Sunday, March 14, 2004

Hats hats hats

Of all the Chassididshe clothes I have to wear the one that bothers me most is the hat. People living outside Chassidusville can have no idea how expressive our hats can be. Like mushrooms to a professional picker each one speaks an entire story.

Real Chassidim don’t have dents on the side of their hats. Only Lubavitchers do, so anybody with a dented hat is already one below par.

There is also texture to consider, Rebbishe Chassiduses go for furry felt while balabatishe (civilian) types favour regular felt. For anyone unaccustomed to our hats a simple finger-test will suffice to ascertain this. A 2mm pelt will indicate it belongs to someone from Bobov, Belz or Viznitz. Smooth is probably a Satmarrer or a Gurrer unless if it’s one of those frummer-do-gooders who wear a round hat with a groove in the top. They refuse to belong anywhere and think that just because they happen to believe in God they can be above all that. Wankers!

A word of advice here if you do happen to touch a laidigayer’s hat and rub the flock the wrong way, make you sure you brush it back before he notices. It is the mark of a true liadigayer to have a flawlessly flocked hat so a single brush the wrong way could ruin some poor guy’s credentials.

Of course you have styles within each style too. A low furry hat that looks like a flying saucer is either a Satmar bochur or one of those Neturei Karta who demonstrate against Israel whenever they can get the world's television cameras to train on them. A straight squarish furry hat worn back-to-front is generally a Viznitzer though it could always be a Belzer or Bobover up to no good who prefers that whoever sees him should think it is a Viznitzer doing it. Bobover hats are identical to the Belzer ones but usually cleaner so an expert can tell. A smooth Felt hat with a round dent in the top is always a Satmarrer while a bowler with a longish groove is a just a Shainer Yid (Jewish toff or nob).

Shabbes is a day of rest. Then everybody but the Gerrers (who always have to be different) wears the same Shtreimel. Again the real expert can tell the difference but you do have to have lots of experience for that.

I hate the hat because it is such a difficult thing to look after. Apart from having to protect it from the rain, which is difficult enough, I hate seeing people wearing the bloody thing with a dustbin-liner on it even more. I hate having to find somewhere in the car to put it, where it won’t get squashed. I hate having to find a place for it on the plane. I hate having to hold it when the wind blows or risk feeling like a clown as I chase after it on the street if I don’t. I hate having to wear it indoors when I am the only one wearing one and I hate being caught out at some Chassidishe gathering where I am the only one without one. I hate seeing tiny little Barmitzva boys floating along under huge hats where from my angle you can see no face at all and I hate it even more when I come to a park or the beach and see people dragging their hats along there too.

Ok I will admit there are times when it does come in handy. It is a perfect fan when the air-conditioning is down and it certainly does a fine job as a fly swatter.

James Monroe The 5th US President is famous for having said, “Religion is not so much believing as belonging.” (I suppose it is no accident that a famous Chassidic town is named after him.) He was incidentally nicknamed ‘the last cocked hat’.

There are many cocked hats in Monro today with each angle having its own special meaning. Wear it back with some hair showing in the front and you are a Shvitzer, wear it forward and you are being studious. Too big and you are a Frummer, too small and you are a shaigetz. Too wide you are a Rebbe too narrow a laidigayer.

Oh yes, and somewhere or other there is a God involved here too, I just can’t seem to put a finger on where.


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