Jan 26, 2015
Which Hat Came First?

From the COLlive inbox: A Lubavitcher explains his confusion about an op-ed critical of Bochurim who want to swap fedora hats for kasket caps.

From the COLlive inbox: A Lubavitcher explains his confusion about an op-ed critical of Bochurim who want to swap fedora hats for kasket caps.

By A Lubavitcher

Its the land of the free, early nineteen forties.

A flow of Chassidim begins to trickle in ever so slowly from war torn Europe. They arrive exhausted by the horrors of a world left behind for good, and are desperate to make it in the new world, to live in peace and be able to support their families respectfully.

The ship approaches the shores of New York, and its passengers blink at the sight of the statue of liberty towering above the New York skyline. As they disembark at Ellis Island, they feel small and overwhelmed, and ever so self conscious of their simple traditional garb: long jacket and casket, and shirtless.

Slowly the long jacket shrinks, and shrinks yet again. A shirt is purchased, and the Chassid even owns two shirts, one for the weekdays and one for Shabbos. The kasket is replaced with a basic fedora hat, as high quality as he can afford.
Now he feels a little safer in the big world. The towering structures of the United States seem that little bit less frightening, and his mind is somewhat more at ease.

The vastest of seas stands between him and the secular society around him. He wakes up in the morning and says Modeh Ani, before rushing off to Mikveh and Shacharis. His mind focused and bigger and better things, he takes his time Davening before reluctantly going out to do his part in eking out a basic livelihood.

He doesnt mind blending in with modern civilization. He doesnt think that a shirt will cause him to be influenced by the mindset and values of the streets. Indeed, an immeasurable gap separates him from those who are not aware of Hashem Echad, and his desire to be one of them is next to nil. But to go about like a Shlepper? Whats the point?

Fast forward seventy years. Mendel is a Bochur in a large Lubavitcher Yeshiva. Mendel was born in Crown Heights, and his planet extends from Gombo's to Sushi Spot, from Kingston to Schenectady.

Mendel passes his days in Zal in a mixture of bull shoving, snacking, and some occasional learning. Mendel lives from camp to the Kinnus to summer plans to next year plans. The little screen in his pocket gives him unlimited access to secularism, so long as it is kept well out of sight of the Mashgiachs prying eyes.

Mendel doesnt know "Ein Od Milvado." The sublime world of yesteryear in which sensitive people took notice of the fine nuances that separate Emes from Sheker is completely foreign to him. Mendel is Chassidish. Mendel eats free danishes at Seder Sichos. Mendel would never leave home without his trusty fedora, by now long out of style. And Mendel is the first to vehemently protest before one and all that kaskets will destroy Lubavitch.

Is it only I who is confused? Or, dear reader, are you confused too?

Most Read Most Comments

Opinions and Comments
A Lubavitcher
You are great writer, of course you are stereotyping. Nah rather Mendel is the exception most of our bochurim resemble the chasidim of yesteryear....
(1/26/2015 8:51:10 PM)
You wrote nicely and kept us entertained. You have quite some descriptive ability and quality writing.
I know I missed the point....
I encourage you to use your writing talent for echad!
(1/26/2015 9:00:55 PM)
u r a great writer
And you are spot on.
And ny the way i think the casquette symbolizes simplicity. Anivus, not into gashmius...unless you are wearing it to make a statement. And the same vice versa. The black hat symbolizes a certain standard in jewishness, unless you are wearing it to make a statement.
(1/26/2015 9:03:52 PM)
aah so so entertaining
i couldn't believe another article about the hats- but yes you are right!!
(1/26/2015 9:23:01 PM)
chassidishe lvush
The tone and negativity of this article is very disturbing!
I agree with.the original op ed, a chassidishe lvush is crucial, not only in the way it defines us as chassidim to the outside, but, as the story of the tzemach tzedeks chossid, a chassidishe
lvush actually beautifies the neshama!
What is a chassidishe
lvush for us as lubavitcher chassidim now? The way the Rebbe wants and expects it to be, the way its always been for us..a (fedora) hat, jacket, white shirt, etc ( with the hat and jacket worn whenever going out into the street..)

(1/26/2015 9:27:11 PM)
You are one talented fellow
Very well written, and to the point.
(1/26/2015 9:45:21 PM)
Our rebbe wore a black fedora, that is why we where one, period.
(1/26/2015 9:46:22 PM)
this is right on
when i studied in sem. in kfar all the boys wore caskets all week. no , they are not less chassidsh then our crown heights boys, maybe the opposite.
since caskets came first it is Kosher v'yosher
(1/26/2015 9:49:49 PM)
i think....
everyone should wear what they want and not make such a big deal out of it. does anyone else feel this way?
(1/26/2015 9:49:54 PM)
a chasidishe look!
how come no one complains " about the cost of every new electronic gadgets on the market " the way they complain about the cost of the hats ?could it be another thing to try and make the community look more modern then it is already ?
(1/26/2015 9:51:59 PM)
I'm not confused
I get it. Darling, we just want to keep our tradition. The rebbe wore black fedoras, so we will too. We will not wear caskets because of some Mendel.
Darling, YOU made me confused...
(1/26/2015 10:21:23 PM)
This is so misguided.
Our Chassidishe levush was NOT established by the thoughtless or thoughtful choices of Chassidim when they disembarked a boat on Ellis Island to forge a brave new path in the New World...

Regardless of what hat various Chassidim chose when they arrived in the USA (including top hats, fedoras, casquettes and baseball caps)...

OUR Chassidishe levush was chosen by OUR REBBE!
There is NO doubt about this.

And no photo depicting OUR REBBE himself once upon a time wearing a casquette will change the fact that OUR REBBE chose a fedora as the 'uniform' of his Chassidim.

Note: This is not chas vSholom to say that a Chossid who wore a top hat or a baseball cap was any less of a Chossid; but make no mistake as to who and how our levush was chosen.

And while the type of hat a genuine Chossid wears is mute, as it is only a superficial expression, make no mistake, to attribute the standard of today's Chassidishe levush to anyone or anything other than OUR REBBE, exposes a grave lacking in hiskashrus and Chassidishkeit of a much deeper kind, that has nothing to do with levush.

May you find your way and your place 'author'.
(1/26/2015 10:57:22 PM)
ATT: writer
Please write more articles, you write so well! A pleasure to read. We need more enjoyable articles! Man O man!
(1/26/2015 11:26:42 PM)
Great article
Unfortunately.....if Mendel were to take off the hat, there might just be no more Mendel... But that's not a reason to keep on the hat.....
(1/26/2015 11:39:46 PM)
to # 12
well said!
(1/26/2015 11:43:39 PM)
Sholom uVrochoh.
With regard to the subject that has arisen recently about what a Chosid puts on his head as a covering:

A fedora is worn today since it is meilevushei Sorei HaMelech, ever since the Rebbe prescribed it, for all intents and purposes. There has been no change in this regard.

(Note: Someone who is working "in the field" might dress accordingly, with cargo pants and a casquette, as applicable in various circumstances.)

Therefore, those who are training as Sorei HaMelech (Bochurim) should undoubtedly dress accordingly, yet, Bochurim should be focusing on Learning, more than chitzoiniyusdike levush. This cannot be stressed enough.
Parents, Mashpiyim and Hanholoh can handle addressing free-market activity.

Nevertheless, a Chosid does not change his Yiddishe levush based on free-market trends. Repeat this as many times as is necessary to internalize it.
Therefore, Chassidim (Bochurim included) should continue to wear levushei Sorei HaMelech (herein, a fedora).

With a Brochoh for Besuros Tovos in all the aforementioned.
(1/27/2015 12:03:52 AM)
u r a great writer
And you are spot on.
And by the way i think the casquette symbolizes simplicity. Anivus, not into gashmius...unless you are wearing it to make a statement. And the same vice versa. The black hat symbolizes a certain standard in jewishness, unless you are wearing it to make a statement.
(1/27/2015 12:23:03 AM)
# 12
how many people so you know that the rebbe asked to wear a fedora? many people wanted to dress like the Rebbe. But the rebbe didn't ask them to buy a fedora. If the rebbe does it there must be a good reason. I don't ask questions. But if I don't want to copy the Rebbe then I'm intilted to serve hashem bsimcha. Do I have to wear. White shirt and a silk capote everyday. What about black shoes. Lubavitcher chasidim where never into levush.
(1/27/2015 12:43:18 AM)
To #12
(1/27/2015 12:45:20 AM)
you are wrong
it starts with the hat then the kapota shrinks and you turn around 2 years later and your shaving your beard
(1/27/2015 12:50:09 AM)
why only the fedora?
I am asking a serious question. If the black fedora is a sign of hiskashrus, then why not also the kapota? Or can I wear a green tweed sport coat and grey pants as long as I wear a black fedora?
(1/27/2015 12:51:04 AM)
u are all funny
while the Rebbe was wearing the lub hat many chassidim still continued to wear casquettes. why would anyone think that they have to wear the same hat the Rebbe wears. The Rebbe is a REBBE, we shouldn't have the feeling we gotta wear what the rebbe wears- that is as if saying if our king wears a crown we should all.
(1/27/2015 12:54:02 AM)
He's right - about more than one point
1) Our yeshivos became so focused on the l'vush that they are missing getting to the inner-bochur, hence the bull-shoving the author mentions. When I was growing up, there was no "white-shirt" rule - certainly not starting in Pre-1A. The kids all wore Danskins - look back at school class pics and you will see what I am saying is true. Please show me where it is written that the Rebbe said for 5 yr olds and up that wearing a white shirt will make one more chassidish. What happened to Shabbos clothing?
2) While you're looking at pics of yesteryear, look through some old farbrengen pics and count how many men are wearing fedoras that are not black. Quite the majority! Today, one who weres a grey/blue/brown fedora etc., is "modern"!? ...and what mashgiach of a mainstream yeshiva allows it.
Unfortunately, we lost the ikkur.
(1/27/2015 1:22:25 AM)
Why is it comming as a thought to change our levush
Then they changed their levush by changing their casket to fedora because of the ways of the goyim and now hat caskets are more in style we are doing the exact same thing by changing that fedora to a casket
And even if right now this mendle without his hat is "no more mendle" - meaning that he is not doing anything for Hashem who knows exactly what he does at all times, he is doing it for his mashgiach which is a problem on its own, now not only does he not want to act like a chossid on the inside, when ppl don't see, but even more so he doesn't even want to act like a chossid on the outside when he is walking down the street he doesn't even look like a lubavitch bocher if he considers himself a chossid he must act like one. So that means that he does what the rebbe wants of him - so he must where whatever the rebbe wants him to where.
The only reason there is a question bichlall is because this mendle now wants to dress like the goyim- so if he truly is a chossid he won't even feel a need to where something different
If the Rebbe only wore a black fedora there must be a reason and even if we presantly in our limited minds can't comprehend it right now , but we know that it exists so this shouldn't even be a question. The Rebbe explains how if you just do something now then later you will feel for it (drop of oil filled many jars) so just do it !!!!
(1/27/2015 1:51:35 AM)
shidduch crisis
As girl looking for a shidduch, it seems like bochurim take off the hat, and put on some substitute in hope that girls will find them more with it. But, unfortunately, the opposite is true. Girls want the black hat. They want commitment to values, and taking off the hat seems to show otherwise.
(1/27/2015 5:01:50 AM)
to #12
If the black hat was chosen by the rebbe as a chassidus levush, how come the rebbe told specific chassidim and mashpiem not to change from their casket or shtreimel. WHO ARE YOU TO MAKE THESE DECISIONS FOR LUBAVITCH!!!
(1/27/2015 5:10:40 AM)
What with terrorist , illness, poverty and teens going bonkers, u going on about hats??!! Time to check what's going on beneath the hat!!!
(1/27/2015 5:16:31 AM)
Much appreciated!
Look back at photos of early farbrengens and you can see the older chassidim (who led lives of untold mesiras nefesh in Russia) wearing casquettes.
Every step the Rebbe took as Rebbe was obviously with precise timing and true dedicated purpose, but if only all our Borsalino/fedora clad bochrim and men would have the Rebbe's real concerns in mind.
The level of hiskashrus for example of Reb Mendel Futerfas Z"L and of all those that were mashpia in Kfar Chabad in the early years under the Rebbe's leadership, inspired generations and left the most stirring, unforgettable memories - the humble casquette notwithstanding.....
Thanks for your creative and well written article!
T.Hecht Israel
(1/27/2015 5:52:52 AM)
Curiosity and Ignorance
What is the argument for retaining the fedoras ... the fact the rebbe wore one? Or did the rebbe speak about it and/or write about it?
(1/27/2015 7:42:23 AM)
23 speaks the truth
Unfortunately there is too much emphasis on chitzonius and not enough of pnimius. A bochur from 20 years ago could be very chasidish and wear striped shirts. Today the bochur who wears white shirts is no where near on the level of pnimius as litlle as 20 years ago.......
(1/27/2015 8:12:11 AM)
Many Lubs had already changed from the fedoras with wide brims to thinner brims
Now ,for different reasons some they want to eliminate the fedora completely
Many people ( shluchim included) wear fedora only on Shabbos
Yetzer ara is a genius ,it works in different avenues to win
We have to go back to fedoras with wide brims,and never change ( no for fashion no for money no for politics
Emet doesn't change. The lebushim that the Rebbe established should not change
If you want to wear cakete is ok, or wathever you want BUT the official lebushim should be the fedora
(1/27/2015 8:12:54 AM)
The point has been missed
The issue is the cost. The Rebbe while wearing a fedora wore the same one for years on end. Now the manufactures are taking advantage just like in any religious article and jacking up the price knowing that the shtetel yidden will blindly follow. We should embrace change on all levels and if people are so worried about keeping the levush and hiddurim of mitzvos let them start a fund for all the peopel that can't afford it or just don't care to live and die by the shtetel rules.
(1/27/2015 9:17:01 AM)
Rav Heller Shlita
I have it second hand from one of his former talmidim who currently a rosh (of a real) kollel, that Rav Heller has long encouraged less expensive hats of the kasket or other russian varietes.

My friend, the Rosh Kollel, told me this as I noticed that he was wearing a fur covered hat.

I like more where the original op-ed was coming from in that there is a modern (and even not so modern) tendency to rationlize, abstract and, ultimately, do away with true holy minhagim, and we need to suspect anything that approaches that, but in this case, I happend to agree that hat minhag does not consist in the fedora model, and that it never did.

But I'm hesitant because of unintended consequences: Right now, we wear the fedora, which is a yiddeshe lavush and a double covering. But whose to say the minhag carries on, when we abstract it from its current application.
(1/27/2015 9:36:20 AM)
So many people who are missing the point
Why are you holding on to the fedora as the symbol of your entire Yiddishkeit/chassidishkeit?

I really do not want my boys growing up with the message that as long as you stick a fedora on your head all's well.

I care more about what's inside your head than what's on top of it.
(1/27/2015 9:55:26 AM)
with the old breed
So does Mendel get married and he and his bride go off into the sunset with their e-lives?
Mendel we love you and wish you the best, the world is makes fun of you and yet you go on. generation after generation, OK so you don't get it... that does not stop you.
thank goodness you have a head or where would you put your hat.
(1/27/2015 10:48:23 AM)
well explaned
but to all of the buchrem its erev yud shvat
stop wasteing your time between a kasket a hat wear whaterver you want just get of of col and sit and learn
(1/27/2015 11:29:55 AM)
to #9 et al.
actually, no, not everyone agrees with "wear what you Like." imagine an army in which everyone wore what they liked. for better or for worse, what you wear helps identify who you choose to affiliate with. as for the cap, casquette, kasket, or however you choose to spell it, (homophones notwithstanding, casket ,to me, is an arone r"l, or a barrel) when worn in the U.S.(i don't know about europe or israel) it's a concession to modernity. The old fashioned Russian kasket was the equivalent of their fedora. A "with-it" kasket on a bochur or yungerman today projects an artsy nuance. ask those who don one on their way to the city...
(1/27/2015 11:45:53 AM)
All the drama is stupidity
What's the changing for?
Borsalino's are too expensive?
So buy from a different company.
Un veiter gefurin.
Hachonos leYud Shvat...
(1/27/2015 11:47:36 AM)
Yakov Kirschenbaum

The anonymous author is choosing to ignore the fact that the fedora has indeed become the lubavitch levush for many years now (thanks to the Rebbe). The fact that 70 years ago, the people were more chassidish or less "megusham" doesn't change that and is irrelevant.
(1/27/2015 1:35:23 PM)
to no. 28
ah nice to hear from you !! i agree wholheartedly
old friend
(1/27/2015 1:42:22 PM)
Very nice article but not a true historical argument
Please , check some immigration history from Europe to us , Chabad history of immigration .... You will find the whole picture and your article will look more according to facts and not your feelings ....
When you want to copy a Rebe , follow his chochma , bina and das , not his outfits ... So doesn't matter what will be on your head , matter what is inside your head ...
(1/27/2015 6:29:17 PM)
I wrote #15
Even though I agree with #12's points, I do believe you have a writing talent.
(1/27/2015 6:38:27 PM)
Which hat came first
Why can't we just choose a different brand hat. Borsalino is way to expensive and they keep raising the prices. Can we get suggestions for other brand hats?
(1/27/2015 9:28:40 PM)
Dear author
Why is this helpful. Of course were confused, issues like these are not simple. And its hurtful when you blatantly expose them, not even offering any kind of solution or answer.
If you don't have anything constructive to say, why write another critical piece that basically gives the message that we are a chitzoniesdik generation and theres nothing we can do about it.
Please use your great writing abilities to spread positive messages!
(1/28/2015 12:50:43 AM)
not important
The focus should be what's inside the head and not what is on top of it.
(1/28/2015 4:12:46 AM)

, ...
(1/28/2015 10:47:10 AM)
According to the Ein Od Milvado
philosophy, nothing exists besides Him, not even your article, not even kaskets, and HaSchem is Everywhere, even in a baseball cap, even inside a Taliban Turban.

So Hashem is certianly inside the Fedora.

I beleive Hashem wrote in his Bible to respect ones Elder's, even if their ways seem old fashioned, fake, and lacks the younger generations tendacy toward the truth's of Ein Old MillVaddo, such as is found in our SmartPhones. Or our Kaskets.

I perfer the OLD old milVaddo.
(1/28/2015 11:02:33 AM)
yes we have to focus on pnimiyus more than chitzoniyus
(1/28/2015 7:22:48 PM)
Although "chabad munt pnimeyus", but wee must not forget chitzoynius either, since "chitzoynius Vaayst Aff Pneemeeyos". and besides, Livushim are Mamshich the Etzem. Also, how can you be mekushar to the Rebbe if you don't wear the same hat that he wore??????
(1/29/2015 11:24:15 AM)
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