Ashkenazi yarmulkes from around 200 years ago closely resemble the Yerushalmi style - white knitted with a tassel on top. Today, the vast majority of Chasidim and Yeshivish Jews seem to wear black velvet yarmulkes, with some notable exceptions. When and why did this change take place?

  • I guess the question could be asked in reverse - when and how did Ashkenazi Yarmulkes start resembling today's Yerushalmi style ones (with links to photographs)?
    – Seth J
    Nov 11, 2011 at 9:42
  • Seth, how can the question be asked in reverse?
    – avi
    Nov 11, 2011 at 11:54
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    FYI, in “Teshuvah, A Guide for the Newly Observant Jew”, Adin Steinsaltz writes that because the male head covering is a not a matter of mitzvah, there are no requirements about how it should be made. As to the shape or materials there are no limitations. The various types of headgear are a matter of local or communal custom. Halakhically meaningless details can take on a certain significance so that various kinds of head covering can signify very specific things to both religious and non religious people. Nov 11, 2011 at 15:00
  • @avi I assume Seth means that we might as well ask how it is that many Yerushalmim wear yarmulkes like those worn 200 years ago and never adopted the standard black velvet.
    – yoel
    Nov 11, 2011 at 19:44
  • 3
    this obsession with what type of kipa you wear is strange and unproductive. (not making accusations just saying thos who have this obsession need to re-examine their priorities) many I have met seem to think they can judge your personality and your level of commitment based on the type of kipa you wear. This is wrong. No is no difference in any style of kipa. They all serve the same purpose which is to remind us that G-d is all around us and we should conduct ourselves properly as such. The best kipa for you depends on your personal preference and what you like to wear on your head.
    – Dude
    May 26, 2014 at 20:22

3 Answers 3


I heard Rabbi Berel Wein discussing that Rashi's headcovering (in the animated film made by Rabbi Wein) is red, maroon, and/or brown. The historical research shows those were men's colors for Jews in Rashi's time and place. Someone objected that it should be a black velvet yarmulka. Rabbi Wein replied that black happened in the 1400s as a result of a Church decree that colors were too happy for Jews, they should only wear black. Much later, some rabbis came along and said "I see the Jews wear black; that's nice, it's a sign of humility."

That doesn't completely answer the question, but it's probably a piece.

(Of course, Rabbi Wein's questioner replied, "oh um ... but you still should have made it a black velvet yarmulka!" Rabbi Wein: "What's next? Rashi with a shtreimel? When is it wrong to tell the historical truth?")

  • Well, as you may know, even Moshe Rabenu wore a streiml...
    – yoel
    Nov 11, 2011 at 19:45
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    1400s doesn't make sense since the questioner is asking about the 1800s.
    – avi
    Nov 12, 2011 at 22:37
  • Chasidic bekeshes also used to be white and have also changed (not got dirty!)
    – preferred
    May 26, 2014 at 20:25
  • Some chabadniks today wear dark red, brown or navy blue velvet kippas -- somewhat similar to the colors R' Wein mentioned.
    – Kordovero
    May 27, 2014 at 0:17
  • In Eastern Europe, prior to the mid 18th century, it was common for the baalei battim to wear colourful clothes, but some rav paskened that it was problematic, as it attracted anti-semitic attacks Feb 3, 2015 at 0:01

One odd thought might be related to size? As you knit a kippah it takes more effort as the outer rim gets larger and larger. I asked my sister once to knit me one, but I have a big head and like a big kippah. She did it once and refused after that saying it was so much work to do big ones.

Cloth kippahs have no major additional cost in effort (material is cheap) to make larger sizes.

I doubt this is a real answer, but something to consider.

  • In Israel, the larger knitted kippot are much more common than the smaller ones. Especially amongst people who live in areas where there is a lot of manual labor. (they fall off less)
    – avi
    Nov 12, 2011 at 22:37
  • @avi Excellent points. Also why I wanted larger ones. But my experience with larger knit kippahs is that the thread is much thicker and thus much less effort to make larger.
    – geoffc
    Nov 13, 2011 at 0:19

From this Google Books search you can see a few references in the mid- and late-19th century to Jews in Europe (including Polish Jews and a Jew from Italy) wearing black velvet kippas.


I assume that they became popular because velvet appears formal and dressy, and would have looked good with formal black coats. But I have no real information on why the change took place.

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