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 Bar Mitzvah Readiness: The Hat
Orthodox Perspective by Rivka C. Berman

In yeshiva circles nothing says manhood quite like a dapper black fedora. Boys tend to begin wearing a black hat once they reach bar mitzvah age or when all their friends begin wearing theirs.

Some speculative reasons for the hat.

First, halacha. The Mishna Berura (91:12) writes one should wear a hat during prayer because it is unseemly to appear before someone of importance without a hat. However, current social convention may undermine this reason.

Second, uniforms. From the army to the local minor league baseball team to the Mounties, any uniform worth its salt comes with a hat. Wearing a yeshiva-style hat signifies identification with a certain brand of observant Judaism. The fedoras step beyond the yarmulke, which is shows particular allegiances on its own.

Third, souls. In Jewish mysticism a Jew is thought have five types of soul: nefesh, ruach, neshama, chaya, yechida. Three of these, the nefesh, ruach, and neshama, are said to dwell within the physical body. The chaya is acknowledged with a yarmulke and the yechida with the hat. Some say a second layer of fabric is enough, thus one of the reasons behind the custom to wear velvet/fabric yarmulkes which are comprised of a fabric top layer and cloth backing.

Black reigns as the color of choice for these hats. One respondent to a hyper-mail Torah forum email volley opined that black is a color of humility.

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