We are quite familiar with the red fez hat that was popularized in Turkey by the Ottoman Empire, but did you know about its rich history? Aside from the origins of this simple headwear, it was quite controversial too. Let’s learn more about the Fez hat.
The Fez hat started during the Ottoman Empire. Sultan Mahmud II wanted to replace turbans with a more modern look. In 1925, Kemal Atatürk banned the fashion piece to impose modernization.
The History of the Fez Hat
In the 19th century, during the height of the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Mahmud II mandated that the fez be the official headdress of his new army. The Ottoman naval command inspired this move.
The hat got its name from the Moroccan city of Fez. It was named after the city because the crimson berry used to dye the hat’s felt was sourced from there. Historians are not able to completely pinpoint the country of origin, but it could be anywhere between Greece, Morocco, or Turkey. What we are sure of, it was popularized in Turkey and was used throughout the Ottoman Empire. (Source: Daily Sabah)
What is the Symbolism of the Fez Hat?
Aside from being a symbol for the Ottoman Empire, it was also affiliated with different religions. Jewish men wore the fez but often referred to the hat with its Arabic name Tarboush.
Through the 19th and 20th centuries, the fez was the headwear of choice by both Muslims and Christians. Eventually, the fez became the cultural identity of the Turkish people. (Source: Daily Sabah)
Where Else Was the Fez Hat Used?
The hat became a trend in the United Kingdom and the United States by the 20th century. It was part of the men’s luxury smoking outfit. It seemed to give off a romantic yet exotic vibe.
The military also used different versions of the fez hat. It was made with a round metal plate to serve as amour. A skull cap was also hung like a curtain down to the upper shoulder and neck to protect the person wearing it.
Several fraternities also used the hat during their gatherings. Organizations like the International Order of Alhambra, Mystic Order of Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm, Knights of Khorassan, Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World, the Loyal Order of Moose, Ancient Mystic Order of Samaritans, and the Shriners. (Source: Trip n Travel)
Why Was the Fez Hat Banned?
The fez hat became the traditional headdress in Turkey. It was at this point when Mustafa Kemal Atatürk banned the use of the hat in 1925. His reason for doing so is to promote modernization. Since the hats were closely connected with the Ottoman empire, he felt that they did not fit his plans on reform.
To this day, the ban on the fez hat still remains, and there has been no change to the law. While it is still illegal, the implementation of the law has softened. You would not get into any trouble for wearing one. If you’re looking to buy a fez hat, you can easily purchase them in tourist destinations like the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. (Source: The Hat Realm)