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  • Writer's pictureBurhan

The Fez Hat: A Traditional Turkish Headdress

Have you ever wondered what that red, cone-shaped hat with a tassel on top is called? It's called the Turkish Hat or Fez, and it has an interesting history behind it. The Turkish hat, also known as fezzes, is a part of traditional Turkish clothing and has been worn by men in Turkey for centuries. They often wear it alongside a white turban or other brimmed hats as a headdress. In this article, we'll explore the origins of the fez and its significance in Turkish culture.


The name "fez" comes from the city of Fez in Morocco where the fezzes were first made. However, it was not until the Ottoman Empire conquered North Africa that the headdress became popular among Turks. The Ottoman sultans were known for their love of luxury and exotic items, so they began importing these fezzes and turbans from Morocco as a symbol of their wealth and power. The bonnet, however, did not gain as much popularity as the fez and turban among the Ottoman elite.



Over time, the red fezzes became an integral part of Turkish culture and were worn by people from all walks of life. The headdress was first introduced by Sultan Mahmud II in the early 19th century as a replacement for the traditional turban. The bonnet gained popularity quickly and became a symbol of national identity. However, it wasn't until Mustafa Kemal Ataturk came to power in 1923 that things changed. Ataturk wanted to modernize Turkey and saw traditional clothing as a hindrance to progress. As part of his reforms, he banned the turban and encouraged people to wear Western-style clothing instead.


The ban on turbans left many Turks without a head covering, so they turned to the fez as an alternative headdress. Ataturk himself wore a red version of the hat with a tassel on top, which became known as the "Rumi Topi." This version quickly became popular throughout Turkey and other parts of the Near East, especially among sultans who favored fezzes. Some even opted for a bonnet style fez to stand out from the crowd.


Today, while you may still see some older men wearing traditional clothing with a turban or headdress on their heads, most people in Turkey wear Western-style clothing due to the reforms that were implemented. However, there are still some who practice traditional customs and proudly wear red fezzes as a version of their identity.


The History and Origin of the Turkish Hat/Fez

The Turkish hat, also known as the fez, or turban, has a fascinating history that dates back to the 17th century. The red fezzes were worn as a headdress by soldiers during war, and later became a symbol of the Ottoman Empire's power and authority. In this article, we will explore the origins of this iconic headwear and its significance in Turkey.


The Origins of the Fez

The fez, a type of headdress, originated in Morocco in the late 17th century. It was originally worn by men from religious and intellectual classes as a symbol of their status. Over time, the popularity of fezzes spread throughout North Africa. However, during times of war, some men opted to wear a turban instead of a fez for practical reasons.


In the early 19th century, Sultan Mahmud II of the Ottoman Empire noticed how fashionable and practical the fez was compared to other traditional headwear, such as turbans and hats. He introduced fezzes to his subjects as part of his efforts to modernize and westernize his country.


The Fez in Turkey

The introduction of the fez to Turkey marked a significant shift in fashion for Ottoman men. Prior to this, turbans were commonly worn, but they were cumbersome and impractical for everyday wear. The fez quickly became popular among all social classes due to its convenience and affordability. Fezzes, being the plural form of fez, were also widely embraced by the Turkish population.


During the Tanzimat period (1839-1876), which was characterized by reforms aimed at modernizing Ottoman society, wearing a fez became a symbol of progressiveness and westernization. It was seen as an attempt to break away from traditional Islamic dress codes.


However, not everyone embraced this new fashion trend. Religious conservatives saw it as a threat to their traditions and values. They argued that wearing a fez went against Islamic teachings because it did not cover enough of one's head.


The Banning of the Fez

Despite opposition from some groups within Ottoman society, wearing a fez remained popular until Mustafa Kemal Ataturk came into power in 1923. Ataturk believed that Turkey needed to undergo radical changes if it was going to become a modern nation-state.


As part of his efforts to modernize the country, Ataturk banned the fez in 1925. He saw it as a symbol of Turkey's Ottoman past and believed that it was holding the country back from achieving its full potential.


The banning of the fez was met with mixed reactions. Some people saw it as a necessary step towards progress, while others felt that it was an attack on their cultural identity.


Physical Characteristics and Style of the Turkish Hat/Fez

The Turkish hat, also known as the fez, is a traditional headpiece that has become an iconic symbol of Turkish culture. It is a short cylinder-shaped hat that sits on top of the head, with no brim or visor. The fez is typically made of kilim fabric, which is a type of woven wool that is traditionally used in Turkish carpets and rugs.


The Shape and Size of the Fez

One of the most distinctive features of the fez is its shape. The hat has a short cylindrical body that flares out slightly at the top to form a circular disc-shaped crown. The diameter of this crown can vary depending on the size and style of the hat. Some fezzes have a smaller crown that sits closer to the head, while others have a larger crown that stands up taller.


Another unique aspect of the fez's shape is its tassel. This long, dangling ornament hangs down from one side of the hat's crown and adds an extra element of visual interest to its design. Traditionally, these tassels were made from silk or cotton thread and were often dyed to match or contrast with the color of the hat itself.


Types and Colors Available

While all fezzes share similar characteristics in terms of their shape and construction materials, there are actually several different types available depending on their intended use. For example, some fezzes are designed for everyday wear while others are reserved for more formal occasions such as weddings or religious ceremonies.

In addition to these variations in style, there are also many different colors available. Some popular options include bright reds, deep blues, rich greens, and even black or white hues. These colors can be solid or patterned depending on personal preference. For those looking for a unique touch, a Turkish fez hat can add an exotic flair to any outfit.


The Significance of Headwear in Turkish Culture

Headwear holds a significant role in Turkish culture. It is seen as a symbol of cultural identity, social status, and religious beliefs. Different types of headwear are worn for various occasions, including weddings, funerals, and religious events. In this article, we will explore the importance of headwear in Turkish culture.


The Meaning Behind Headdress

Headdress plays an essential role in Turkish culture as it represents cultural identity. The traditional headdress for men is the fez, which was once mandatory to wear in public during the Ottoman Empire era. This red hat with a tassel on top was made from felt and became synonymous with Turkey's national identity.


In modern times, the fez is no longer compulsory but remains a popular choice among conservative Muslims. On the other hand, women traditionally wear headscarves as a sign of modesty and religious devotion. These coverings come in different styles and colors depending on the region and personal preference.


The significance of headwear extends beyond religious beliefs; it also represents social status. For example, during the Ottoman period, only high-ranking officials were allowed to wear certain types of turbans called sarik or kalpak.

Types of Headwear

There are several types of headwear worn by both men and women in Turkey:

  • Fez: As mentioned earlier, this red felt hat with a tassel on top is one of Turkey's most iconic symbols.

  • Taqiyah: This cap is often worn by Muslim men during prayer or other religious ceremonies.

  • Turban: A type of headdress made from long cloth wrapped around the head that was once reserved for high-ranking officials.

  • Kufi: A small brimless cap typically worn by Muslim men.

  • Headscarf/Hijab: A covering worn by Muslim women that comes in different styles such as the shawl, chador, and niqab.

Each type of headwear has its own unique significance and is worn for specific occasions. For example, the fez is often worn during traditional Turkish weddings, while women wear hijabs during religious events such as Ramadan.




The Fez's Influence on European Men's Fashion

The Plain Fez: A Popular Style Among European Men in the Late 19th Century

The plain fez, also known as the tarboosh, was a popular style among European men in the late 19th century. It was initially worn by Ottoman soldiers and officials before becoming a fashion trend in Europe. This hat was made of felt and had a distinctive shape with no brim, a flat top, and a tassel that hung from the center.

The plain fez became popular among Europeans because it was lightweight and comfortable to wear. Its simple design made it easy to match with different outfits, making it an ideal accessory for both formal and casual occasions. The plain fez was available in various colors such as black, brown, green, blue, and red.

Despite its popularity among European men, the plain fez faced criticism from some quarters due to its association with Ottoman culture. In France, for example, there were concerns that wearing the fez could lead to cultural contamination. However, these fears did not stop the spread of this fashion trend across Europe.


The Silver Fez: A Symbol of High Social Status

The silver fez was another variation of this hat that gained popularity among European men. Unlike the plain fez which had no embellishments or decorations, the silver fez featured intricate embroidery work and tassels made of silver or gold thread.


This type of fez became associated with high social status due to its elaborate design and expensive materials used in its construction. It was often worn by wealthy individuals who wanted to display their wealth and status through their clothing choices.


In addition to being a symbol of high social status, silver fezzes were also worn as part of ceremonial dress by members of fraternal organizations such as the Shriners. These organizations adopted the red fez as their official headwear in the early 20th century, which became a distinctive feature of their uniforms.


Red Fezzes: A Popular Choice for Formal Dress

Red fezzes were often worn as part of formal dress by European men in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This type of fez was particularly popular among members of fraternal organizations such as the Shriners, who adopted it as their official headwear in 1872.


The red fez was also worn by military personnel in some countries, including Turkey and Egypt. In these contexts, the red fez symbolized national identity and pride.


The Controversy Surrounding the Banning of Fez Hats in Turkey

Fez hats were traditionally worn in Turkey and were a symbol of Ottoman culture.

The fez hat, also known as the tarboosh, is a cylindrical headwear that was commonly worn by men in the Ottoman Empire. It was made of red felt and had a tassel attached to its top. The fez hat became an integral part of Ottoman dress code and was worn by people from all walks of life, including soldiers, bureaucrats, and religious figures.


In the 1920s, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, banned the fez hat as part of his efforts to modernize the country.

Atatürk's vision for modernizing Turkey included adopting Western practices and values while shedding those that he deemed outdated or backward. One such practice that he sought to eliminate was wearing traditional clothing like the fez hat. He believed that wearing Western-style clothing would help Turks embrace modernity and move away from their Ottoman past.


In 1925, Atatürk issued a law banning the fez hat along with other traditional clothing items like turbans and veils. The law mandated that all men wear Western-style hats instead. Those who refused to comply with this law faced fines or imprisonment.


The ban was controversial and seen by some as an attack on Turkish identity and culture.

The ban on fez hats sparked widespread protests across Turkey. Many saw it as an attack on Turkish identity and culture since the fez hat had been an integral part of Turkish attire for centuries. Some argued that Atatürk's push for Westernization was nothing but cultural imperialism aimed at erasing Turkey's Islamic heritage.

However, others supported Atatürk's decision to ban traditional clothing items like the fez hat. They believed that embracing Western-style clothing would help Turkey become a modern and progressive nation.


Today, fez hats are still worn by some Turks as a symbol of resistance against what they see as the government's attempts to erase traditional Turkish culture.

Despite the ban on fez hats being lifted in 2008, they are still not commonly worn in Turkey. However, some people continue to wear them as a form of protest against what they see as the government's attempts to erase traditional Turkish culture. They argue that wearing the fez hat is a way of asserting their cultural identity and resisting Westernization.


Modern Uses of the Fez: Social Clubs and Young Gentlemen's Fashion

The Origin of the Fez Hat

The fez hat, originally from a Moroccan city called Fez, has a long history of use. It was first worn by men in North Africa and the Ottoman Empire as early as the 14th century. Over time, it became a symbol of Islamic culture and tradition.


Parade Uniforms for Civil Officials in the 19th Century

In the 19th century, during a period of reforms in the Ottoman Empire, the fez hat was modernised as part of parade uniforms for civil officials. This move was intended to create a more unified look among government officials and to break with traditional dress codes.


Fraternal Orders and Social Clubs Adopted the Fez in the 20th Century

In the 20th century, fraternal orders and social clubs began adopting the fez as part of their uniforms. These groups included organizations like Shriners International and Order of Alhambra. The adoption of this headwear added an air of exclusivity to these organizations, as well as tying them back to their roots in Islamic culture.


Young Gentlemen's Fashion Statement

Beyond fraternal orders and social clubs, young gentlemen throughout North Africa and beyond began wearing fez hats as a fashion statement. This trend started around the turn of the 20th century and continued through much of that century. The style became particularly popular among young men who were interested in dressing in a way that set them apart from their elders.


Full Dress and Duty Wear for Modernized Military and Civil Officials

As modernization continued throughout North Africa, military officials adopted full dress versions of fezzes for duty wear. These versions often featured different colours or embellishments than those worn by civilians or members of fraternal organizations.


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The Enduring Legacy of the Turkish Hat/Fez

The Turkish hat, also known as the fez, has a rich history and cultural significance in Turkey. As discussed in the previous sections, it originated in the Ottoman Empire and was worn by men of all social classes. Its unique physical characteristics and style have made it an iconic piece of headwear.

In Turkish culture, headwear holds great importance and is often used to symbolize one's religious beliefs or social status. The fez became a symbol of modernization during the Tanzimat period and influenced European men's fashion in the late 19th century.


However, despite its cultural significance, the fez faced controversy when it was banned in Turkey during the early 20th century as part of Atatürk's modernization efforts. This ban sparked debates about preserving tradition versus embracing modernity.


Today, the fez is still used for ceremonial purposes and has found new popularity among social clubs and young gentlemen's fashion. Its enduring legacy serves as a reminder of Turkey's rich cultural heritage.


As you can see, the turkish hat/fez has played an important role in Turkish culture throughout history. It is a unique piece of headwear that has influenced fashion trends both locally and internationally. Whether you choose to wear a fez or not, it is important to appreciate its cultural significance and legacy.


So why not take some time to learn more about this iconic piece of headwear? Visit museums or read books about Ottoman culture to gain a deeper understanding of its historical context. By doing so, you can help preserve this important part of Turkish heritage for future generations to come.

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