Many religions have customs or laws that prefer or even obligate their members to cover their heads. In some countries it is actually the majority of the people who cover their heads and in some it is considered impolite and disrespectful if one does not cover ones head when visiting their community. We are going to provide a glimpse at some of these religious head-coverings to give the reader some idea of different customs and traditions that are out there.


Jewish men are obligated to wear a head-covering called a Kippah (Modern Hebrew) or Yarmulke (Yiddish). What started as a custom of the righteous became accepted as a wide-spread custom. The Kippah is worn by observant Jews all day and the reason given for this is that Jewish people believe that a man should cover his head out of respect of G-d. Even Jews who are not observant will often wear a Kippah in the House of Prayer or at religious gatherings out of respect of the occasion and place. Jewish women who are observant cover their hair after getting married. This practice is based on Biblical sources.


Roman Catholic clergy actually wear a head-covering that looks very similar to a Jewish Kippah. Their head-covering is called a zucchetto. There are other types of apostolic head-coverings such as the mitre, the biretta and the papal tiara.

Orthodox Christian clergy will often wear head-coverings called skufias, kamilavkions or klobuks.


Male members of the Sikh faith wear turbans in order to fulfill one of “The Five Ks,” which are the five articles of faith that all Sikhs are obliged to wear. The Five Ks include Kesh, meaning uncut hair which is worn under a turban; Kanga, a wooden comb usually worn under the turban; Katchera meaning cotton underwear; Kara which is an iron bracelet worn as a symbol of eternity and Kirpan which is a curved sword.


Muslim men wear a skullcap called a Kufi or Taqiyah. Until recent years Muslim men would never be seen without a head-covering. More conservative Muslims, such as those living in Indonesia and Malaysia, will often wear a thin kopiah. A headscarf is commonly worn by Muslim women as a modesty measure.


Buddhists priests in China wear a skullcap that is also strikingly similar to the Jewish skullcap. They call this skullcap a bao-tzu. This is opposed to the one that is worn by Buddhists in Japan that is more of a pillbox and is called a boshi.

There are probably many, many more head-coverings that we didn’t touch upon here- including women’s head coverings and other kinds of men’s head-coverings. Either way, we provided a look into the world of religious head-coverings. It is important to know that although in some places religious people would never dream of any other reality apart from the one that they live in where everyone they knows cover their heads, other religious people live in mainstream society, interact with people from other cultures and don’t always find it easy to wear such a sometimes obtrusive religious article. It is important to be aware of these religious practices so that we can be respectful of one another, of our differences and similarities and to ensure that our global community is one that is accepting, supportive and non-judgmental.


  • The source for the kippah is the Talmud where it is stated that a G-d fearing man doesn’t walk bare-headed.
  • The wearing of a kippah started as a custom and has become a very strong one in religious communities. This is due to the fact that wearing a Kippah is viewed by religious people as an opportunity to sanctify G-d’s name.
  • Kippot (plural of Kippah) come in all shapes, sizes and styles. Jewish people often identify the stream of Judaism that a people affiliates with by the head covering he wears although this was certainly not the reason for Kippot.

It is interesting to note the changing attitude in American secular law towards
the Jewish head covering

In 1986 it was decided that any active military member was obligated to remove his Kippah indoors. The response of Congress was to propose an amendment called the Religious Apparel Amendment.  The Amendment stated that religious head coverings could be worn as long as they were “neat and conservative”, barring extreme circumstances. The Religious Apparel Amendment wasn’t passed for two years.

In 1983 the Jewish Navy Chaplain Arnold Resnicoff succeeded in portraying the Kippah in a positive light. During the Lebanese Civil War two truck bombs exploded in separate buildings which housed American and French military forces killing 299 American and French servicemen. Arnold Resnicoff was present at the time of the bombings and famously tore off a piece of Marine Corps uniform to replace his Kippah which was soaked in blood after he had used it to wipe the face of wounded marines.

The story of Resnicoff’s camouflage Kippah was read into the Congressional Record. This amendment eventually made its way into a Department of Defense Instruction called The Accommodation of Religious Practices Within the Military Services.

It is related that President Ronald Reagan met with “American Friends of Lubavitch” in the White House. To the surprise of those present, the President told them the story of Resnicoffs’ Kippah and then asked for the meaning behind it. Rabbi Abraham Shemtov explained, “Mr. President, the Kippah to us is a sign of reverence”. A colleague by the name of Rabbi Feller continued, “We place the Kippah on the very highest point of our being- on our head, the vessel of our intellect- to tell ourselves and the world that there is something which is above man’s intellect- the infinite wisdom of G-d.”