May a shirt be worn backwards?

  • Question: [Wednesday, 12th Iyar 5783]

I know that one is not supposed to wear a clothing inside out. I was wondering regarding if I can wear a T-shirt backwards. The reason I would like to do so is for reasons of modesty so it properly cover my neckline.



There is no issue with wearing a shirt backwards if it is not readily apparent to others that it is being worn backwards, and will not cause one to be ridiculed by the public. One may certainly do so for reasons of modesty for the sake of properly covering the area below one’s neck. If, however, wearing the shirt backwards would be readily apparent to all that it is being worn backwards, and cause one to be ridiculed by the public, then it should not be done.

Explanation: It is a clear ruling in the Talmud and Poskim that a shirt may not be worn “Hafuch,” which literally means backwards, and would imply that the above is not allowed. However, in truth this restriction does not at all refer to wearing a shirt backwards but rather to wearing a shirt inside out, as explicitly written in both the Michaber and Alter Rebbe in the Shulchan Aruch, that it refers to wearing the inner side which contains the stitching on the outside, as when one wears a shirt inside out, the inner disparaging stitches are visible and he will be debased in the eyes of others. This definition comes to imply that simply wearing a shirt backwards with the front part in the back, is not included in this dress restriction. So is also explicitly implied from the law which discusses wearing a Tallis in the opposite way, with the front part in the back, in which no mention is ever made by the Poskim of there being an intrinsic issue with wearing a clothing backwards. This implies that wearing clothing backwards is not an issue. Furthermore, according to most authorities, even wearing it inside out is only a restricted form of dress for a Torah scholar, while for a non-Torah scholar, there is no prohibition even though it is not proper for them to do so. Notwithstanding, from the fact that we find a restriction against wearing a shirt inside out due to it being a mockery, we can deduce that one should not wear any clothing in a way that will cause him to be mocked by the public. Hence, we concluded above that if it is not apparent to the public that the shirt is being worn backwards, and no mockery will take place, then there is no issue with wearing it backwards. If however it is apparent to the public, and will cause him to be mocked, then based on the spirit of the above law, it should not be worn backwards.

Sources: See regarding not being dressed sloppy: Admur Kama 2:2 and Basra 2:3 and Michaber 2:3 [regarding wearing shirt inside out]; 53:32 [regarding the clothing of a Chazan]; Shabbos 114b “Any Torah scholar who wears a stained garment is liable for death as the verse states Kol Misaneiy Ahavu Maves” [see there also regarding wearing shirt inside out]; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 3; Ketzos Hashulchan 3:3; See regarding not wearing a clothing inside out: Admur Kama 2:2; Basra 2:3; Michaber 2:3; Shabbos 114b; See Alef Lamagen 3 for a thorough analysis from Talmud and Rishonim regarding this law; See Sefer Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh [Lerner] 70:2 See regarding wearing a Tallis backwards: Admur 8:9; M”A 8:6 based on Rashal and Shlah Chulin; Olas Tamid 10:9; Shaareiy Teshuvah 42:2; M”B 8:9; Piskeiy Teshuvos 8:13

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