3 Differences Between Amish and Mennonite Clothing

People often get confused when it comes to the Amish, especially when they’re so strikingly similar to Mennonites. But how true is that?

The Amish people are known best for their simplistic way of living and godly attitude – virtues that are all too uncommon in today’s modern society. When it comes to the Mennonites, the same can be said, however, some of the greatest differences (however obscure) can be found in their clothing. So let’s take a look at some important distinctions between the clothing worn by each people to give you all a better idea.

Head Coverings and Patterns

At first glance, the women on both sides of this heavenly fence seem to be nearly identical in every way – but this is not true. For example, the headwear worn by Amish women is a flat head covering (usually white) with strings attached. Whereas Mennonite women rarely wear strings with their head coverings. Mennonite women are most commonly seen wearing either a traditional head covering or a small veil.

The clothes that are worn by Amish women rarely stray from their “single color” theme, as I’m sure you’ve seen in photographs. The women of the Mennonite culture are permitted to wear some flower patterns, which makes sense because of the Mennonite men’s tastes in patterned shirts. Amish men traditionally wear single-colored shirts with suspenders, which is a little underwhelming.

Mainstream Mennonites in today’s modern time don’t always dress the part like their Amish counterparts, so it can be difficult to spot them in the general public. Interestingly enough, the older members of the Mennonite way of life aren’t permitted to wear beards, and they shave regularly. The young men are free to do as they please with their beards as long as it conforms to the guidelines previously set by generations before them.

Buttons and Zippers

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of a hook and eye fasteners, but that’s what Amish men use in place of buttons and zippers that would normally be on their clothing items. The women don’t actually use any kinds of buttons or zipper either. Instead, they use straight pins to close their dresses.

Could you image using only straight pins to keep your clothes on? I don’t know how well that would work for most of us, but I have a feeling that a lifetime of practice would help quite a bit.

No matter what time of year it is, Mennonite women must wear a dress that is at least three inches below the knee at all times. And that doesn’t sound very fun when the hot sun is beating down on you and your family. On that note, how do the Amish people go on without air conditioning? I feel like passing out from heat stroke would be a more common occurrence than anything else, or maybe they just drink a lot of lemonade.

Seasonal Clothes

When you think of Amish people, you imagine a man with a pair of cut-off pants held up by a pair of suspenders – it’s just natural. Another one of those signature styles the men practice in Amish culture is the classic straw hat. During the winter time, the men often wear a dark-colored hat, but as soon as the summer kicks in, they only wear the straw hats.

Another interesting tradition the Amish men have is when they break out their homemade winter coats to help them in the colder seasons. You’d think they would have more than one coat per person, but you’d only need one because of all those layers they wear under them.

Mennonite men and women are forbidden to wear shorts at any time, and the same can be said for the Amish. In the church, the men aren’t allowed to wear short sleeves at all, which sounds pretty miserable considering their churches are packed full of worshipers at every service.

The Best 3 Books to Learn More About Amish People

One of the most interesting things about American culture is that we have such different communities all living in the same place. Perhaps the most perplexing communities is that of the Amish, who are dedicated to living a simple, technology-free life, even in the 21st century when faced with such rapid change. You might wonder how they can continue to live the way they do, or how the outside world affects their tight-knit communities, and if their practices are healthy. To someone who knows very little about the Amish, it can be confusing to try to understand their way of life.

Luckily, there have been many books written on the Amish and have insider knowledge and research that gives us a clear view of who they are. Here are three of the must-read books on the Amish so that you can learn more about who they are and what their future looks like.

The Amish by Donald Kraybill, Karen Johnson-Weiner, Steven Nolt

If you’re looking for a general overview and insight into the Amish people, a good book to read for general knowledge on them is The Amish. It’s a good book for those who do not know anything about the Amish and even those who do. The book covers a broad scope of the North American Amish people in the 21st century and how they live. The authors give you a glimpse at the many diverse settlements of Amish people and how they differ, from progressive communities to those who are highly conservative. You can learn why the Amish restrict their use of technology, how they choose ministers, why they wear plain clothing, and what roles women play in the Amish community.

The book incorporates many data and charts, giving you a deeper understanding of the Amish and covers critical aspects of the Amish community, including their beliefs, approach to technology, diversity, the power of custom and tradition, changes in occupations, gender, Rumspringa and youth issues, recent controversies, and much more. If you know a good deal about the Amish, you can still read it to find out more in-depth, insider knowledge on the more conservative Swartzentruber Amish, a closer look at Amish affiliations, and fascinating data showing that not all Amish are the same.

Amish Enterprise: From Plows to Profits by Donald Kraybill and Steven Nolt

Curious about how the Amish run their businesses and how they handle issues surrounding their way of life and the legalities of the federal and state government? Then this book should interest you. It details how Amish people have shifted to running furniture workshops, construction crews, food stands, and other small businesses in recent years, and how they handle things like the internet, legal liability, marketing, and other things they must learn to navigate.

It also shares how moving from the farm for entrepreneurial success affects Amish society, and explores the Amish business story from the Lancaster County Amish perspective, one of the most highly entrepreneurial Amish communities.

The Amish and the State edited by Donald B. Kraybill

The thing about Amish people that you’re probably most curious about is how their communities and the way they live interacts with the American government. The Amish have a history of their laws butting against those of state laws, and this book is a collection of essays describing how the Amish have encountered and resolved conflicts related to military service, schooling, Social Security, health care, and other vital issues.

More often than not, the Amish have had to negotiate and sometimes use the assistance of a sympathetic public or powerful political allies. In this book, you’ll also get to learn about the Amish Steering Committee, the Amish’s resemblance of unified political leadership, and how they’ve been instrumental in numerous legal issues affecting the Amish up to the present day.

A Quick Guide to Amish Beliefs

When you think about the Amish people, the first thing that comes to mind is probably a man riding a horse and carriage, wearing a straw hat and smoking a pipe. And you wouldn’t be too far from the truth, but what do these people really believe in?

Let’s take a look at the traditions, practices, and beliefs that keep the Amish people grounded and thriving in a modern world.


The Amish people have many traditions, but singing songs (or hymns) has to be one of the oldest. One of their most cherished books, the Ausbund, originates from 16th century Germany and it contains over 900 pages of religious traditions.

Many of these pages contain hymns that were composed by German Anabaptists and even more have been added throughout the years. Sadly, these songs are not really songs as much as they are chants.

UWhen you think of a song, you imagine musical instruments, harmonizing, and cheerful spirits. When it comes to Amish hymns though, none of these things are present. The songs are sung in German with no instruments or harmonization. And if that didn’t sound bad enough, the songs are exclusively about sorrow and loss that come from a holy fight against the wicked.


In Christianity, baptisms occur in the first year or two of life. The child doesn’t have a say in the matter, and the entire performance is orchestrated by the parents and members of the church. In Amish culture, the children don’t receive their baptism until their late teens – and it is their choice entirely.

If the young adult comes back from Rumspringa with a desire to rejoin the church for life, they may do so. If the children do not want to live a life of simplicity, they are free to choose a different life instead. Isn’t that sort of beautiful?

If someone chooses to accept the rules of Amish living and then breaks them, the offender will (after repeat offenses) become shunned from the group. That means they are cut off from their friends and family, cast aside by their superiors. These “shunned” members will often be excommunicated from the church as well. Shunning doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it sends a message.


Amish weddings only occur after the autumn season has arrived or passed. They are free to hold wedding ceremonies anytime between October to December, which makes for a busy wedding schedule. Sometimes the Amish church will hold up to two or three in a single day!

After the bride’s parents have heard the couples plan to marry, they will plant hundreds of celery stalks in the early summer months. They will eat this celery many months later as a crucial part of the wedding ceremony. The ceremony is always held in the home of the wife’s parents – which can be tough since so many people show up.

Each wedding has a massive feast that can serve up 200-300 people, but there are usually leftovers. The newlywed couple will actually visit the homes of friends and relatives for the next few weeks at night, and only between Friday and Saturday. Sometimes this process can take several weeks, but at least they are able to cherish each and every wedding gift instead of getting them all at once. Most Christian weddings end with disappointment when they see how awful some of the gifts are – and almost none of them are homemade!

Why Amish and Mennonites Believe in Dressing Plainly

There’s no doubt that Amish and Mennonites have very different values that most of the modern United States. While we live our lives with the continuously updated world of technology and things changing faster than we can understand them, Amish and Mennonites live more simplistically, and that translates to their fashion, as well. While the rest of America is always changing up their style based on the latest trends, Amish and Mennonites dress very…plainly.

It’s one of their defining characteristics and the image most people have in their minds when thinking about them. But why is it that they dress that way? How does the way they dress have anything to do with their religion, and what is their justification for their style?

Here’s why Amish and Mennonites dress the way they do, in case you’ve been curious about it, but never took the time to find out.

Plain Clothing Reflects the Amish/Mennonite Way of Living

First of all, the clothing these people wear is a direct reflection of their values, including modesty, practicality, and commitment to their religion. Amish and Mennonites live their entire lives in a more practical and simplistic way of life that may seem outdated to us, but it makes sense to them. Why should their clothing not be the same?

It is Modest

Amish and Mennonites believe that too revealing clothing is un-Christian. So, they choose to wear simple clothes that reveal little. They feel that exposing the body can promote sinful thoughts and behaviors and that Christians should stay covered up as a way of honoring the bodies that God gave them. Modesty is important to Amish and Mennonites, which is why you see the women in long, covered dresses, and the men in long pants and long-sleeved shirts, often rolled up.

It is Practical

Dressing in plain clothing allows for simplicity and practicality within life. It reduces the choices you make on a daily basis by not fretting about what you’re going to wear. Plain clothing is not worldly, and it’s also simpler to make and maintain, which is essential to their lifestyle. Amish and Mennonites appreciate simplicity, and their clothing is just another way to incorporate that into their lives.

It is Biblical

You will often see Amish and Mennonites quoting biblical verses for their reason to wear plain clothing. Amish pull quotes from verses in the Gospels, Thessalonians, Corinthians, Romans, and Timothy. Although all Amish and Mennonites accept the idea of plain clothing based in scripture, their individual manifestations of it can differ. Some women will wear cover their heads, and some men do not trim their beards. However, some men will trim their beards a little and maintain short, cropped beards.

Promotes Unity

When you live in a countercultural community, your unity is everything. Wearing plain clothing discourages any status-seeking by acquiring and wearing fine clothing. Plain clothing diminishes competition and emphasizes the importance of community over the individual. Jealousy and envy are reduced, but not entirely eliminated, as it is human nature to feel these emotions.