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Haredi Jews often recognized by their distinctive dress, including large black hats. But while black hats that are worn during the week and fancier (sometimes fur) hats are favored on Shabbat and other special occasions. These are generally worn over top of a kippah because two head coverings are considered more meritorious than one.
These are all large, cylindrical fur hats usually worn on Shabbat or festivals and to weddings. The streimel is a very wide brown hat made from animal tails (usual fox, marten or minx) while the spodik tends to be taller and dyed black. Because a spodik is dyed, it is a less expensive hat, though neither style is cheap. Which one you wear is usually determined by the Hasidic sect of which you are a member.
There is a great deal of lore around the origins of these hats. Some believe that, like other elements of traditional Hasidic garb, shtreimels were simply fashionable in Eastern Europe in the early modern period. When Poland was conquered by Napoleon in the early 19th century, many Poles started to wear more western styles, but Hasidic Jews retained more traditional Polish styles, including the shtreimel.
Not all Hasidic Jews wear fur hats. Members of Chabad, for example, favor fedoras. During the week especially, other sects wear hoiche hats: black, high-crowned hats with brims. The platiche biber hat is similar but has a lower profile. Sometimes, a rosh yeshiva, the head of a Jewish house of study, will wear a variation of one of these hats with the brim turned up.
A salesman at Ferster Quality Hats in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood Mea Shearim suggests rabbit felt hats made in Hungary for around $200. Twice the price of made-in-China, but he says they last much longer. Emily Harris/NPR hide caption
Hasidic men spend several hundred dollars on their felt hats of old European lineage. Though all hats are black, the peak and cut varies by sect. Some ultra-Orthodox Jewish men wear large, round fur hats for Shabbat and special occasions, spending as much as several thousand dollars for a high-quality, handmade "crown."
For religious and Orthodox Jewish women, dictates of modesty can mean a wig after marriage. The more natural-looking, the more expensive. Otherwise, all kinds of hats, caps and scarves are available, at all kinds of prices.
And then there are hats to let Israelis worship the sun but not burn their faces. Available year round at Israel's seaside resorts (Dead, Red, Galilee and Mediterranean), they are of mostly middling quality with prices to match.
The story sounds so far-fetched that one can hardly believe it to be true. But if it is true, at least it tells you that round about, say, 1896, one could buy enough black ink in Yampol to stain a man's hat(!). Also, that the town must have had at least one shop which sold men's (new) hats, which "The Buba Bassie" could have bought for her husband honestly, instead of thinking up this wild scheme to cover his old hat with black ink (which must have taken her hours, surely, - quite apart from the vast amount of ink she would have needed). All for the satisfaction of tricking her husband, and for what little change from a rouble that was left. 781b155fdc