A furry tale: On the tail of the ‘shtreimel’s’ origins

This colorful account is often retold, and was recorded by the early scholar of hassidism Ahron Marcus (1843-1916).

By LEVI COOPER
September 13, 2017 22:05
4 minute read.
In Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s ‘The Beggars’ (1568) the tails pinned to the backs of characters are l

In Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s ‘The Beggars’ (1568) the tails pinned to the backs of characters are likely an indication of their status as social outcasts.. (photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)

 
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One of the great mysteries of the hassidic wardrobe is the origins of the various forms of fur head-wear that have become recognizable visual markers of hassidic affiliation: shtreimel, spodik and kolpik.

Where did the fur chapeau so favored by hassidim come from? One of the most cited narratives describes how the furs are distinctly Jewish items of clothing that were originally forced upon the Jews as a mark of shame. According to one version, an antisemitic Polish king decreed that married men must wear animal tails affixed to their heads on Shabbat. The wives, seeing their husbands with animal tails, would find them despicable.

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