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A city of many hats

by michael November 11 2008
Nice hat.
Hello pork pie hat.

The true language of Jerusalem doesn't appear on any street signs. You won't hear it spoken on Ben Yehuda or Emek Refaim or Salah Ad-Din streets, or anywhere else - yet every Jerusalemite speaks it. To become one of them, to truly gain fluency in Jerusalem, you must acquaint yourself with the arcane code language of the hat.

Head coverings may have fallen out of favor decades ago in the West, but in Jerusalem they remain de rigueur for huge percentages of the population. And like police officers who can sniff out gang affiliation by the color or placement of a bandana or the style of a tattoo, veteran city residents can identify to which of the city's many ethnic and religious factions passersby belong merely by what hides their hair. A scarf or a wig. Hijab or niqaab. Fedora or pork pie. Velvet or knit. Keffiyeh or kufi. Western or Byzantine mitre. Each piece of headgear is a dictated by firm tradition, and each tells a story about its wearer.

So it was only a matter of time until some intrepid photoblogger embarked on an ambitious program of documenting the hats of Jerusalem. That photoblogger is the aptly-named Jerusalem Headgear.

As I walk the streets of Jerusalem, where I have lived for two years now, I am constantly amazed by the variety of headwear. Here, more than anywhere else I know, people express their identity through their hair and head coverings. There are the black hatters, the knitted kepah wearers, and all manner of variations. There are wigs and scarves for the ladies, both Jewish scarf wearing styles and Muslim scarf wearing styles. There are nuns' habits and Eastern Orthodox hats, and the occasional monk wearing a hood. And that doesn't even include the secular element, who, though they don't have religious significance, still flaunt their individuality through their head adornment, from outrageous dye jobs to the latest haircuts and styles.

Now that's street fashion Jerusalem-style. The blog is only a few days old, but already is home to a couple collections documenting the hats of religious Jews, male and female. Jerusalemite loves it so far, especially the context and history. Hopefully next we'll get to hear how each Hasidic sect came to choose its unique hat - it doesn't get any more obscure than that.

Image courtesy of Jerusalem Headgear.

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