Adonis Diaries

Headdress: sign of revolt

Posted on: June 14, 2009

Headdress (June 16, 2009)


            Versatility and creativity in women headgears and hair fashions are the sure sign of a rebellious spirit among women.  When uniformity in hair design and headdress are witnessed in a society then the system is veering toward a one-directional path in religious beliefs, ideological indoctrination, or political structure. 

            During the Arab Islamic civilization that spanned from 640 to 1400 al kinds of hair fashion and headgears were designed and adopted.  The western fashion didn’t catch up until the last three centuries and most of the styles are varieties on what have been used many centuries ago.

            The grand daughter of Caliph Ali Sukayna refused to wear the veil; she adopted a special hair fashion that even men emulated. Caliph Omar Abdel Aziz had to whip men using Sukayna’s style and shaved their head.  Sukayna refused to keep distant from male society and conversed with poets and entertained erudite in her cultural salon. She denied her husbands (five in total and descendent of noble families) marrying another wife, having extra-marital relations, or even forbidding her to meet with her woman friend.

            The grand daughter of Caliph Abu Bakr Aicha Bint Talhat was very beautiful and refused to wear any kind of veil saying: “God distinguished me from the other women with beauty. I would like men to notice and recognize my superiority.”  Aicha toured the Kaaba without any veil and the governor of Mecca changed the schedule of prayer to suit Aicha.  The governor was sacked but Aicha couldn’t care less.

            In fact, in all civilizations only rich women could afford to wear veil or fashionable headdress.  Working women in the field or active securing a living for her family could not be encumbered with redundant headgears. Veil and “designer” headgears were the domain of the super class in social hierarchy. Clothing and headgear were codified and regulated at all periods so that every class would remain within its limit of fashion.

            Olayya, the sister of Caliph Haroun Al Rasheed had a mark on her forehead; she wore a bandana to cover the spot; bandana became the rage. Women loved turban and imposed that style most of the time regardless of the reticence of the clergy.  Actually, headdresses were more targeted than other garments. The Mamelouk Sultan Qayitbey interdicted women of Cairo to wearing bonnets exhibiting coq crests in 1471; women rebelled and preferred to go out head naked.

            During the reign of the Moslem Mogul Genghis Khan exuberant hair fashion reached the zenith.  The more the number of fine plaits (reaching over 40 plaits) the higher was the rank of women; the longer the length of the plaits (reaching the small of the back) the nobler was the woman.  Only princesses were permitted to wear hats and then covered by colorful veil.  The other women of various ranks wore scarf of white gaze or flowery.  In the 13th century, princesses imposed on elegant women to stick feathers on their hair and then covered by veils (chechias).

            Mini skirts were the fashion at a period; shirts with extra large sleeves (for example as the musketeers are shown in movies) were predominant in Egypt in 1390; the vice-Sultan regulated the size of the sleeves; when the Sultan returned from his trip then women returned to their preferred fashion adding more tissues to their sleeves.  The more tissue entered in clothing the higher the sign of rich status.

            Wearing veil can sometimes send a strong message of revolt in political direction. For example, in Tunis of 1975, a woman professor of philosophy wore the veil (Hijab) to teaching in class as a political stand against President Bourghiba’s laws discouraging women to wearing head covering.  Moslem women were expressing the desire to advance Islam values after the ideological defeats of western capitalism and Marxism. The veil was a counterattack on cultural aggressions by the western civilizations.

            The more women care for elegance the healthier is society in cultural diversity and freedom of expression. A European lady was touring Egypt in mini skirt and very short sleeves; she complained of mosquitoes to an acerbic Dutch priest; he replied “I certainly cannot complain as much as you do. The airport surface for mosquitoes in my case is far reduced”.  Man also created varieties in headgears; mainly for protecting their skulls in battles; frightful and ugly metal helmets protected of a few injuries but never of concussions. Women had to face dangerous situations after their men returned from wars.

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June 2009

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