Buddhist fashion

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Anna Torv, actress from Australia, frequently wears the collar up, as do many actresses, models, and other celebrities
Many Buddhists follow fashion including the collar up style

(Since there are over 10,000 serious articles on this Dhamma Wiki, this article is not to be taken too vigorously and is meant mostly for fun and humor and to show that Buddhists can be like the rest of the people in dominant society on many mundane things such as fashion.) Fashion is impermanent (Anicca) and is never "finished" as styles change.

During the time of the Buddha and earlier, it was common for seekers of enlightenment to shed their clothes and go around as naked ascetics. The Buddha's path is a Middle Way and requires clothes to be worn by monastics and lay people. Clothes are significant in Buddhism for this reason and also by the fact that beautiful clothes were described as a sign of merit or attainment. In the Vimanavatthu and Petavatthu there are stories of departed beings who have gone to good and bad destinations in the Buddhist cosmology. Moggallana through the powers of the mind with meditation visited these regions to inquire what deeds led them there. The woeful states were inhabited by beings who were described as naked, while those residing in heavenly mansions were described as possessing beautiful clothes. In the Theravada commentaries (DA ii.427, DhSA, 33) one of the signs of a deva's (heavenly being) imminent death is that the clothes becomes soiled, which again points to the significance of clothes in Buddhism.

Lay people have no specific requirement about clothing and unlike Western converts to such Eastern movements as Hare Krishna, Buddhists do not need to wear any robes, white or any other color or paint their foreheads. Buddhists follow the culture of the land they live in and are not asked to follow a foreign culture just because the founding teacher is from another land.

In spite of this, some lay Buddhists like to wear yellow (color of Buddha's robes and yellow also represents 'middle way') or white, but in the style of modern clothing, not robes. This is a voluntary color choice of some Buddhists and not a requirement. Some like to wear the modern clothing of their culture but in one of the colors of the Buddhist flag; yellow, white, orange, blue, or red.

A Buddhist man at Vulture Peak with orange shirt, collar up
Sweatsuit with collar up. Many Buddhists wear comfortable sweat suits / workout suits which are flexible for cross-legged positions
Yellow shirt with collar up. Some Buddhists like to wear yellow or white, although it is not a requirement
Polo shirts with collar up and buttoned to top, have a similar look to the mandarin collar

At Dhamma centers most Buddhists wear simple, modern clothing that is comfortable to sit in for the meditation sessions. This includes t-shirts, halter tops, dress shirts (regular shirts with buttons and collars), jeans, flannel shirts, polo shirts, and sweat suits.

Fashion, for many is considered an art and for some Buddhists, art is seen as another attachment. While it is clear that a fully enlightened arahant may have little use and no attachment to mundane things like art, for other Buddhists and those interested in Buddhism, art can be a wholesome action and interest. The Buddha saw its value because he said monks and nuns could beautify their monasteries by painting them different colours and decorating them with various geometrical and floral designs (Vinaya 2. 117). As Buddhism spread in the centuries after the Buddha's passing his teachings gave an impetus to all the arts - painting, sculpture, poetry, drama and to a lesser degree music. There are Buddhist Vinaya rules against monks and nuns indulging in arts, shows, and games, but this rule does not apply to lay people. Monks and nuns are supposed to devote their lives to the study and teaching of Dhamma and it would look unseemly for them to be seen by lay people engaged in such things as watching movies, painting pictures, or discussing fashion.

Fashion can not only be an acceptable interest in the arts, but also a skilful means for acquiring more interest in Buddhism. For many non-Buddhists, there is the false belief that Buddhists, similar to Hare Krishnas and other religions or movements based out of the East, must wear Indian robes or other robes from Asian cultures. Lay people wear what they like and Buddhists who wear modern clothing and especially those who wear fashionable clothes in artistic ways, demonstrate that Buddhists adapt to their local cultures and are otherwise no different than most other people in the dominant society.

As styles change we can expect many Buddhists to continue to follow the fashions of their cultures while still practicing the Buddha-Dhamma. For those that follow the fashion trends, it can be an opportunity for practicing other Buddhist teachings (besides Skilful means), including that of Anicca (impermanence), letting go, and non-attachment (as the styles change). And then there maybe the chance for generosity (dana) as those who change some of their wardrobe can give it to the less fortunate.

Shown on this page above and below are the many examples of lay Buddhists, including celebrities who wear the collar up style, also known as upturned collar, popped collar. It is not exactly clear why the collar up style is particularly popular among Buddhists, but it may be from the Mandarin (Manchurian, Nehru collar) stand-up collar style mixed with modern clothing of dress shirts and polo shirts for an East-West fashionable look.

There has been at least one case of a teacher wearing the collar up to please the Buddhists in his community, where it is reported that "He discarded his well-cut Western suit and picked the white turned-up collar top as a concession to the Sinhala-Buddhists" (although most likely referring to the traditional stand-up collar).[1]

Model with collar up and buttoned to the top

See also:

Collar up fashion in contemporary society

The collar up style has been popular for many decades, kept in fashion primarily from supermodels, models, and other celebrities who occasionally to frequently wear this style. The origin is most likely from the stand-up mandarin collar from the East. Pictured below are some celebrities (from all religions and backgrounds) who frequently wear the collar up.


  1. Asian Tribune. "Buddhist channel article". Retrieved on May 18, 2005.