My Skullcap Fixation: Tragic or Visionary?

The title of this post is clickbait in that I am pretty sure my skullcap fixation is visionary and if you think it’s tragic, that’s your damage. But I am no more a portion of god than any of you skullcap haters out there, so I manufactured some humble ambiguity.

Note: Some of this writing on skullcaps is taken from one of August 22’s Patreon bonus posts. Subscribe for $2 or more per month to get two bonus HR posts a month and be the first to know about my obsessions and prophecies. I can’t guarantee their prescience, but I can strongly believe in it 🙂

Another Note: I recently wrote a polemic re: how much I hate fashion week for my Patreon subs (again, 2 bucks a month for shit that could get me in trouble if the right/wrong style editors found out) and all that still stands. I am using fashion shows in this post to illustrate my conception of the skullcap as a garment with specific aesthetic and symbolic implications because they are the easiest way to do so and are the most pointed historical texts I know of to support my fervent claims. I still hate the runway show rigamarole, I just love skullcaps. Ok, let’s get on with it.

You may recall (how presumptuous of me, wow, you might have no clue what I’m on
about and that’s fine) my… some would say “unhinged”… proclamation that Jewish
aesthetics should be made fashionable in competition with the Catholic stylings that
have been prevalent amongst Gen Z since, it seems, the Heavenly Bodies Met Gala in 2018.

It may have been a little wild at the time, but I seem to have been on to
something, as a certain accessory has been popping out from behind every corner of
the internet I pass by in my Hebraic wanderings: the skullcap.

For a goy (non-Jew) (I’m Jewish, if you couldn’t guess thus far) wearing an actual
yarmulke/kippah as a fashion statement would not only be the bad flavor of cultural
appropriation (kippot are sacred accessories meant to strengthen the connection of the
wearer to god) but also, in my opinion, not a great look. And of course, Judaism is not
the only religion with a skullcap-adjacent accessory: some Muslims and African
Christians wear kufi caps, the pope wears a zucchetto, others wear a taqiyah, kufi, takke, etc. etc.

But I think the skullcap as a secular garment will soon be coming back after its more recent resurgences in the 1920s, 60s (doing the 20s), and 2000s in different variations on the crocheted cloche. I much
prefer these iterations to the 20teens fuckboy’s brimless cap. Think of it as an evolution of the crocheted chapeaus popularized in the past few years by brands like Emily Dawn Long and Memorial Day. This trend would align with the resurgence of late-oughts, post-Y2K (maybe “Bobo“-ish?) style, manifested in Jean Paul Gaultier’s Spring 2008 Ready-to-Wear show in tastelessly orientalist style:

Styled independently of the weird para-pirate theme that characterized the show, these caps would rock. More tightly-knit skullcaps did rock at the GmbH Fall 2022 Menswear show, styled with oversized and stiffly draped garments, qualities that seemed to mock their own traditional masculinity when contextualized alongside details such as chunky fur cuffs that referenced the hand muffs typically coded as a feminine accessory.

The skullcaps functioned to expose the levity in what could otherwise be experienced as a self-serious collection: one of their aesthetic qualities is their emphasis of the size and shape of the head. Pressing to the skull any hair the wearer might have, the skullcap is a visual reminder of the relative smallness and vulnerability of a human skull, incredible when considering what it contains. The exaggerated shoulder slopes and low hemlines of many of GmbH’s coats exacerbate this impression: see the center image above, where the model in red’s head appears cartoonishly tiny.

At the same time, the aforementioned religious connotations of the skullcap come through in this collection, encouraging the viewer to imagine the clothes as an alternate universe’s religious vestments (an interpretation supported by the simple color palette largely comprised of greyscale and crimson, hues that evoke the solemnity and vitality of sacred imagery, the priest’s clerical garb and the blood of martyrs) and balancing the levity with a sacrosanct undertone.

Looser-woven skullcaps look great studded with jewels, as in the Saint Laurent Fall 2019 Ready-to-Wear show, where they light sparks atop what I otherwise feel are not noteworthy looks:

A similar effect can be achieved by weaving metallic threads into the fabric itself, as Gemsun did with their Sunset Cap, which I own and have espoused the virtues of many times over.

They look great on long hair. They look great on short hair. They are one of the rarefied pieces of headwear that people with buzz cuts look great in. They can run the gamut from grungy and magical to hippie-twee, even within the purview of a single design house, as can be seen in the contrast between Anna Sui’s Spring 1993 (below left) and Spring 2011 (below right) Ready-to-Wear collections.

They can add softness to a look:

via Dazed

Or sportiness, as with this Boca Juniors cap I picked up today at keak vintage, the best vintage store I’ve found in Buenos Aires by FAR thus far (more on it later) (ignore the awful lighting, we are in a temporary apartment right now):

Or they can simply be deployed to negate a difficult/cowlicky hair day (this one is from keak as well):

In conclusion: The crocheted/knit skullcap is perfect for people whose fingers itch to slap a beanie onto their heads in the height of summer, looks ineffably mod and charmingly vintage at the same time, simultaneously profane and holy, can be handcrafted or bought from a hand-crafter on the relative low, and is genderless and flattering to all.

Here are just a few skullcaps you can find online, but the coolest, most visionary vintage store near you might have a few.

Here’s an affordable, vintage, and extremely sweet option. Please wear it as shown below and not pushed back like a fifth grader in ‘08 as shown in the other photos on the listing. ($23.49)

I own and love the Gemsun take on the crochet skullcap in white with silvery threads (it also comes in black with gold threads) woven throughout and think it will be a seasonless staple in my wardrobe–the white will wear well in winter, the shimmer is festive enough for holiday garb, hell, I could even wear it to (a more liberal) synagogue on the high holidays. ($90)

I shouted this cap out in an HR post back in March. I’m not bragging that it was
prescient, but… ($123.25)

Lastly, Olivia Irja creates amazing handmade caps and bonnets and would be the perfect person to commission one of these from. (Price on request)

I’m inserting my spiel, in an unadvisable fashion, at the end this time, because there were so many notes up front I didn’t want to clog up the works, but if you made it this far: te quiero. Estoy encantade contigo. Besitos, besitos, besitos.

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Thank you SO MUCH for your support, whatever you are able and willing to do to help is extremely valuable to me and I’m honored to be a small part of your life on the web.

<3 HR

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