Traverse City Record-Eagle


April 13, 2008

Hats Off To Fashion: Yarmulkes go beyond basic black


Looking for a black satin yarmulke like the one your grandfather used to wear? Sure, you can still get it. But why would you want to, when stylish and offbeat options abound?

There is trendy camouflage and preppy madras plaid. Sports symbols and cartoon characters. Custom designs and colors upon colors. They are knit, crocheted, hand-painted and fashioned from leather, suede and silk.

The yarmulke as it's known in Yiddish, or kippa in Hebrew, is a headcovering "worn as a sign of respect to remind one always that God's presence is over us and as a sign of respect whenever we say a blessing," says Rabbi Joel Meyers, a leader of the Rabbinical Assembly, which represents rabbis in the Conservative Jewish movement.

While the skullcap is among the most recognizable Jewish symbols, it is not sacred, which makes it acceptable to adorn it with sports logos or TV characters, says Meyers, who usually wears a knitted yarmulke.

"The important thing is the wearing of the kippa, not what's on the kippa," Meyers said, recalling one given to him with a propeller he thinks signifies "spiritual uplift."

So as the sun goes down April 19 and Passover arrives, take a look around the Seder table or the world around you. A yarmulke may tell you something you didn't know about say, cousin Fred (does he really like the Grateful Dead?) or may have a great story behind it.

If children are at your holiday table, you could find the likes of SpongeBob or Spider-Man peering back at you. For trendy teens and adults, there are coverings with skulls and crossbones. There's also a skullcap for Passover that looks like matzah.

"It's almost like you can trace the history of pop culture through yarmulkes -- whatever is popular in society ends up on a yarmulke print," says Sara Schwimmer, whose sells several fashionable skullcaps, including ones with playing cards and pinstripes and another just for dogs.

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