Monday, July 14, 2014

Dressing for Men: Yarmulkas!

The yarmulka design selected (or kapuls, as they are referred to in my house) is usually an individual decision based on religious identity, separate from the fashionable realm. 

But I still believe that, overall, there should be some protocol in place (you can take the girl out of Hungary . . . )

The standard kapul has a dome-design, to hug the back of the head.  (Take, for instance, the term for Israeli anti-rocket security, the Iron Dome: Kippat Barzel.)

However, I notice that a number of men scooch the kapul forward from its designated, rounded spot to the flat part of the head, then attempt to clip it down, somewhat unsuccessfully. This is sometimes done in a weak attempt to shield a receding hairline. 

The kapul was not made to be flattened. It doesn't like it. It rebels. It bunches, it fights the clips, it becomes . . . unflattering. 

For the gentleman who is trying to shield his bare scalp, I have some sad news: Clipping the kapul there merely attracts attention and identifies the wearer as insecure. The major bummer about hair loss, and I sympathize: Resistance is futile. 

Alternative: Opt for close-cropped haircuts, which renders thinning hair less obvious, and still wear the kapul where it should be worn, at the dome of the head. Otherwise, develop a hat fetish.  

While the dome design is necessary for kapul wearing, sometimes it goes too far. 

There is a kapul catching on now whose physique is rather disturbing . . . it is stiff and peaked, not mimicking the soft curve of the head but stands to attention a trifle disconcertedly.
Wearing such a kapul turns one into . . . a Conehead.
This can probably be blamed on the design. 
The more segments there are in a fabric yarmulka, the wider the base, the lower the height, the snugger the fit. Even five-part yarmulkas are sometimes insufficient for those with large heads; they need the six-part.
Only 4 segment here. Nope.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6! We have a winner!
(Because the suede yarmulkas are flatter by design, four segments are sufficient.) 
Knit yarmulkas, also known as kippah srugas (kippot sruga? kippot serugot? Dikduk is not my best subject), do not have this concern, being segment free.
Best. Picture. EVER.
I was invited to a wedding where the couple had recently become religious, meaning most of the guests were a blend of gentile and Jew; I have a feeling the former outnumbered the latter. The venue's complimentary yarmulkas were not the usual white satin "conehead" variation, but the sufficiently segmented black velvet. 

I have to say I was having a really hard time trying to differentiate tribe member from polite observer. All the men looked so natural in the black velvet kapul, even the one with distinct Nordic roots. The secular grandfather was the only one who looked awkward, his white peaked yarmulka fresh from a pocket, doomed to perpetual creasing.

I'm partial to the black velvet. It's subtle, doesn't need clips to stay on (unless the wearer is 3), and it takes a lot more than the slightest puff of wind to knock it off. The knit versions are usually the safest in terms of chic fit, but can often require clips. However, with the black knit, since it tends not to draw attention to itself, a larger size that will hold to the head without assistance is a viable option. 

To summarize: A yarmulka should curve companionably to the dome of the head, but not add extra height. It should seem as though it is not trying too hard; it should be worn effortlessly.
Nice fit.


Sporadic Intelligence said...

You focus on the style and aesthetics, and completely disregard the politics...well, that's probably smart of you.

But just for example, it's a statement for a yeshiva guy to wear a 4 section yalmuke. It's considered more "with it".

And my 3 year old, it drives me crazy, where's his yalmuke almost at his nape. From the front it doesn't look like he's wearing anything, and from the back he looks chassidish. I leave it be though, some things are just not worth the fight. He's wearing it, a lot of mothers struggle with that...

And the Presidential examples: Brilliant

Daniel Saunders said...

Funny, I seem to recall boys got told off at my school for NOT having their kippot on the top of their heads, but too far back. Maybe I'm wrong.

I admit to clipping: with thick wavy hair, it doesn't stay on otherwise. I use big girly metal clips too.

Btw, I'm not a dikduknik either, but I'm fairly sure it's kippot sruggot.

When I was at Oxford, there was a dress code for exams: suit, white bow tie, gown, cap held, but not worn (the female code was less strict, but I'm not sure of the details). Those few men who wore kippot were told to wear a black suede one or risk being banned from exams. So there is indeed a protocol in place somewhere...

Sarah said...

My brother specifically wears them on top of his head, since he says the mitzvah is to cover one's head. He explains that a kippah on the back curve of the os parietale does not "cover" as something beginning at the os frontale and continuing to the parietale does.

Disclaimer: I don't know whether this is his own opinion or something he heard from his rav.

Princess Lea said...

SI: Yeah, I don't get the "with-it" kapul. I'm never about the "with-it." I'm about the timelessly chic.

Ooh, when a three year old gets stubborn there is no lever (or in this case, hair clip) that can move them. There will be other days, other battles.

To clarify, I am no democrat, but Obama wears it quite comfortably, doesn't he?

DS: There is too far back and there is too far forward. The point of the kapul is to denote Hashem is above you, so it doesn't have to be on the flattest, most forward part of the head.

That's Oxford for you; a dress protocol for exams. Fabulous. You know what our dress protocol is? Sweatpants.

Sarah: I'm not going to stand in the way of rabbinic opinion; my position is strictly from a chic viewpoint. The issue is not in terms on top, but too forward, or if the kapul doesn't fit the head right. As long as the kapul looks comfortable and not trying too hard, all is well.