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The Tichel: A Short History of Headcovering Fashion

December 18, 2011 in Arts, Beauty, Culture, Fashion, feature, Fun, Head-Coverings, Jewish Home, Kallas

There are so many headcoverings styles available today, but the tichel headscarf remains the quintessential Jewish woman’s headcovering.

The tichel is what our Jewish great-great-grandmothers wore on their heads, whether they were baking Challah in Chelm,  Pita in Persia, or Bagels in Brooklyn!

If you look at your old family photo album, you will see that different tichel styles, from a simple shmatta tied behind the head or under the chin babushka-style to more elaborate and flattering styles.

Check out this photo of my great-great-grandmother Gitel, sporting a shpitzel.

A shpitzel had a trim of lace or silk to frame the face so that from (very) far away it looked a little like hair.  Shpitzels are still worn by some chassidic ladies of Hungarian descent, though they look more like a stiff hair-piece nowadays.

Bubbie Gitel was really a very warm woman, despite her serious photographic expression, and she took pride in her elaborate, embellished headgear. According to family story, she was quite upset that shpitzels went out of style in her day and her own daughter wore  regular tichels.

But it’s no secret that for most of the 20th Century, most Jewish women considered even tichels to be frumpy and unflattering. Wearing such a “shmatta” on your head was not something that a modern woman could consider. For many, shaitels have solved that problem and there is nothing more to discuss. Some people say that shaitels are not modest enough, but certainly they have made the mitzvah of head-covering possible and even normal for so many Jewish women, during an era when tichels were not socially acceptable.

But the tichel has been enjoying a comeback in the past 10 years. Married Jewish women, young and old, are starting to wear them again.

What has led to this headcovering revolution?

The New Tichel

The past few years have seen the emergence of all sorts of new-style tichels with flair. Perhaps this trend began during the Indian wig crisis of 2004, where serious suspicions of idolatry were cast upon our shaitels. During those confusing, shaitel-less days, Jewish women everywhere scrambled for a reasonably attractive alternative.

That’s when the pre-tied bandana first appeared!

Applique Pre Tied Bandana

Seven years later, who can imagine life without their favorite go-to pre-tied bandana? The choice of pre-tied bandana styles is expanding everyday – you can choose from different prints and designs, with appliqué details or studs. The side flower look is really in.

Traditional-style tichel’s have also got fancier and the use of stretch fabrics means that they now actually stay on your head!

Even the humble snood, which was once strictly for bathing the kids and frying schnitzels, has gone trendy. The new embellished snoods have even inspired many women to dare to wear them outside the house.

In Israel, the creative juices are flowing among a new breed of talented head-wear designers. Ready-to-wear pre-tied tichels made with layers of coordinating fabrics and an appliqué detail on one side are just starting to go mainstream. Check out this stunning tichel by Israel designer Tohar.


Good enough for Shabbos dinner with your mother-in-law? You never know.

Strange that it looks kind of like Bubbie Gitel would have worn!

In the meantime, have a great time shopping for a new tichel at our favorite online tichel store!

So tell us… do you wear a tichel around town?

8 responses to The Tichel: A Short History of Headcovering Fashion

  1. I think that tichels came back in style long before the Indian wig crisis.

  2. I learned from my local headgear saleswoman that the layered tichel is called a “sinar” (apron) since it has “straps” on the side like an apron. Unwrapped, it really does look like one.

  3. I like the high collar style top on Bubbe Gitel, zt”l.

  4. That layered Tohar tichel is GORGEOUS! Wow! And I love the explanation about how the lace on the shpitzel looks like hair at a distance.

  5. There are TONS of women who were snoods out all the time (unadorned), but I think they’re really unattractive.

    I don’t even think it’s a question in Israel that plenty of women wear a tichel all the time. In any place that I’ve lived in the United States, even a pretty tichel could be considered unprofessional or weird, or be confused for a hijab or African headdress.

  6. I wear tichels most days, berets (that I crocheted) occasionally, and structured hats a few times a year. My sheitel (that I got married in) hasn’t come out of its box since sheva brachot…

  7. I saw the photo of your grandmother on Pinterest – it would make a lovely addition to JPiX, Jewish Photo Blogger’s Blog Carnival. Can you submit it? Just use this form:

    Thank you so much!

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