Religious Head Coverings Guide
The practice of people wearing head covers and veils for religious purposes is an integral part of all three monotheistic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), as well as other faiths and cultures. The first records of women wearing head coverings dates back to13th century BC Assyria. Women of nobility began wearing head coverings in order to set themselves apart from women of lower social status. In Christianity, women were guided by the bible to cover their heads to signify spiritual submission to God and their husbands. Here is a guide to head coverings, listed by religion.
Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy
The wearing of chapel veils was part of the early Christian tradition. It signified humility and modesty. This tradition continued into the early Catholic church. Though not as common today, veils are still worn by some Catholic women. The tradition is not to be seen as a woman displaying inferior status to men. Rather, the veil (or mantilla) covers what is sacred and cherished. The veil is a viewed as a symbol of reverence to God's will. The clergy in the Catholic church still wear several types of head coverings.
- In the Roman Catholic church, veils are part of the habit worn by some orders of nuns or religious sisters.
- Veils come in different sizes and shapes depending on the religious order.
- Some are elaborate and cover the entire head, while others are pinned to the hair.
Kamilavka & Epanokamelavkion
- A cylindrical hat worn In Eastern Orthodoxy that is covered with a veil.
- Worn by both nuns and monks of the Eastern Orthodox faith.
- Worn by Bishops in the Roman-Catholic Church.
- A tall, peaked hat with a deep cleft on both sides.
- Two ribbons at the back symbolize the Old and New Testaments.
Muslim women cover their heads and part of their face in accordance with the Islamic principle of dressing modestly. Some of the garments cover the hair, ears, and throat, although the face is exposed.
- The Niqab is a facial veil. This type of covering conceals the entire body, head, neck and face but has openings for the eyes.
- The Half Niqab is created with a head scarf and a facial veil which allows the eyes and part of the forehead to be seen.
- This type of covering is banned in many European countries.
- The entire body and face are covered.
- The wearer sees through a mesh screen that covers the eyes...
- This type of covering is banned in many European countries.
Islamic women often wear an Abaya with their head covering. An Abaya is a black, loose fitting garment that conceals the body.
The tagelmust is a cotton scarf up to 15 meters long worn by Tuareg Berber Muslim men throughout western Africa. The tagelmust covers the head and is pulled up over the mouth and nose to protect against windblown sand. When the cloth is dyed indigo blue, it often rubs off on the skin, which explains the nickname for the Tuareg, “blue men of the desert.”
The practice is part of a modesty-related dress and behavior standard known as tznuit. The guiding principle is that neither men nor women should dress in a provocative manner overly emphasizing their physical attributes. For Orthodox Jews, once a woman is married, she should only show her hair to her husband in private. It is considered part of the sacred bond between a husband and wife. For many, it is an important way that married woman say to the world that she is not available. Many women in the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community shave their heads.
- A wig worn by Jewish women to cover the head.
- Many wigs worn by Jewish women come with Kosher Certification, to ensure that the hair does not come from rituals that would be considered idolatrous by the faith.
- Sheitels are avoided by some Hasidic groups as they could give the impression that the woman's head is not covered.
Kippah or Yarmulke
- The practice of men wearing yarmulkes is an ancient tradition for Jewish men and boys that honors God’s presence.
- Jewish Halacha law requires men and boys to cover their head when they pray, at synagogues or Jewish cemeteries, and while studying Judaism.
It is the accepted practice in Ashkenazi Jewish communities for men and boys to wear yarmulkes all the time, except when swimming, showering, and sleeping. In Hasidic communities, males typically wear yarmulkes even when sleeping. Many observant Jews of Sephardic descent only wear a yarmulke when eating and davening (reciting liturgical prayers).
This monotheistic religion was founded in India's northern Punjab region in the 15th century. Sikh men and women view the dastar (a type of turban) as an article of faith representing honor, self-respect, courage, spirituality, and piety. Wearing a dastar is also practical because it keeps long, uncut and unruly hair covered.
Biblical scriptures (in particular Corinthians) explain the tradition among Amish women of covering their heads with a simple white or black organdy head bonnet. Amish women pin their long hair up underneath these prayer head coverings, removing them in the evening. The style, shape, and color of the cap varies by community. Amish men always wear a distinctive type of straw hat when they are out of the house; a distinguishing feature common to the various sects of Amish people.
The commonality in most religions is that head coverings are viewed as a sign of modesty, and/or embody both religious customs and practical purposes.
Choosing the Right Fabric for your Religious Head Covering
Religious head coverings are an intensely personal choice, so you’ll want to be thoughtful when deciding upon fabric. At Headcovers, we use only the best materials to deliver head coverings that feel amazing and last for years. Here’s what you need to know:
Silk, Chiffon & Satin
- Silk's luscious, swoon-worthy material that drapes like a liquid and feels like heaven.
- A silk head covering appears almost luminous.
- Silk is an incredibly strong material that can last a lifetime when properly maintained.
- Top picks: Solid Silk Square Head Scarf and Pre-Tied Scarf Headcovering .
How to Care for Your Religious Headscarf
The correct method to care for your religious head covering depends on the material it’s made of. Check the package and attached label to see if care instructions were included.
In general, Cotton and bamboo can be machine-washed on a delicate cycle with gentle detergent. To dry, we recommend tumble drying low or hanging to avoid shrinkage. Silk should usually be hand-washed to help avoid tears and to preserve the sheen of the fibers. Avoid harsh detergents when washing religious head coverings. Tide PODS, for example, are a no-no. Instead, opt for a gentle soap such as Woolite.
Pro tip for silk head coverings: After washing your silk scarf with soap, dip it into a bowl of water mixed with a generous splash of vinegar before rinsing in cold water. The vinegar helps restore luster and shine to the scarf.
Read our guide, Caring for Hats & Scarves , for step-by-step instructions on how to wash your religious head covering.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I tie a religious headscarf?
It likely depends on your practice of faith. While some religions encourage full coverage of the head and neck, others merely suggest partial hair coverage.
After deciding what sort of coverage you feel comfortable with based on your personal faith, take a look at our How to Tie a Headscarf guide, which has beautiful illustations and videos demonstrating our favorite methods.
Set aside some time to practice tying your religious headscarf, as it may take a few tries to perfect the technique.
My religious headscarf keeps sliding off. How can I make it more secure?
We’re happy you asked! Whether you’re wearing a head covering for religious purposes or not, the pesky “sliding” feeling can be controlled with:
A Scarf Gripper. This lightweight, skin colored headband grips the scarf’s fabric to hold it in place.
A Bamboo Viscose Comfort Headband. Breathable and 3 ½” thick, this headband comes in ten colors and is made of antibacterial bamboo.
A Bamboo Scarf Pad. Not only does this scarf pad add a flattering fullness, it’s super silky smooth against the skin and can be easily washed.
Are there rules about what color my religious headscarf should be?
There are guidelines in some religions regarding the color of religious head coverings; for example, Amish women tend to wear black or white. However, in the Islamic faith, the color of a hijab is usually more of a personal choice.
If you’re wondering what the color of your religious head covering should be, consult with a trusted spiritual leader or role model. He or she may be able to point you towards a guiding principle or religious text that indicates if your religious head covering should be a specific color.
Can any scarf be used as a hijab?
A hijab is defined by the ideology and personal faith of the wearer, not by anything “special” about the scarf itself. In that sense, any scarf deemed acceptable by the individual wearing it can be used as a hijab.
However, most hijabs are at least 36” by 36” in dimension so that they can be easily tied. Our Oversized 100% Cotton Woodblocked Hand Stamped Head Scarves and our Large Cotton Square Head Scarves are all 36” by 36” – and come in beautiful colors and elegant prints.
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Comments, Questions & Ratings
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What about the guys that but their hair in bags then put it on their head (Posted on 04/14/2019)
Very helpful. (Posted on 04/03/2019)
It clarifies my ideas about the shawl or veil for mass. (Posted on 03/19/2019)
Where I live in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, the Mennonite community women wear different hair coverings, the little girls dont wear them until puberty, Im told that within their community, different churches mandate color (black or white) and/or whether or not the women are to wear them, many many do. Some of their groups the women do not wear any jewelry not even a wedding band. Interestingly, also here in the same valley is a large community of Russian Orthodox, in contrast to the Mennonite women, the Russian women wear beautiful bright colors and silk dresses. They both cover their hair. The Mennonite women wear the prairie dresses in muted neutral colors the Russian women in very bright colors!! (Posted on 09/22/2018)