• The answer has two parts, due to the question. The two parts have little to do with each other: Second part first: The long strands are actually on the side ( growing one side burns long) following the explicit commandment in the Torah ( the five books of Moses) that Jews follow that one should not shave the corners of ones beard/sideburns. The first part of your question is also fulfilling a commandment, but it is more indirect. It also says in the Torah that one should do whatever the elders/sages should tell you in any given generation. They in turn are responsable to interpret the law. The sages at a certain time ( 18th Century) who dressed in a certain way commanded that this is the way to dress, which was considered modest. Add to this historical fact, a few other issues in Jewish law, which are that bright colors are immodest, that dressing in a uniform is more modest, and you have yourself a dark outfit.
  • I should point out that not all Orthodox Jewish men dress like that. The black suits and side curls are specifically associated with Hasidic Jews. Then there are some other Orthodox groups who dress similarly, but their names escape me at the moment (it's awfully hard to remember Hebrew words when you don't speak the language at all!). However, there are also lots of Jews who would call themselves Modern Orthodox. I've known many Modern Orthodox Jews who keep kosher and observe the Jewish Sabbath quite strictly. But aside from the yarmulke (head-covering), there is nothing in their dress that distinguishes them from any non-Jew you might see walking down the street.

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