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Sunday, September 11, 2005


When someone moves to a new place there is an adjustment period during which he/she becomes acclimated to local customs and fashions. 

Our move to Israel has proved no exception to this rule.

Over the past two years I have embraced many of the local customs and um, fashion statements.

For example, I have become more flexible with footwear... being equally at home in my old choices (penny loafers by LL Bean or well-worn Topsiders by Sperry) or the more Israeli look (sandals by Teva).

However, having grown up in New England, I have been deeply indoctrinated in the 'preppy' school of dress and some of my old habits have proven harder to break.  For instance, the color palette of my slacks ranges anywhere from khaki to, well... um, khaki.

In addition, all but a handful of my shirts are button-down oxfords (most of which are light blue)... and all of these oxfords - without exception - have long sleeves. 

Herein lies the cultural problem. 

You see, Israeli men seem to overwhelmingly favor short-sleeve shirts. 

Another small issue is the collar buttons (I'm talking about the buttons that hold the collar points down, not the topmost button that closes the two sides of the collar together!).  I was raised to understand that the collar buttons are buttoned whether or not you are wearing a tie.  I mean, hellooo... they don't call it a 'button down collar' for nothing!  But good luck trying to explain that to a typical Israeli!

One Israeli friend of mine actually presented his rationale for wearing the collar buttons undone by saying, "What if I needed to put on a tie?  This way I can put it on quickly."  I asked him when he had last worn a tie and he admitted that it had been perhaps 15 years... but he wouldn't back away from his argument (that too seems to be very typically Israeli!)

Anyhooo... I'm really fine with an untucked shirt once in awhile... you know, like on Shabbat afternoon on a hot summer day.  And I can even ignore the Philistines who insist on walking around with their collars unbuttoned. 

But short sleeves???   All I can think of when I see these shirts is Detective Andy Sipowicz (of NYPD Blue fame). 

I've tried... I've really, really tried.  But every time I come close to buying a short-sleeved dress shirt, all I keep asking myself is, What Would Sipowicz Do*?


Maybe by next summer I'll be better acclimated.

Image is by Danny Feld/AP

* No connection whatsoever to the book by the same name.


Posted by David Bogner on September 11, 2005 | Permalink


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I'm a little confused.

What about this:


Is it somehow like a reverse "Green Eggs and Ham"? I would wear them in a cave

Posted by: Dave | Sep 11, 2005 3:40:12 PM

Dave... I was speaking primarily about dress (shabbat /work) attire. Truth be told, I have only a few short sleeve shirts among my casual attire.

Posted by: David | Sep 11, 2005 3:43:10 PM

Gosh doI understand you! I have been living in England 35 years, yet at the first sign of a sun ray (I should be so lucky) no mater if the temperatures are very law I walk in 'sandalim'. I struggle with 'minhag Anglia' regarding shool atire for women, the fashion parade every Shabbat makes me coil in a corner, and I am very self conscious when walking there with a hat fit for Royal Ascot. As it has been said many times before, YOU CAN TAKE THE GIRL OUT OF ISRAEL, BUT YOU CAN NOT TAKE ISRAEL FROM THE GIRL

Posted by: savta yaffa | Sep 11, 2005 6:03:58 PM

Step away David. Step away slowly. They are evil. The next step from short sleeved dress shirts is a pocket protector!

Now a nice camp shirt or bowling shirt is a different story. Maybe that's a good compromise position because all I can think of of are IRS auditors when I see men in short sleeve dress shirts.

Posted by: beth | Sep 11, 2005 9:06:13 PM

Savta Yaffa... I really don't stand on ceremony when it comes to fashion... it just sort of grows on you after a certain amount of time living among the natives. However, I agree with you that some things may never grow on me.

Beth... Camp Shirt: Check. Bowling Shirt: Check. A couple of Surfer shirts: Check, Check. I'm pretty sure that's where it ends. I'm glad you've got my back... It's a big, dangerous fashion world out there. :-)

Posted by: David | Sep 11, 2005 9:25:03 PM

I love short sleeve shirts, especially here in LA where it is not unusual to work in 80 degree plus weather.

Posted by: Jack | Sep 11, 2005 10:23:19 PM

Jumbo shrimp
Short-sleeve dress-shirt

I rest my case.

Posted by: Andy Levy-Stevenson | Sep 11, 2005 11:38:49 PM


With uber-chilled offices, long-sleeves make sense. But outdoors? In the Negev?! (And I can't quite wrap my head around wearing long-sleeved shirts while wearing sandals either. What's next? Socks?! ;) )

Posted by: jennifer | Sep 11, 2005 11:59:37 PM

Living on the east coast, I've been wearing sandals and open-toe shoes all summer, but soon it will be too cold! Enjoy the warmer weather you've got over there and embrace the culture!

Posted by: Essie | Sep 12, 2005 12:04:32 AM

After four years in Israel, I can't NOT wear sandalim and short sleeve shirts, even in NY...

Posted by: mcaryeh | Sep 12, 2005 12:31:57 AM

Short-sleeve dress shirts? Ah, the horror!

The solution - at least the one I employ: Polo shirts. Knit cotton pullover shirts with a collar, they're not just for golf or tennis anymore. Also, short-sleeve silk shirts in tropical prints. And don't forget your Panama hat. Then, all you have to do is call yourself "Elisson" and you're good to go.

Posted by: Elisson | Sep 12, 2005 5:56:45 AM

After thinking about it for a while, I realized that the image I was thinking about wasn't Sipowicz, but Michael Douglas in Falling Down:


On the other hand, Israel's different standards are well expressed in this old joke:

David Ben Gurion shows up for the state dinner in Jerusalem in typical Israeli fashion, with an unbuttoned collar and no tie or jacket. President Chaim Weizmann is shocked and goes over to Ben-Gurion to chastise him.
"David, how can you show up dressed like this at a state dinner. Think of all the foreign guests who are here."

Ben-Gurion replies, "But, Winston Churchill gave me his permission."

"What do you mean Winston Churchill gave you permission, he's not even here!" says Weizmann.

Ben-Gurion answers with a smile, "Well, when I last visited London, Churchill said to me, 'Mr. Prime Minister, in Israel you may dress that way, but not in London!'"

Posted by: Dave | Sep 12, 2005 7:42:05 AM

I think short sleeve shirts look silly with a tie. Without a tie they look fine.

Posted by: harry | Sep 12, 2005 11:19:18 AM

Jack... You mean Armani is now making short sleeve dress shirts? :-)

Andy Levy-Stevenson... You Brits are always such sticklers for protocol.

Jennifer... I roll the sleeves up! I may be fashion-challenged, but I'm not an idiot!

Essie... So I'll take that as a vote for short sleeves next season?

Mcaryeh... I hope you have the requisite backpack and wrap-around sunglasses (up on top of your head) to complete the look.

Elisson... I have polo shirts and other 'leisure-wear'. I'm talking about the kind of shirt you would wear to work or to shul. And yes... I do have an authentic straw panama for keeping the sun off my face.

Dave... I'd never heard that story but it has the ring of truth to it. In fact, if it isn't true it should be! By the way... I've never seen 'Falling down', but that picture you linked to is priceless!

Harry... A tie? What is this tie of which you speak? :-)

Posted by: David | Sep 12, 2005 12:18:55 PM


Please!!! Short sleeve dress shirts? Ich Kennesht.

Posted by: mochassid | Sep 12, 2005 4:51:17 PM

Armani makes the finest polyester.

Posted by: Jack | Sep 12, 2005 6:16:22 PM

Do you wear ties? It is a major fashion fopa to wear a tie with a short sleeve shirt. Mens Helath magazine did a story on that. Homer Simpson even tried it. Marge ofcourse told him he couldn't. He complained "but Sipowitz gets to do it?" Boruch Sh'kivanta to Homer.

Posted by: Daniel | Sep 12, 2005 8:22:26 PM

This reminds me of the time in England that the young fellow, just back from Israel, came into shul Friday dressed in his normal, Israeli, attire: Short-sleeve shirt & sandals. In October.
It was a good thing the shul was heated. Next week he was back to English dress.

Posted by: The Observer | Sep 12, 2005 9:14:28 PM

> It was a good thing the shul was heated.
> Next week he was back to English dress.

Guys in England wear dresses to shul?

Posted by: Andy Levy-Stevenson | Sep 13, 2005 9:04:54 AM

Mo... Forgive me if I am hesitant to take sartorial advice from a guy who wears skin-tight cycling shorts. :-)

Jack... When all the breasts out there seem to be synthetic, why should I be surprised that the fabric of choice is as well. :-)

Daniel... What a silly question. You know where I live, right?

The Observer... May I assume that he was handed a smoking jacket and hat for his aliyah?

Andy Levy-Stevenson... "Guys in England wear dresses to shul?" Well, you know those Brits [wink wink, nudge nudge]. :-)

Posted by: David | Sep 13, 2005 9:20:06 AM

I'm so happy to hear that so many understand just how bad the dressy-short-sleeved-shirt-with-tie look is. It's so elementary school principal-ish. The sleeves should be long and should poke out from the end of the jacket sleeve, if one is wearing a jacket. And, for the love of Pete, button the collar. Or buy a shirt without a button-down collar. Duh.

Posted by: Alice | Sep 14, 2005 9:38:20 PM

after 3 weeks in israel how could you wear anything but short sleeves. its like a furnace in here. ya its not the ct humidity but its still pretty hot. I think wwsd is very easily answered. did that man ever wear long sleeves?

Posted by: Ed | Sep 20, 2005 6:48:33 PM

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