Hats off to the contemporary kippah. Helen Hill gives us a heads-up on yarmulke trends
SHABBAT MORNING in a London synagogue and the barmitzvah’s uncle steps up to the bimah in his Gucci shoes; a tallit draped over his Armani suit. But alas, sartorial elegance ends at his ears — the white Terylene kippah perched on his head screams confusion between tradition and taste (rather like a wine connoisseur who thinks Palwin No 10 is the only seder libation).
Jewish men have always worn headcoverings as a sign of respect for the Almighty, especially in synagogue and when praying. But even though the skullcap is the most recognisable Jewish symbol, it’s not considered sacred, constrained by any design rules or nowadays, limited to men. In Israel, the type and style of kippah often makes a religious or political statement. In the UK, Prince Charles wears a blue velvet kippah embroidered with his royal crest to Jewish events.
Call them kippot, yarmulkes or cuppels, but forget the old cone-shaped satin skullcaps that sat on top of the head. “People are having fun with the kippah,.” says Chaykah, of Mazeltops, an American purveyor of kippot exported around the world.
Decorations include sports logos; cartoon characters or pirates, playing cards and happy faces. The choice features suede and leather in more than 30 colours, including turquoise, purple, lavender, aubergine, fuchsia, burgundy and teal, plus embossed foil. Fabrics include bright satin; moiré, velvet, brocade, denim and tie-dyed cotton.
British taste is more subtle, says Noa Lachman of Rimmon Judaica in East Sussex. “Many people order white or blue satin kippot, mainly white with silver or white with gold printing inside. But we have had orders for strong pink and red.” Off-white suede is also popular.
In America, grooms are often seen in a knitted gold and white kippah adorned with silver flowers, while bridal couples often design them for guests to match their colour scheme — and the groom’s tie. Chayka of Mazeltops reports that “one groom had me paint a custom logo of his friends’ favourite sports team on the kippot — others ask us to embroider the groomsmen’s names on them.” For bar and batmitzvahs, the trend is for kippot to match the theme. “I just got off the phone with someone who is taking our ‘Peace Love and Happiness’ kippah and making it ‘Peace Love Soccer’. Someone else did ‘Peace, Love, Music’.”
To top off its vast collection, the Mazel Skull Cap Company in New York comes straight to the point — a kippah bearing a photo of the barmitzvah boy.
From top: classic velvet in shul colours; self-pattern black suede; contemporary embroidery and mosaic-inspired patterning; rosy satin. From a selection at Rimmon