Why do you dress like you do?
We dress in the way of the Vedic tradition, men in dhotis (robes) and kurtas (shirts) and women in saris and cholis (blouses). These clothes remind us that we are servants of Krishna.
One can be a devotee of Krishna without wearing these clothes. But dressing in this way identifies us as Krishna’s devotees, encourages us to act accordingly, and reminds others of Krishna when they see us.
This verse is very important for an understanding of how the living entities transmigrate from one body to another. It is explained in the Second Chapter that the living entity is transmigrating from one body to another just as one changes dress. This change of dress is due to his attachment to material existence. As long as he is captivated by this false manifestation, he has to continue transmigrating from one body to another. Due to his desire to lord it over material nature, he is put into such undesirable circumstances. Under the influence of material desire, the entity is born sometimes as a demigod, sometimes as a man, sometimes as a beast, as a bird, as a worm, as an aquatic, as a saintly man, as a bug. This is going on. And in all cases the living entity thinks himself to be the master of his circumstances, yet he is under the influence of material nature
Q. Why do some Hare Krishnas look like Buddhist monks?
A. Shaven heads and orange robes actually pre-date Buddhism by many centuries. In Vedic culture a person dressed according to his or her social and spiritual position. Simple robes, although external, have traditionally been worn to help cultivate humility and freedom from vanity.
In keeping with this reasoning, the Hare Krishna Movement has retained certain elements of Vedic tradition wherever practical. Following this principle, women in Hare Krishna communities wear the traditional sari, while men wear robes known as dhotis.
Young men who have gone forward to observe a celibate student life and train as monks wear saffron colored robes; married men wear white. Most choose to shave their heads leaving a single lock of hair in the back called a sikha. This is done as a sign of renunciation and surrender to Krishna, as well as for cleanliness and simplicity. The U-shaped marking of clay on the forehead is known as tilak, and is made with yellow clay from the banks of sacred rivers in India. Together with these traditional ascetic practices, fully committed devotees of Krishna, whether residing in a temple community or not, also abstain from all types of intoxication, and do not gamble or have sexual relationships outside of marriage.
As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.
– Bhagavad Gita (2.22)