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Lets face it the type of yarmulke you wear does matter

I remember when I cut my shoulder length hair for the first time in years, besides going into hair withdrawal I had a big dilemma, what type of yarmulke would I wear? Its not as simple as it sounds, because even though many of you don’t want to admit it to yourselves, the type of yarmulke you wear says a lot about you. In fact I would argue that the proliferation of different types of yarmulkes probably paralleled the breaking off of different sects of Jews- because lets face it- we need a good solid way of judging each other.

This is why most people stick with their one type of yarmulke, it is so rare that someone goes from knit to velvet to suede, I used to do this in high school before I realized I was confusing my Rabbis and peers who were probably thinking of shidduchim for me during 10th grade- but couldn’t figure out if I was the modern or yeshivish type. Prior to entering the real world, I never realized the importance of yarmulke type, I simply dismissed the whole notion as merely one of fit- because to me- the best yarmulkes were the ones that fit most comfortably on the head- little did I realize that the whole concept of a yarmulke was created not only as a way to remind yourself that God was above- it was to remind fellow Jews as to how many halachos you kept or didn’t keep.

This is why the transition from one yarmulke type to another is so hard- so many things can go wrong. For instance I decided it was time to experiment with velvet- I know I make it sound like it was my first time doing drugs- but it was similar because I was venturing out of my hashkafic realm into new territory. I mean what the hell did I know about sporting a black velvet yarmulke- and to add fuel to the fire- I had just cut my shoulder length hair, people would surely think I was some wacky BT or something of the sort, but would I be able to document the different attitudes people had towards me since most of them knew me as the kipa sruga type?

I immediately noticed drastic differences, shidduch offers started coming in, people said I was reformed- they said I looked so much better. I could just hear their minds thinking, “oh he’s wearing velvet- he’s back on the derech.” Or sometimes they would even say “you look so much better with that yarmulke” mind you this was a little while after I cut my hair, and it was just way to short for bobbie pins.

But velvet presents certain problems you have to deal with on a daily basis, for instance the fact that I wear shorts and sandals in the summer means that people think that I am off the derech due to my velvet yarmulke but obvious rebel clothing. Then you have people who will say that 4 piece velvet is not as good as 6 piece velvet, or that shiny is better then matte, or that in order to be truly frum you must have the thick rim around the base of yarmulke. I know it sounds nuts- but these are widespread beliefs, and you may find yourself being served last at the seforim store if you do not adhere to the laws guarding black velvet yarmulkes.

Then I decided I had had enough of the velvet, its too hot and when your hair gets a little longer you have to switch sizes, thats the biggest issue with velvet- its just not comfy on longer hair, so I went to suede, and I could see the disappointment- although I now could sit in a modern orthodox shul without being judged. It was just so hard to be the token velvet guy in shul, since I would go to mostly modern shuls.

May you never have to deal with making a yarmulke transition. I remember my modern friends saying mean things when I went to velvet. “Oh look who thinks he’s all frummy now- well why don’t we tell the yarmulke police about your attraction to women who show their elbows?”

Then when I went to knit or suede from velvet my frummy friends would say. “Nu Heshy Vut happened you were doing so well, chas v’shalom should you start talking to girls.” Some of them would even say, “how do you expect to find a good shidduch with a yarmulke like that?” Or I would hear them talking behind my back about how unfortunate my situation was or that I was going through tough times at home and this “phase” would blow over.

All this over a simple head covering material change. I know its hard to believe but these are the principals that the frum community is based on.

I must now give you the all too true stereotypes of different yarmulkes.

Black Velvet:
This is the frummest yarmulke you can wear, some may argue that black cloth yarmulkes are a little more religious- but since the Lubavitchers wear them it devalues their status within the frum community. Within black velvet there are many different status’s- the following is a descending order of the status of different black velvet yarmulkes.

Please note that unless noted these are large sizes.

1- Shiny, 6 piece black velvet with a thick rim, either a very stiff velvet or very sloppy- not in between

2- Shiny, 4 piece black velvet with thick rim and very stiff material

3- regular 6 piece black velvet with thin rim

4- regular 4 piece black velvet with thin rim

All other velvet including those little flat velvet yarmulkes that kids who are off the derech wear on the front of their heads to cover their bangs.

Suede:

The all inclusive yarmulke, unless you want to go to yeshiva- then you must conform to the black velvet society- no its not a Zack Wylde album. But in all seriousness suede is kind of neutral and some people can even get away with wearing a black hat on top of suede.

Knit: (kipa sruga)
You are obviously a staunch supporter of Israel, a raving left winger in American politics but a Kahanist in Israeli politics. You are also a Charedi basher- obviously! Oh and according to the black velvet your just not frum enough- but I can guaruntee if you show up on shabbos at a basement shul in Monsey you will get an alliyah- because your obviously someones “modern” relative and therefore a guest.

Everything else:
Unless your sephardi I wouldn’t recommend wearing anything else- its just experimental and your liable to get labeled as a Carlebachian or a non-Jewish relative chas V’shalom.

For women its a whole different ballgame- unless they happen to wear a yarmulke- then you just get stared at.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • this reminds me of that quote “University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.” (Kissinger)

    except, you know, with jews.

  • So what exactly is wrong with the black cloth JewPe? I think it covers the scalp the best. And I could be wrong but, since when does the Lubbi’s choice of Yommi have anything to do with anything? Unless it have long live the Rebbe on it, what could be so wrong?

  • A23

    The main Lubavitch choice is a brown or blue velvet with rim.

  • What about black knit – I’ve seen those around too. For guys who can’t really decide if they’re modern or yeshivish?

  • tnspr569

    I went from suede to black knit, to various kinds of srugis. Sometimes the type of kippah makes a difference with other people.

    Switching between black and multi-colored kippot is an easy way to mess with people.

    The black knit seems to be taking on an interesting role in the world of kippah stereotypes. It can replace a black suede kippah, serve as a velvet substitute for those who don’t wish to wear velvet but want something perceived as serious, or just defy categorization altogether, confusing observers by simply telling them that you’re frum and they don’t need to know more than that.

    It’s also quite practical- lightweight, comfortable, looks good with almost anything.

  • Yes Lubbies are the only Jews that wear brown, blue or red velvet yammies they also like the wholeblack cloth thing as well- though that is mostly the Rabbis.

    Black knit is such a random yarmulke that somehow became the neutralizer.

  • Chris_B

    if you do suede, is there a color code/ranking?

  • Oh yeh anything but dark blue or black suede is just plain weird- my dad wears a light blue or light pink one that he likes- but he’s an eccentric.

  • Xvi

    I went through a few transitions myself. It wasnt nearly as painful as you weem to make it. Although I’ve always had short/now-balding hair so I was always a little limited.

    Of course, having gone to black-hat elementary and high schools, black velvet was mandatory. Heck, I could only have a max of one bobby pin and it couldnt be too near the front of my head. After all… thats how goyim wear their yarmulkas.

    Then in Israel, I was just playing around a bit, but I actually settled (and thought I looked half-decent) in a green suede kippa. I dont know where that fits in the spectrum that you described…

    Now its just black knit. The larger type. That distinction needs to be made as the smaller ones are a different thing entirely. I wear it for pragmatic reasons. Light-weight, large enough to cover my insecurities and demure enough to not be flashy in the workplace.

    I also wanted to add a few subcategories to what you mentioned, Hesh. In the velvet category you left out what we refer to as the “Har Sinai.” Thats the velvet yarmy that can stand up about 4 inches under its own strength. This type is usually worn with gelled-up bangs , a tight, preppy polo and an Acura.

    Then there is the Luby velvet. As mentioned its typically brown or blue, but what was not mentioned is the painted on choo-choo train or aleph-bet. An important detail!

    For knits/srugis there are also important distinctions. In the black srugi dept., as mentioned above, you have the large and small. The large type seems top be the typical gush-to-YU uniform, whereas you have the smaller types, usually seen on the SIDE of the head, flapping in the wind, bobby-pinned to some guys comb-over.

    Theres more… but Im shlepping this out.

  • heimish in bp

    The Gerrer Chassidim wear these all cloth but huge Kippa’s that enables them to stick their long peyos, they never cut, under them.

  • Chris_B

    Funny you mention that xvi, I seem to grab a dark green suede one by reflex when I go into shul.

  • XVI this wasn’t meant to be such an in depth post- it was supposed to document the transition rather then different types- I got ahead of myself. I have an extensive yarmulke post from long ago where I did everything under the sun- but your comment resonates with myself and many people I know.

  • I guess I am a Lubbe Rebbe then. I got me a black cloth Yommi. lol.

  • BEN

    Whata about not wearing a yarmulka. I still am unsure what’s worse: being seen without a yarmy by someone who knows you with -or being seen with by someone who knows you in another life.
    I don’t particularly care to indentifed as an OJ when I am not in their enviornment, especially since my orthodoxy is strictly social

  • Yismeicha*br

    I switch yarmulkas every few months because I get bored of the same old all the time. I can’t say the same for my metal t shirts. I usually switch between large and small velvet, and leather. I even had a leather one with the Iced Earth logo on it (courtesy of my wife.) It has since fallen in the toilet (I had really short hair at the time, and bobbie pins didn’t have anything to grab.)

    I also change my hair alot for the same reason – I like to change my head maybe.

    Funny yeshiva story: I was in twelfth grade and at the time I wore a really big velvet yarlmulka that covered the whole top of my head. One day my rebbe said to me, “I never thought I’d say this to a bochur, but get a smaller yarlmuka.”

    The next day, I came in wearing a really small velvet yarlmulka (I think it was the smallest size they make.) My rebbe saw it and it really looked like he wanted to say something, but he held his tounge.

  • Yochanan

    “What about black knit – I’ve seen those around too. For guys who can’t really decide if they’re modern or yeshivish?”

    I have a giant black srugi. I can wear it in a black-hat shul and, provided I have a white shirt and black pants, people can see me from the distance and think I’m a regular.

    I refer to it as my diplomatic kipa.

  • Yochanan

    “Then there is the Luby velvet. As mentioned its typically brown or blue, but what was not mentioned is the painted on choo-choo train or aleph-bet. An important detail!”

    I believe it’s only 7 year old lubies who wear this.

  • Yochanan

    Hesh, you should do a post on how people wear their kippot.

    For example, some like it all the way in the back, others smack dab in the middle. It seems that many religious zionists like to wear theirs cockeyed like some rappers sideways baseball cap. Not to judge, but it just seems that this defeats the purpose of a head covering. You’re supposed to think of God being above YOU, not just above your earlobe.

    I make sure my kippa is visible in a portrait view. It really annoys me when I look at a “rabbi’s” website and can’t tell if he’s Orthodox because he’s wearing it all the way in the back.

  • I now wear a big black velvet, but thats only because I lost my black knit and found this.

    I never had a white or colored one. I like it to blend into my hair.

  • lazer

    Yochanan // Jul 17, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    “Then there is the Luby velvet. As mentioned its typically brown or blue, but what was not mentioned is the painted on choo-choo train or aleph-bet. An important detail!”

    I believe it’s only 7 year old lubies who wear this.

    It’s NOT only the seven year old lubies. Please. Lubbies love puff painted yarmys

  • Anon

    I am not hearing any ladies expressing a preference here. C’mon. Men look at our headcoverings and make judgements, the least we can do return the favor 😉

    Personally, I think srugies look hot.

  • Well that was interesting. I guess with the internal divisions over everything else, fashion style would have to be involved somewhere.

    BTW, crocheting one takes between one and one and one half hours depending on how fast you work and given all the yarn colors available, there’s a huge number of designs you could have. Of course, acceptance in a given setting might be important so blazing red might be out of the question, but if you want to give thanks for the color spectrum and manual dexterity at the same time, go for it.

  • I’d love to learn how to do that. Craft seminar in Monsey, sometime? chanief, you got skills?

  • personally i love the kippa srugah – if i was a guy i would coordinate the colour of the yammie with the shirt i was wearing. i love the suede ones that look like baseballs or basketballs. BUT i think those defeat the purpose. my boys wear 4 piece velvet because otherwise apparently they would not be allowed into school, but i fail to see what makes a velvet yammie more holy than a cloth one, or even a black suede….

  • In my family we hold by the cloth Matzah print year round. We just feel it is always important to remember our struggles. The Matzah Yammi is felt deep. I just wish they would make a smurah version.

  • The newest diagnosis being proposed for the next edition of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is Yarmulke Identity Disorder.

    Incidentally I think that someone should remake John Howard Griffin’s “Black Like Me” so that it is the memoir of a srgue donning a velvet yarmulke for a year to see if he is being treated differently.

    BTW, notice how people say velvet yarmulke yet kipah seruga? Imagine if you would try to say something about a velvet kipah, a knitted yarmulke, or – worse – a black skullcap.

  • EDIT: srgue=srugie

  • Ok for real The Yammy thing is interesting. You are right about the suede i never have seen a black hat reveal a suedy underneath. I was in CH a few weeks ago and large knitted are big there now. So why is it acceptable to wear a knitty under a hat and a velvet but no suede, satin , or lace. I think Lubavs get trendy with theirs and to me that’s awesome. Why not ? We aren’t cxray Lubavs for nothing.
    BTW:: Painted Aleph bais and choo choo train are so out for kids, its now all about these intense detailed floral motif . They look WASOME!!!

  • …Let’s not forget the sports yarmukes.
    Incidentally I usually see ones with basketball teams; I have yet to see a Yankees yarmuke, for instance.

  • judah

    This is one of the many reasons why I don’t wear a kippah anymore. We forget why we wear a yamulka at all and focus on what it’s made of instead.

    It matters very little what your kippah is made of. What matters most is that you are wearing one.

    As for me, My Kippah is now under my skull. not on top of it.

  • These comment are thefunniest and best in a long time I am so proud.

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  • what about the transition from – “what does it matter what yarmulke i wear you shouldn’t judge me i’m being who i am blah blah blah” of teenagerhood to the “judge me. who cares. i love you anyway” of adulthood?

    or maybe there are too many people who don’t go through that transition anymore. lol.

  • You might be amused by my post on the subject of the “Orthodox dress code,” The “levush,” illustrated.

  • Judah commented, “This is one of the many reasons why I don’t wear a kippah anymore. We forget why we wear a yamulka at all and focus on what it’s made of instead.

    I have a post ready for publication this coming Monday on the question of head covering. Please drop by (and post a comment, if you’re so inclined.)

  • Just had to say you are missing some info. Go to the Solomon Schecter world – you know, those kids wearing kippot on a daily basis that you completely forgot, and, at least, the elementry school ones have a uniform too. Almost all can be seen with either the giant supercolorful Moraccan style ones, or the Israeli oversized knit ones that are pretty much kuffees. The Schecter kids just don’t like to have to wear clips and bobby pins and they look so cute!

    And far as which kippot look hot, since I grew up MO, guess I still find it totally cute when a guy with a srugie has one just falling off his head in that adorable disheleved way. Guess the fact that I like them falling off the heads says something about me though. . .

  • I change mine all the time.

  • That’s bubkes compared to married women’s hair covering. So, what do you lose? $10-$50?
    Our hats and wigs just start there, unless you go for a $3- tichel. I was snubbed our two years in London because I kept my Israeli tichel and didn’t buy a wig.

  • My feelings toward yarmulkas are based totally on my irrational emotions. All I have to say is that a flat velvet yarmulka on top with the bangs sticking out in front a lil is MAJOR hot!

  • in my school there were 4 types of kippot:

    1) suede (blue or black)
    2) leather (any color, from white to black)
    3) knitted (cooler if a girl knitted it for you and cooler if she signed the inside, but i don’t think this is still done?)
    4) the paper-thin silky black crash helmet types that they syrians wore.

    s(b.):

    “I’d love to learn how to do that. Craft seminar in Monsey, sometime?”

    that’s pretty funny

  • chanief

    I read all of this on Friday, in an airport terminal. Some of the very funny comments made me LOL causing security to keep a close eye on the crazy lady with the laptop. So thanks for that!

    s(b) I was raised in CH, so my only yarmulka related skills are of the puff paint variety.

    I’ve always wanted to learn to crochet them though so I could replace the cute ones my husband has from all of the girls before my time. It seems that girls knit or crochete yarmulkas for guys they liked way back when he was young – I wonder, do girls still do that? Is that a way of marking your territory? All the girls know not to flirt with that dude because he’s wearing a badly crocheted but colorful yarmulka?

  • CHANIEF:

    “All the girls know not to flirt with that dude because he’s wearing a badly crocheted but colorful yarmulka”

    not that i know the difference in these things, but don’t you mean knitting rather than crocheting?

    anyway, if your man was going out with the wrong girls if his kippot were poorly executed. back in the day everyone knew that good kippah knitting skills was an important quality when choosing a girl.

    “do girls still do that”

    not from what i can see, although i don’t exactly live in a MO stronghold. from personal experience, i can tell you than no one has made me one for many years (and my wife never learned to do knit kippot)

    HESH:

    i know my threats are insignificant, but i’m just going to stop commenting if you can’t fix all the bugs.

  • For the zillionth time, kippot are crocheted, not knitted! In Hebrew, both words are the same, “srugot,” but you can’t knit a kippah with two ordinary knitting needles.
    Crocheting is done with one hooked needle, and it’s the perfect method for producing something round.

  • Why is that funny, Lion? Would you like to teach us at the open mic? I double dare you. lol. Tell me what size hook to bring. I have some floss/string/whatever it’s called around. Surely someone out here in bloggerland knows how to do this. No one will throw rocks at you, I promise. :facetious:

  • S(b.):

    “Why is that funny?”

    i doubt too many people in monsey wear sruggies. so i thought it was funny that you mentioned hosting a crafts fair to teach the art of crocheting in monsey. (or did “I’d love to learn how to do that” refer to something else and i misread it?)

  • it was a double-entendre that you missed (No, I’m seriously kidding about that part; yeah, I’d like to learn how to do that).

    This may sound silly, but part of my own journey toward being more observant has been learning to do stuff that observant girls do, making up my own recipes for kugel, for example. Making luchos pudding pie for shavuos. I am far more inclined to relate spiritually with my domestic side (such an obscure concept in Judaism, right? -sarcasm-) than I am by, say, becoming shomer shabbos tomorrow (I know how to do that; I don’t know how to crochet a kippah). So, one step, one skill, one thing 7th grade girls learn at a time, I guess. It’s working for me, so far, and I know my path is my own.

    -goofy- so, um, what does a gal have to do to get someone to mekarev her a little around here? Teach me to crochet and you’re savin’ up in the bank of heaven (I mean olam haba, of course).

    I will keep throwing spaghetti at the wall until a piece sticks. My mother doesn’t know how to do this, and none of my aunts/ stepmother/ half-sister know how to do this. Sheva (oh, wait, you’re chassidish).

    Gosh darn it, what’s wrong with knit kippot on Lubavitcher men? That should be like a freakin’ medal, your wife mekareved someone and you got the kippah out of the deal. Rock that knit, rabbosai! Who’s the real shaliach now? (I’m kidding, TRS.)

    And you don’t have to be married to refer a woman to a woman, heck, you might wind up married, if you’re not careful, ’cause what’s more attractive than gender-appropriate outreach? [sha, peanut gallery, I’m trying to learn to crochet, here!] Quick, Nemo, find a girl with some skills for the open mic! Still kidding.)

    (okay, I’m getting carried away, so I’ll stop; you get my point, though. I really want to learn how to do that — so I can have mad skills like some junior-high yeshiva girl. It’s dopey, but I would find it meaningful to me.)

    My favorite kippah (non-srug), are the painted leather ones with band logos (Grateful Dead, Rolling Stones, phish, etc. google image search is a wonderful thing). If I were a guy, I’d probably wear a funky knit or black suede, though. Under an Indiana Jones hat, on Shabbos, just for fun.

  • And I really don’t care what people in Monsey wear. My online interaction roots are from message boards related to live music; the idea of not interacting with people with whom I correspond online in person, at some point, is completely foreign to me. (geographical constraints notwithstanding, of course)

  • Here’s that post on head-coverings, as promised.

  • Youxia

    1- Shiny, 6 piece black velvet with a thick rim, either a very stiff velvet or very sloppy- not in between (Ultra Conservative)

    2- Shiny, 4 piece black velvet with thick rim and very stiff material (Conservative)

    3- regular 6 piece black velvet with thin rim (Moderate) I have these, except mine is kind of a shiny velvet. What does that mean? Hmmm. – Wearing them with shorts and tank tops and sandals. It’s hot dude!

    4- regular 4 piece black velvet with thin rim (Liberal)

  • m

    where can i buy a flat small 6-10 cm knitted kippa? any recommendations online?
    thanks

  • Nissan

    As a persian Sephardic traditional jew born in Iran lived there till 7 yrs old- most people didn’t wear kipoot there, a lot of people didn’t wear it even at home, most people just put it on in shul and when they ate (hamotzi only). I always had my head cover (baseball cap) but i hated kippot- ALWAYS FELL OFF- and the bobby pins hurt my head. as i grew up realized i ca not wear a baseball cap everywhere, so i based on comfort choose the velvet (4 or 6 i don’t remember) 2 summers ago i got a crazy headache – it was too hot to wear velvet in a resturant kitchen 90 degrees! i switched to the chabbad cloth – oh WOW – I LOVE IT! stays on my head, doesn’t fall off, i do not need a bobby pin, i can wear it in shul, at work, at home, put my black hat over it- the truth is the writer of the article is right people do look at you different ways- but when they start talking to you and realize your education and knowledge of the torah – BH they will look past the type of kippah you have on!

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