The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Monday, September 17, 2007

Wide Brims and Other Inyani Hayom

On Rosh Hashanah, while other people in shul were thinking about teshuva and repairing their souls, I was thinking about hats. (Not that it's easy to distract me, or anything).

What got me thinking about this was my friend's father, who sat in the row directly behind me. He is a learned and holy Jew from another generation with deep roots in Amshinov Chassidus. Yet, he was wearing a "black hat" that (a) wasn't black, and (b), had a brim that was about an inch wide.

When did hat brims grow to six inches and more? Is it a macho thing? And when did hats get all black? And when did straw hats become assur?

My father, z'l, was a very good looking man who was always a sharp dresser (although by no means a peacock; he did not fargin himself to spend a lot on his own clothes but was always neat and sharp). I don't recall him owning a black hat. He wore gray hats and brown hats and white straw hats in the summer. Now if you wear hats like that your children will never get shidduchim. (It's actually better not to wear a hat rather than wear a kofer hat).

Ironically, I get why Chassidim wear shtriemels and spudiks; you may not agree with it but at least there is a rational explanation (which causes me to remember my friend, a spudik-wearing Gerrer Chassid, who would, on hot summer Shabbasos, often lament "the Baal Shem Tov couldn't have come from Panama?"). But, sorry, I just don't get why the Yeshivish world went nuclear on the black hat front.



  • At 4:48 PM, Anonymous sam said…

    Love your blog, but quick question on this one......who cares??!!!!

  • At 4:48 PM, Blogger kishke said…

    Re. the wide brims: They look a lot better. Small brim fedoras look dorky and always did.

    Re. the black hat to the exclusion of all else: It's a uniform. Black hat, white shirt, dark suit. That just happened to be what yeshivaleit were wearing when wearing a uniform was suddenly perceived to be necessary. In that way it's the same as the chassidim. Chasidus just happened to come into existence in Russia and Poland, where this was the mode of dress. If it would have happened in the Middle East, all chassidim would dress today like frum Yemenites. There's no more real basis for their uniform than for that of the yeshivaleit.

  • At 5:19 PM, Blogger MoChassid said…


    How long have you been reading this blog? When do I ever write about anything that anyone cares about.


    Your answer begs the question. Why did the Yeshiva velt go that way? What made it perceive that the uniform was necessary. And why six inch brims? The brims didn't start out that way.

    And, if more people were wearing normal sized brims you would think they looked better.

  • At 5:24 PM, Blogger rescue37 said…

    The wider the brim, the more protection from the rain/sun. But now you have the question of how wide does a brim have to be in order for it to be considered a kli and therefore you may be carring on shabbos when it rains.

    The current brim size is all a style (which is probably decided upon from the hat sellers) 30 years ago the style was short brims and wide ties, now the style is lare brims and skinny ties (although they are getting wider).

  • At 7:03 PM, Anonymous Shmiel said…

    at least the style isn't those fuzzy hats with the rain-gutter brims that was the "latest" in 1970.

  • At 1:11 AM, Blogger kishke said…

    What's shver about a uniform? It shows you belong, and helps keep you on the straight and narrow (usually). I happen to thing it's being taken to an extreme, but the concept is not difficult.

    Re. brims: I happen to think wide brims look objectively better, not just b/c they're the style. But rescue37 is right, you can't ask kushyos on fashion trends. That's just the way it is. It's like cuffs on your pants, which were once the epitome of dorkiness, but for the past 10 years have been all the rage.

  • At 7:35 AM, Blogger Jordan said…

    Obviously, the wide brims are receivers foor the satellite TV's the Yeshiva Boys aren't supposed to have.
    I proudly wear my straw hat and Poplin, and "gasp" Seersucker suits in the summer. There is no such thing as Wool for the summer.

  • At 1:10 PM, Anonymous dave said…

    Kishke got it right here. All it is is a uniform, nothing more, nothing less.
    Although if you want to spend your time analyzing fashion trends, just look at the freaky and always bizarre latest fashions that they write about all the time in the NYT.

  • At 2:22 PM, Blogger MoChassid said…

    Perhaps I'm not making myself clear. I know it's a uniform. But why do the hats have to be so wide and why can't the uniform take into account that it's very hot in the summer and perhaps a straw hat would make more sense.

  • At 4:02 PM, Anonymous dave said…

    The same reason that business people wear the same stuffy suits in the summer.

  • At 4:34 PM, Blogger kishke said…

    And the same reason that chasidim wear their much-hotter uniform in the dog days of summer.

  • At 5:29 PM, Blogger MoChassid said…

    business people wear lighter fabrics in the summer (and, increasingly go casual). Chassidim wear their levush because the Baal Shem Tov, et al, came from Eastern Europe where that was the standard dressy levush.

  • At 6:32 PM, Blogger kishke said…

    My point is that once it's the uniform that's what you wear, even if it's hot in the summer. Just like the chasidim.

  • At 8:34 PM, Blogger MoChassid said…


    I understand your point. I'm just curious WHY it became the uniform; why davka enormous black felt hats, the bigger the better?

  • At 9:01 PM, Blogger kishke said…

    B/c suits and hats were upscale, proper attire when yeshivos began establishing themselves in America (50s & 60s). Naturally, that became the yeshiva uniform. Why black? B/c it's deemed a sober, unfrivolous color. Why wide brims? B/c they look better.

  • At 9:40 AM, Anonymous Anon said…

    Tbe next step is to re-engineer the shape of the brim so that gusts of wind from any direction make the black hat want to stay on rather than fly off. Possibly, this enhancement is easiest to achieve with a specific brim width.

  • At 11:22 AM, Blogger Nice Jewish Guy said…


    I've also noticed the widening-brim phenomenon, where hat brims are now commonly wide enough to land a 747 on.

    Please tell me-- and I hate to sound naive, especially coming as I do from a quasi- black-hat upringing-- do people really nix shidduchim and blacklist people because of the type of hat they wear? That's pretty firked up.


    I always said that if chassidus had developed in Revolutionary War-era America, they'd be wearing powdered wigs and knee breeches. (Veise Zocken either way.)


Post a Comment

<< Home