Long skirts and long questions
March 30, 2012 10:30 AM   Subscribe

Do you know of a cultural group that fits this phenotype?

The other day in Philadelphia, I saw a group of 30 people that appeared to be an extended family of a few generations. Almost everybody was wearing black, but a few people were wearing solid somber colors. The women and girls all had long hair tied back in a ponytail and wore dark ankle length skirts. All the people in the group had dark brown to black hair, and deep complexions. The men mostly wore black sport coats or black button down shirts. Nobody was wearing a hat or headscarf. Some people were speaking a language I couldn't understand.

I'm just curious if this phenotype fits a distinct cultural group that you're familliar with. I've seen a lot of Amish, Pensylvania Dutch, mennonite, and Orthadox Jewish families around Philadelphia, but this family looked different from the families I've seen before. Who knows, the could be very dark skinned Amish, or Orthodox Sephardic Jews. They could just be a family fond of long skirts.

I plan to treat everyone with respect, so it doesn't really matter too much whether or not I know their cultural identification - I'm just curious. And if I know the culture, I can read up on any particular customs the group may have and try to be more accomodating if I encounter more people from the same cultural group.
posted by ladypants to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Mexican Mennonites? I don't know how often you'd run into that group in Philadelphia, but there are a fair number of them in Southwestern Ontario. The clothes sound right, as do the appearances. They could have been speaking low German or Mexican Spanish?
posted by AmandaA at 10:37 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Was anyone wearing any sort of jewelry? Any crosses? Any distinct lack of crosses?

If the men weren't wearing hats but the women were wearing conspicuously long skirts, they (probably) weren't Orthodox Jews of any sort. You don't tend to get one without the other.
posted by griphus at 10:44 AM on March 30, 2012

Maybe FOB working class Portuguese? Portuguese can be a hard language to place, if you're not familiar with it. The clothes sound a lot like I remember them dressing when I was a kid, so I could be hopelessly out of date.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:47 AM on March 30, 2012

No pendants that I could see. I didn't see any crosses or tzitzim.
posted by ladypants at 10:47 AM on March 30, 2012

(Generally, it's really, really rare for an Orthodox Jewish person to have no sort of headgear on whatsoever. The head-covering thing is a pretty major tenet. It doesn't have to be a kippah, necessarily; it could be a baseball cap, fedora, whatever. But no hat on at all means they probably weren't Orthodox.)
posted by griphus at 10:47 AM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

If they had no crosses, but were dressed modestly, they could be Jehova's Witnesses.
posted by griphus at 10:49 AM on March 30, 2012

Where were they? What were they doing? Were they gender-segregated? Can you find a picture of someone with a similar complexion?
posted by thirteenkiller at 10:55 AM on March 30, 2012

They were gender segregated. Here are some pics of people from Pakistan and Turkey with similar complexions. The women had beautiful thick eyebrows and long noses. Two of the girls looked a little bit like the girl on the left of the picture I linked.
posted by ladypants at 11:18 AM on March 30, 2012

They could have been members of the bahai religion. Its has a lot of middle east members, is pretty conservative, but doesn't make their women wear head coverings.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:38 AM on March 30, 2012

Agreed that the Bahá'ís are pretty conservative (at least, anecdotally), but you seem to be describing a loose "uniform" kind of thing, and I've never seen anything like that. I've met very few Middle-Eastern Bahá'ís, so maybe they get down differently Over There than Over Here.
posted by Poppa Bear at 12:13 PM on March 30, 2012

Seconding the questions "Where were they?" and "What were they doing?"

It kind of just sounds like some Italians at a funeral or something.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:48 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nothing about that sounds like Baha'is, speaking as someone raised as such. There is no gender segregation, it's not conservative in this manner, and there's no "uniform" or dress code.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 2:10 PM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

They were outside a hospital cafeteria. It crossed my mind that they might be in mourning, but they didn't seem particularly sad. They weren't particularly giddy or enytghing - I just assumed like most families in a hospital they ere there to visit a sick relative.

They were sort of milling about, as if deciding whether to go in the cafeteria or not. People were talking amongst themselves, and then some of the women took the elevator, and some of the men headed towards the gift shop.
posted by ladypants at 2:24 PM on March 30, 2012

Maybe they were Egyptian Coptic Christians? They could have been in mourning for a family member, or if you saw them a week or two ago, for Pope Shenouda III.
posted by embrangled at 2:48 PM on March 30, 2012

Seconding that Baha'is don't have a dress code. Whatever group it was, it wasn't necessarily Baha'i.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:20 PM on March 30, 2012

There is a branch of Ethiopian Mennonites but (at least around here, where I saw a family just today) Mennonite women tend to wear 'kerchiefs in their hair.

My second thought was a branch of conservative Christianity that has a missionary bent or did historically, but usually when you see long skirts you also see head coverings so I'm not sure.

In fact, they could be Yellow Deli ('Twelve Tribes') people as the TT have a couple groups in Brasil and Argentina. They definitely travel in groups and the women wear long skirts (not always head coverings). It's unlikely, but serves to illustrate the fact there are lots of Christian groups that might fit the bill.
posted by librarylis at 2:45 PM on March 31, 2012

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