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.
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.
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.
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.