers; Ed Hardy embroidered jeans; T-shirt from LA designer Christian Audigier, Ed Hardy hoodie; a turban. I wear most of the Five Ks except the dagger, which can be a bit difficult to wear in hospital. My look is loud and grabs attention and it also makes people think: Wow, a guy in a turban can look cool.’

The casual rasta
Jahmel Ellison
Jahmel (second from left), 25, songwriter-guitarist in the Rasites, a Rastafarian band

‘Today the band’s looking quite casual. The whole vibe of Rastafarianism is that it embraces life without dictating too much what you should do or wear. I’m wearing a Lion of Judah badge [the motif featured on the old Ethiopian flag; for Rastafarians it represents their leader, Haile Selassie]. For gigs, we’ll often wear something red, gold or green [the Rastafarian colours], or Ethiopian white shirts. There are lots of tailors in West Green, Tottenham, where we live, that specialise in African garments. As a Rasta, I’ve grown my hair in keeping with the the Biblical Nazarene vow, which prohibits us cutting it. It’s to keep you closer to God by retaining yourself as God made you. All our parents brought us up with the religion. So we went to Nyabinghi [the strictest branch, or Mansion, of the movement] gatherings every Sunday. These days, you see Rastas working in banks and in all walks of life. Lots of people have adopted the look as a fashion but I can tell if someone’s a real Rastafarian by their manner and attitude to life.’

The Muslim tomboy
Shamima Debar
23, researcher, Muslim CafeTV website

‘I’m wearing Diesel jeans, a T-shirt with Greetings from the Ghetto (from, grey H&M sweatshirt, a silver Aldo headband to match my trainers and my hijab, which is a scarf I bought in H&M. I’m quite a tomboy, but with a girlie twist. It’s important for me to reflect my Muslim faith in what I wear, so you’ll never see me with my hair uncovered and I don’t wear figure-hugging clothes. My religion comes first in how I dress but I give it a twist. For example, I’ll buy a sleeveless top but wear it with something under it. The whole layering thing that is fashionable now is something Muslims have been doing for a long time. I am a practising Muslim but have made a personal choice not to cover up further. Modesty is about the way you act, not just about what clothes you wear.’

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