For many, the 1985 Peter Weir film Witness delivered the first proper look at these communities, and the depiction of life therein was actually pretty accurate.

The Amish, formally the Old Order Amish, are an ethnoreligious group with Swiss German and Alsatian origins. They are named after Jakob Ammann, a Swiss Anabaptist leader who led a division within the movement that eventually formed the Amish. Their beliefs are deeply rooted in the Bible. They prioritise humility, simplicity and community.

Amish clothing is highly distinctive and serves as a visual representation of their commitment to humility and separation from the world. Men typically wear plain, dark-coloured suits, solid coloured shirts and broad-brimmed hats. They grow beards to symbolise manhood and marital status, as well as to promote humility. They are forbidden to grow moustaches because moustaches are seen by the Amish as being affiliated with the military, which they are strongly opposed to, due to their pacifist beliefs.

Women wear calf-length dresses, muted colours along with bonnets and aprons. Prayer kapps and bonnets are worn by the women because they are a visual representation of their religious beliefs and promote unity through the tradition of every woman wearing one. The colour of the bonnet signifies whether a woman is single or married. Single women wear black bonnets and married women wear white. The colour coding of bonnets is important because women are not allowed to wear jewellery, such as wedding rings, as it is seen as drawing attention to the body which can induce pride in the individual.

All Amish clothing is sewn by hand, but the way that a garment is fastened in important. The Old Order Amish seldom, if ever, use buttons because they are seen as too flashy; instead, they use the hook and eye approach to clothing or metal snaps. Buttons get a bad rap due to the fact that they once served as symbols of military rank and distinction, with the most elaborate designs reserved for high-ranking officers. This association made buttons emblematic of a hierarchical society based on power and dominance, which is why they are such a no-no for the Amish.

Some other fun facts about the Old Order Amish:

Most Amish communities eschew modern transportation in favour of a horse and buggy, This has become the iconic symbol of the Amish lifestyle.

The primary language spoken in Amish communities is Pennsylvania German, also known as Pennsylvania Dutch. While similar to German, it has distinct vocabulary and grammar influenced by English and other languages.

Amish education typically ends after eighth grade. Formal education beyond this level is generally discouraged, as it is seen as potentially leading to worldly influences that conflict with Amish beliefs.

Hard work is highly valued in Amish culture. Most Amish families are involved in agriculture, woodworking, or other trades that allow them to work closely together and maintain their self-sufficiency.

There is no centralised Amish authority. Each community of around 20 to 40 families adheres to a its own set of unwritten rules known as the Ordnung. These rules govern various aspects of daily life, including dress, technology use and community behaviour.

Finally, some aspects of Amish life have a modern feel to them. The lifestyle emphasises sustainability and stewardship of the land. They typically live off the grid, generating their own power through sources like wind or solar energy, and using traditional farming methods that minimise environmental impact.

Story Idea: Remo Giuffré



1. Amish men. Photo credit: Daniel Rodruiguez.
2. Poster for 1985 film Witness staring Harrison Ford
3. Cover of The Amish and the Mennonites, 1938
4. Amish women. Photo credit: Daniel Rodruiguez.
5. Amish family riding in a traditional Amish buggy in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
6. STOP and WHOA signs
7. Amish settlements in the United States and Canada, 2022
8. Video: "Weird" Al Yankovic - Amish Paradise (Parody of "Gangsta's Paradise". We couldn't resist.

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