Friday, January 15, 2016

National Hat Day

From a historical perspective, it seems rather strange that there is a “National Hat Day” even listed on the calendar. As recently as 100 years ago, it was not only common for most adults to wear a hat, but to go out bare-headed was often regarded as vulgar.

Like many articles of apparel, hats were often more than just fashion accessories. The hat one wore represented one’s profession or class status. In many places, in different eras in history, specific hats were also mandated for the Jewish people as a means of distinguishing them from the general populace.

While there is an abundance of historical records of church and government decrees regulating the dress of the Jews, the most comprehensive source depicting the clothing that Jews wore may be in medieval artwork. In paintings and wood-cuttings, Jews are often portrayed wearing a distinctive pointed hat.  Such depictions are also found in specifically Jewish artwork, such as the famous Birds’ Head Haggadah. Sometimes the hat appears soft, other times stiff and almost metallic. Most often, by order of law, the hat was yellow or white, although not always.

The Papal laws, most notably those of the Fourth Latern Council of 1215, were aimed at making certain that Jews and Christians did not become intimate. The dress code regulations generally applied only when the Jews (adult males specifically) left the ghetto.

It should be noted that in Europe, similar laws applied to the “Saracens” (Muslims). On the other hand, although less depicted in art – since the painting of images is prohibited by Islam - similar laws concerning distinctive headgear and/or garb was imposed upon dhimmis (Jews and Christians) by Muslim leaders.

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