The Amish community is widely recognized for its commitment to a simple and traditional way of life. One of the most visible expressions of this lifestyle is the plain clothing worn by the Amish. In a society where fashion trends constantly change and clothing has become a means of self-expression, the Amish opt for simple, solid-colored attire.
Why do they wear plain clothing? This is a question that the Amish are asked frequently.
nuCamp’s manufacturing facility is nestled in the heart of Ohio’s Amish Country, and many of our team members are part of the Amish community. nuCamp owners often express an interest in the Amish way of life. So much so that we add an Amish Talk to the schedule at uCamp, our annual teardrop trailer rally. Our team members are given topics to talk about, one of those being clothing.
“We speak with our tongues. But we also speak with our clothes,” said Reuben Shetler, a member of the Amish community and a former nuCamp team member. “Our clothes tell people who we are. They especially signify our culture, and sometimes our allegiance, our interests, and even our perspectives of ourselves.”
Amish men traditionally wear denim pants and a shirt with buttons down the front. Many, especially the elderly, wear suspenders. They do not wear any accessories aside from a hat perched upon their head. What type of hat they wear depends on the activity or event, Reuben said. A yellow straw hat is worn at home while laboring outside. When visiting people, the men will wear a black straw hat, and when attending church, they will wear a black wool hat.
Women wear long dresses and head coverings. When attending church, they wear a shawl and bonnet.
Many Amish people make their own clothing, especially pants and dresses. Mothers often pass the skill of sewing on to their daughters. Reuben described this as “a wonderful opportunity to pass our heritage on to the next generation.”
Throughout history, clothing has changed dramatically for the English. From the fur coats and bellbottom jeans of the 70s to the vibrant neon colors and denim of the 80s to today’s trends, fashion has changed, come back around, and then changed again. Meanwhile, the Amish have remained steadfast in their clothing choice, not following the fads of society.
“The Amish wear plain clothing to show they are separate from the world,” Reuben explained. “Plain clothing and modesty go hand-in-hand. The world puts much emphasis on beauty. It is considered important to have smooth skin, attractive features, and a perfect figure. But do those things really matter?”
“We believe character is more important than outward beauty,” he continued. “What’s important is what’s on the inside. True beauty is a caring heart. The only outward sign of beauty is available to us all—a friendly smile. That is what we should adorn ourselves with.”
A Symbol of Community
The uniformity of Amish clothing also promotes a sense of community and identity. When every individual within the community dresses similarly, it reinforces a shared purpose and a sense of belonging. It helps to foster a visual bond among the Amish and distinguish them from the outside world.
The plain dress serves as a symbol of their values and faith, reminding them of their separation from the world and the importance of their community. While it is a unique and unfamiliar way of dressing to some outsiders, the Amish see their plain clothing as a way of life that is meaningful, authentic, and spiritual.
“When we all dress plain and alike, there is no room for pride,” Reuben said. “Similar dress puts you all on the same level. My Grandpa used to say, ‘Neat and common. That is what we should strive to be.’”