So one of my regular reads, Casey (mooshinindy.com) wrote about Mormon undergarments, and it made me think of the number of times my DH has been asked about his "garment". So, here I am to de-mystify the underwear of the Orthodox man (at least kind of).
All OJ's wear a 4 cornered garment of some kind with strings/tassels/friendship-bracelet-looking-things attached to each corner. Here's a picture:
The main part is called a Tallit Katan, and the strings are called tzit-tzit. The cloth can be anything other than linen. My husband prefers traditional wool, but many men wear t-shirt like material or even the kind of nylon net that football jerzees are made from. The strings are made from tightly wound wool. Some people wear all white, some add in a blue string. All white is most common, the blue thing is kind of controversial, but too big of an argument to get into here. The strings are tied in a prescribed manner, which differs by community. As the garment is holy, it is not worn next to the skin, but over a t-shirt, or completely outside your regular clothes. Also, most men pull the strings to hang outside their pants if their shirt is tucked in, as having the strings (which are tied in a way that numerically represents the Holy Name) by your underwear isn't the best idea.
All that being said, the garment itself is believed to have given rise to the rumor that OJ's can't see each other in *ahem* intimate moments. The idea of trying to reproduce through a hole in a sheet is kind of funny to me, but when gentiles see this big piece of fabric with a hole in the middle (hello, it looks like a poncho!) hanging from the laundry line of their Jewish neighbors, I guess there was some speculation. Actually, the opposite is true. Nothing can be in the way, not even socks. So there you go. Mystery solved.
I'm thinking about doing a series of these, so if you've always wondered something about Jews, send me an email or leave a comment and I'll try to address it. I know you all have questions...I see the way folks in America look at us in the grocery store....