PE'OT (plural form of "pe'ah" = "segment," "side," "border"):
Side-locks worn by Jewish men, especially those of Poland and Russia. Strictly conforming themselves to the Biblical precept in Lev. xix. 27, they allowed the hair to grow on both sides of the head and to hang down in curls or ringlets. The cutting of the side-locks was considered a heathen custom; therefore this law, as interpreted by some authorities, forbids the removal of the side-locks with a razor or the clipping of them with scissors (see RABaD to Sifra, Ḳedoshim, vi. [ed. Weiss, 90c]; Bertinoro and Lipschitz to Mak. iii. 9; ib. Gemara, 20b;
For many centuries most of the Eastern European Jews observed this Biblical law; but in 1845 Czar Nicholas I. of Russia decreed that his Jewish subjects should no longer wear either the Polish-Jewish costume or side-locks. Forcible means were used to enforce this ukase; nevertheless the side-locks are still extensively worn by Jews of eastern Europe, as also of the Orient. To-day some of the Ḥasidim also obey the Biblical law.
- Jost, Neuere Gesch. der Israeliten, ii. 312.