NEW YORK (AP) --
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 PopJudaica.com sells several fashionable skullcaps, including ones with playing cards and pinstripes and another just for dogs.
In general, the most observant Jewish men and boys wear the kippa at all times, while others may only don the headcovering inside synagogues or at holiday celebrations at home. In some branches of Judaism, a tiny minority of girls and women wear them.
When Chaykah Hoffman's oldest son was starting school in 1987, she painted the "Ghostbusters" logo onto a skullcap because she didn't want her 3-year-old wearing an "ugly yarmulke." When people at school asked if she could get more, her business, Mazeltops Yarmalkes, was born.
Back then, says Hoffman, of Tarzana, Calif., she sold mostly white, black, navy and gray. But in the last five to 10 years, she has added colors like orange, yellow, fuchsia, seafoam green and kelly green.
It is the less observant Jews who still buy the plain yarmulkes, because they want something traditional if they're only going to wear them a few times a year, she says.
"The more religious tend to go for the fun designs," says Hoffman, who is Orthodox.
While the size and style of skullcap holds political and religious significance in Israel, there is not much of a uniform code among Americans.
With the expansion of the marketplace in the last decade or two, young children are often seen wearing yarmulkes with the Hebrew alphabet or cartoon characters. Large Bukharian skullcaps with roots in Uzbekistan also are popular with children because they don't require clips. Older students like to show off their school's insignia, favorite sports team and Zionist beliefs.
While yarmulkes ordered in bulk can cost $1 or $2 apiece, specialty yarmulkes range from about $10 to $25.