An outer garment with sleeves, for the upper part of the body; in the Bible it is an article of dress for both men and women, worn next to the skin, and is distinct from the "cloak," or outer garment (compare Matt. v. 40); either "shirt" or "tunic" would be a more correct rendering. The Hebrew has "kuttonet," rarely "ketonet," which is sometimes translated "robe" or "garment" (Isa. xxii. 21; Neh. vii. 70, 72; II Sam. xiii. 18, 19; Ezra ii. 69). "Kuttonet" is a word of doubtful etymology (coming, perhaps, from a root meaning "to clothe"), but its cognate forms are found in Arabic ("kattan"), Ethiopic ("ketân"), Assyrian ("kitinnê"), and Greek ("chitôn").
Originally (Gen. iii. 21) the garment worn by the Hebrews was a simple loin-cloth of leaves or skins, like that adopted by Elijah (II Kings i. 8, "girdle of leather"; compare the use of the "puntî" on the border of the Red Sea: Müller, "Asien und Europa," p. 108). In course of time this developed into a short shirt, with an aperture for the head to pass through, and was gradually lengthened to the knees (especially when used by women), and sometimes to the ankles. Even tunics with trains are mentioned (Isa. vi. 1; Jer. xiii. 22; Nahum iii. 5). The shirt was made at first without sleeves, and also failed to cover the left shoulder (see Müller, l.c. pp. 296 et seq.). The working classes continued to wear the "primitive loin-cloth" (Müller, ib. p. 297), or the sleeveless coat, as this allowed full freedom of movement for both arms and legs. When the shirt was long, a belt or girdle was worn over it, partly for the purpose of holding it together, but mainly to enable the wearer to tuck in the laps when running, walking, or working.
The expression "mouth of the coat" can not be understood to mean that the shirt had a collar. It denotes simply the opening at the top, fitting closely round the neck (Job xxx. 18). At night (Cant. v. 3) this undergarment was taken off. Later, as outer garments came into use, one clothed only with the kuttonet was considered to be "naked." As a sign of mourning, originally, every article of dress was removed, and cuts were made in the flesh; but as soon as the wearing of the kuttonet alone came to be regarded as equivalent to "nakedness," that garment was rent to express grief (II Sam. xv. 32; compare Morris Jastrow, in "Journal of the American Oriental Society," xxi. 23, 39; and see Cuttings). That a loin-girdle was regarded as equally inadequate with the kuttonet is shown in Talmudic allusions (Shab. 62b; Soṭah 9a; Esth. R. 104b).
The more luxurious classes of society—e.g., women of royal blood (II Sam. xiii. 18, 19) and men of leisure—wore tunics with sleeves. This is the meaning of the Hebrew "passim" occurring in the description of the garment presented to Joseph by his father (Gen. xxxvii. 3). It was not "of many colors" (see Septuagint); the color of the shirt worn even by those of high rank was yellow, or red, or black (Müller, l.c. pp. 297-299); the upper garment, wound spirally round the body, was of blue and red, and showed various patterns, like those worked into rugs; but its significance lay in the fact that the sleeves (Targ. and Bereshit R. parashah 84) marked the favorite son, who was absolved from work. These sleeves sometimes extended only to the elbow-joint; when they covered the whole length of the arm, the lower part was, as a rule, richly ornamented with fringe. Whether or not the common shirt had seams is not clear. The more costly shirts appear to have been sewed together, the seams, especially those round the neck, being heavily covered with embroidered strips (Müller, l.c. pp. 298, 299). The materials from which these tunics were made were wool—woven by the women—flax, and, for the more costly ones, worn by officials, both secular and sacerdotal (Ezek. xxvii. 16; Isa. xxii. 21), imported Egyptian byssus ("shesh," Gen. xli. 42; Ex. xxviii. 39; and "buẓ," Ezek. xxvii. 16).
In Mishnaic times this coat, or shirt, was still worn. It is found under the name "onḳali" ("nokli," Yer. Shab. 15d), which sometimes seems to denote a garment worn by women, and is correctly explained in the "'Aruk" as "a thin article of apparel worn next to the skin" (compare also Meg. 24b; Sanh. 82b; M. Ḳ. 24a). It was, however, provided with sleeves (Brüll, "Trachten der Juden"; Krauss, "Lehnwörter," s.v.). "Sarbalin" in Dan. iii. 21 is not "coat," but "trousers." (See Costumes in Biblical Times).