Is The Kufi Hat A Fashion Or Religious Statement?

by Vivian Bens
8 min read

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n today’s society, fashion influences nearly everything we do. For emphasis, open your laptop and search Google for the keyword “fashion”, and watch hundreds of blogs pop up on your screen.

Another way to do this is to peruse a celebrity’s social media page. At first glance, you will notice the latest beauty trends, on-trend ensembles, and/or flamboyant color coordination. Although fashion might be a trendy phenomenon, it also has its roots anchored in history. For centuries, clothing has played a significant role in every culture, custom, and religion.

Case study

To further buttress the link between fashion and culture, here is Somalian fashion model Rawdah Mohamed—an Instagram influencer, blogger, and health care activist, and also Vogue’s first hijab fashion editor. Clearly, Mohamed’s fashionista statement was associated with her faith and culture. Mohamed obviously uses the hijab to represent her faith while making a fashion statement. Just like the hijab, the Kufi hat can be worn by non-Muslims. It is only wise to wear it in a manner that is sincere and won’t be interpreted as a mockery of Islam.

What is a Kufi Hat?

A Kufi hat is a round and brimless cap worn by men in most parts of Africa and South Asia. They come in diverse designs and cuts, and while they could be worn for religious reasons, it is predominantly a cultural fashion gear.

The Kufi Hat controversy

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When traditional clothing, such as the Kufi hat, is worn to make a fashion statement, rather than a spiritual belief, it tends to stir up controversy. For instance, when a man wears a Kufi hat, it is automatically assumed he is Muslim. While that is often the case, it’s risky to make such assumptions. It’s already been established that wearing Kufi isn’t streamlined to Muslim practice or religion in general, as it can be worn equally by Christians, Muslims, Jews, and followers of African traditional religion, and should be done without judgment. Simply put, when the Kufi is associated with one particular meaning and belief, it misrepresents the cultural heritage of its origin.

Is this a case of cultural appropriation?

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When talking about Kufis, or any clothing connected to traditional culture, there’s the risk of “cultural appropriation.” But is it the case with the Kufi Hat? The simple as is no! For example, it could easily be understood why a Muslim without a solid knowledge of the origin of the Kufi might become offended by a non-Muslim displaying the Kufi on their head. When we realize the Kufi is open to anyone, this issue of perceived cultural appropriation becomes less of a problem.

Let’s delve into the origin and significance of the Kufi Hat

African culture

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West Africans had been known to wear the Kufi in the early days. Traditionally, African grandfathers and other older men wore Kufi to emphasize their status as elders and/or family patriarchs. In addition to the Kufi Hat, Nigerians are also known for wearing the The Aso Oke hat and the Abeti-aja, a triangular Yoruba hat. Even in North Africa, their kufis were often associated with The Fez—a wool cap also called a tarboush.

The Kufi hat has been a normal headgear in Africa, and till date comes in different variations. The crown style kufi being one of them, has always been an African traditional style of hat, which is evident in Nollywood movies. In West Africa, a king or tribal chief may have royal or noble arms embroidered on his cap to distinguish him. These regal men often pair the Kufi Hat with a formal dashiki (an African attire) in a way that connotes affluence.

Peace

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According to blogger Tia Muhammad, “The Kufi is also a sign of peace, mourning, renewal or protection of the mind. Hats like the Kufi and Kofia can be seen in almost every region of Africa, and are part of many official national African costumes…in particular. It depicts one as showing pride in their culture, history, and religion”.

The fashion statement

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Over time, there has been a longstanding argument if the Kufi Hat is a religious, or fashion statement. The problem with relegating the Kufi Hat to a religious wardrobe piece is when it becomes a violation for a non-Muslim to wear it. Needless to say, it limits its versatility. Musicians with oversexualized lyrics and vulgar behaviors have been known to wear the Kufi unapologetically. Does this mean they have violated a hat with solely religious significance?

For instance, Bobby Brown (Late Whitney Houston’s husband) was spotted in his music videos “Good Enough” and “Humpin’ Around” wearing a Kufi while dancing sexually with the video vixens, and singer Usher Raymond rocked a Kufi shirtless while pulling down the side of his pants halfway toward his waist. These videos depicted sexual appeal on a level that could offend a religious individual ignorant of the Kufi’s true origin.

The problem with the religious misconception of the Kufi is that it would be fair to say that both Brown and Usher engaged in major violations of specific religious abuse, especially given that both singers have made it known that they practice Christianity and not Islam.

Also, in today’s world, it’s not mandatory for Muslims to always dress in traditional Muslim attire, especially outside of special occasions like weddings, funerals, graduations, prayer days and special parties.

If you’re searching for cool ways to rock the Kufi hat, check out these styles for inspiration…

#1. The traditional way

Photo Source: @yomicasual

This is the most common way to wear a Kufi hat, especially in Africa. Men of all age range pair the cap with traditional attire and head out for different occasions. The sophisticated look always garners the respect and admiration of onlookers.

#2. The Denim vibe

Photo Source: www.sisicouture.com

Denim is a classic wardrobe piece that keeps giving, and one of the reasons is because there are so many ways to style the piece. The Kufi hat isn’t left out of the countless ways denim can be sported in an oh-so-cool manner.

#3. Sporty Kufi hat look

Photo Source: @slumlordshabazz

An athleisure ensemble is a perfect blend between comfortable and stylish—the kind most style enthusiasts aim for. Pull the Kufi hat into the cool kid’s corner by styling it with a casual sporty ensemble.

#4. Kufi but make it pop

Crotchet is the IT trend now. From accessories to outfits, the trend is definitely hot right now. In the heat of summer, there will always be a place for vibrant hues. One way to rock a Kufi hat is to make it a colorful crochet moment. This can be worn with any casual fit in your closet.

Photo Source: www.ubuy.co.it

#5. The suit way

Photo Source: @ebdesignplaza

Wearing a suit shouldn’t be reserved for serious board meetings. Spice up your suit look with a SUITable Kufi hat, mostly if you want a toned-down formal look. Play with colors and silhouettes for a whimsical yet a la mode appeal.

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