You wouldn’t think that men’s fashion would be a critical factor in the world of Orthodox Jewish dating. But judging by the profile setup questions of several Orthodox Jewish online dating sites, it seems as though Orthodox women are scrutinizing at least one element of male garb — the Kippah (otherwise known as yarmulkah, yameka, kappele, skullcap, beanie).
To be fair, it’s clearly not a question of fashion. The kind of Kippah a man wears is a symbol of the Hashkafah (religious philosophy) or religious subgroup he identifies with. But it’s so much more than the fabric of the Kippah — it’s the position on the head, the size, color, design and if and how it’s held in place.
When a single Orthodox woman checks out a single guy, the first thing she does is look at his head to see what kind of Kippah he’s wearing. Based on the results of that initial evaluation, she decides whether he is date worthy or just friend zone material.
If you’re old enough to understand that a guy’s kippah doesn’t always accurately represent the actions of the man wearing it, then you should NOT be eliminating men without looking beyond the piece of fabric on his head. You should either do some more research or simply go out on a date to make sure you’re not passing up a good potential based on faulty superficial analysis.
If what’s inside a man’s heart and mind is important to you, then it’s worth doing your homework (however you choose) before making an exclusively Kippah-based decision. Often times men wearing a certain type of Kippah do not necessarily follow the ideals or Hashkafah represented by it. So why do they wear it? Could be they like how it looks, they want to fit into a particular crowd (or family), or they just don’t think about the symbolic statement they’re unknowingly making.
Given the current reality — that men WILL be judged by the Kippah they wear, I’ve decided to provide you with a brief rundown of the different types of Kippot (plural for Kippah), and what they each represent. If I had more time and wasn’t so lazy I’d provide color photos of a handsome looking fellow modeling each one — or maybe men with different sized heads — but the possibilities are endless and I’m much too busy and lazy, so I hope the written word suffices. Please use your imagination.
1. Black velvet – no design
The world of black velvet is broader than you think. Just go to a seforim store in Flatbush and browse the selection. But I need to keep it simple here, so I’m not going to get involved in details like number of sections or height.
A real yeshivishe kippah doe not require a clip or pin to hold it in place. That’s because it’s big enough not to fall off (even when shokelling). If you’re wearing one that needs a clip/pin then you’re declaring you’re modern — which means you’re gainfully employed or at least aspire to be, wear clothing of many colors, and surf all of the web. If it seems a bit too small and/or you’re wearing it really close to your forehead, you might also have a thick wad of keys hanging off your belt or a smartphone or beeper strapped to your hip. You’re ready for action — although it’s unclear what kind. (there’s a yiddish term used to describe this type of guy but I forget what it — please remind me in the comments!)
When worn with white shirt and black pants, the velvet kippah speaks much louder. Hardcore. Worn with conservative colors and style, it’s hipper yet serious. With all black or jeans, beware.
If the kippah looks a bit too large and awkward — brand new baal teshuvah.
2. Velvet – other colors
I don’t think they even make velvet kippot anymore that aren’t black, so the man wearing one might be really old or have just attended a reform bar mitzvah.
3. Velvet with design or words
Chabad. If you want moshiach now, or at least a photo of him — this guy is for you!
4. Huge knitted kippah with thick yarn (not sure what the technical term for this is because I don’t knit, but I think you know what I mean) — often carrying a guitar or other portable musical instrument. Loves Carlebach Kumzitses, and Kabbalat Shabbat dancing. Not very materialistic. If the Kippah is white and he’s jumping, be prepared for annual junkets to Uman.
5. Huge knitted kippah with fine crochets. Usually white with a design pattern around the bottom.
This is the Merkaz Harav, Chardal, settlement dweller style. The man wearing this is similar to his serious Yeshivishe counterpart except that he doesn’t just wear black and white, believes in the State of Israel and serves in the IDF (with joy). In most cases if you don’t want to live in Israel, move on.
6. Same as #5 but a bit smaller and often black.
This guy is in practice similar to Modern Yeshivishe with Zionist beliefs. Don’t let the fabric of his Kippah fool you, he’s serious about Halachah minus the black and white uniform and shtick.
7. Small knitted Kippah
Some of these are really tiny (even for my 4 yr old), and they often symbolize a more relaxed approach to Orthodox observance. Frankly, it’s really hard to lump all tiny kippah wearers in one category. If you’re interested you need to investigate individually.
8. Blue or black suade
This is the kind you’re most likely to see handed out at a non Yeshivishe wedding or Bar Mitzvah. It’s popularity stems for the fact that it’s parve. It’s neat, matches most outfits, lies fairly flat on the head and doesn’t attract much attention. The guy wearing this usually identifies with the more “right wing” elements of Modern Orthodoxy. Some of them should probably just move into the modern Yeshivishe category by switching to velvet, but for ideological reasons they just can’t. If the suade kippah is large enough they might even get a pass, like a silent promotion.
If there are more Kippah styles you’d like to discuss, let me know. I think I’ve covered the major ones.
Here’s my bottom line advice –
To Women: Don’t judge a man by his Kippah alone. Look a bit deeper to see the real person.
To Men: Being in the middle is always tough. In today’s market, where decisions and dates are often made based on ticking a single box or choosing a specific category, you need to decide who you are and present yourself in a way that is consistent with your “brand”. It’s unfortunate that it has to be this way, but you need to look and dress in a way that accurately represents your religious outlook in order to attract a like-minded woman. By the way, same goes for women.
To All: If you’re confining yourself to matchmakers or dating sites that put a bit too much emphasis on Kippah style, maybe you should consider trying a different strategy and branching out.