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Is That J-Lo Style?

Is That J-Lo Style?

My Journey to Haircovering

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It all started in the elevator at Time Warner in Los Angeles. I had recently wed. As a traditionally observant Jewish woman, to my own surprise, I began covering my hair every day.

As a baal teshuvah (one who returned to an observant Jewish life) who took on many mitzvahs, Jewish commandments, over a span of several years, the one remaining question around Pico/Robertson was: would I be covering my hair?

I did not know myself whether I would be ready to take on this challenging mitzvah, but I knew for sure that I would at least wear a hat to synagogue and to any Jewish events.

I took my private kallah (bridal) classes with the Rebbetzin before getting married and learned about all the origins of this mitzvah as well as all of the wonderful side effects this could have on my marriage and family.

Well, being someone who likes to do things right and do the right thing, I knew I'd be taking on this mitzvah, as much as I could. Besides, I've always loved wearing hats. My J-Date photo, before I was observant, was of me in a hat!

This felt different and ethnic, and committed So as it were, I began covering my hair with hats that would cover at least the crown of my head, and the rest of my hair would come waving down just past my shoulders. This felt different and ethnic, and committed. I liked it! So instead of donning the cap just when I figured other Jews would see me, I kept my head covered at all times I was out of our house. From the day after the wedding forward I simply could not turn back. I was forever changed. I was now Mrs. and that meant there was only one man who would see my full head of hair, and that was my husband.

A few months after the wedding, we traveled to Israel for our honeymoon and my first visit there ever! Worries about what I would do if I didn't feel anything there faded away the moment I stepped off of the plane onto Israeli soil, or, actually, tile floor in the airport. I felt like I was home. This was MY land.

So while I was "home", I felt comfortable to experiment with different Israeli fashions. One of them was the wonderful way of tying head scarves which a cool, hip, young Israeli sales girl helped me with in the Bat Ayin boutique in Jerusalem.

I wrapped all my hair into these beautiful colorful scarves and let the long corners of the scarf hang around my shoulders like strands of hair themselves. (My husband loves this look.)

I felt exotic and Jewish and committed.

That was it, my hair did not fall down onto my shoulders in public again. My hair remained and remains hidden under a hat or scarf.

I thought I was getting way too much attention Back in LA, people at work started to notice that I always wore a hat. The comments began to flow. "You must really love hats", "Do you have like 100 hats at home?" "Is this a new thing since you got married?", "Are you going to cover your hair every day, for the rest of your life!?"...

That question actually caught me by surprise. I never thought about it in terms of the rest of my life. I was just getting up every day and covering my hair. But the truth was, I was having that "committed" feeling along with it, and I knew I was going to be Jewish for the rest of my life, and I knew I planned to be married for the rest of my life, so all of a sudden I realized, "yes, I suppose I am going to cover my hair every day, for the rest of my life". The person who asked me seemed shocked that I would be able to or want to do this. But I thought of all the crazy choices that people make in their lives and all the alternative ways in which people live and the things that people do every day, and was this so crazy? No, it felt absolutely freeing and positively personal and real...and Jewish...and committed.

The hats and scarves have led to many great discussions with Jews and non-Jews alike and many admire me for the choice. But the all time greatest head covering moment, and the moment that KosherCool was born, took place in the elevator at Time Warner, where I worked in Los Angeles, California. The people in the building worked for the various Time, Inc magazines, such as People, Teen People, Entertainment Weekly, Sports Illustrated, and many other "fashionable" magazines. Although I worked in audiobooks, these are the people I shared office space with every day.

As the doors of the elevator slid open, I stepped onto the car with a couple of other women; we all smiled and said "good morning". I was wearing a brown feux suede cap that day with my hair tucked inside.

One stylish woman says to me, "What style are you wearing? Is that J-Lo style?"

"No," I said, "it's not J-Lo style, it's just my own style."

"It's great", she said

And what I was really thinking inside was "Uh, it's observant Jewish married woman style?"

Who'd have guessed? Was I going to be the next cover of In Style?

Well, no, I wasn't going to make the cover, but I suddenly realized that head coverings were "cool". In fact, they were KosherCool!

At first, I thought I was getting way too much attention for doing something that is supposed to be a gesture of modesty. But I soon realized that all the sincere conversation about Jewish life that emerged from simple questions about my "cool wrap" or "nice hat" provided the cross cultural forum for creating positive views of Jews, for clearing up myths about orthodoxy, for connecting with other Jews of all kinds, and for making deeper and more real connections with people in general, and most importantly for living a committed life.

I love this committed feeling. Even when there are days that I don't feel like covering my hair, that I think I might look "prettier" with my hair down, days that I can't find a hat or scarf to match my outfit, I do it. I cover my hair anyway, because that's who I am, because I'm Jewish, and because I'm committed, and because there is only one man who will see my full head of hair.

And now when anyone asks me what style I'm wearing, I tell them "It's KosherCool!"

Linda Korn is a freelance Grammy Award winning audiobook producer, musician and Koshercool(TM) wife and mom.

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Anonymous June 21, 2013

Since my marraige a couple of years ago, my hat collection has become very broad...I love being able to decide what to wear next! Whenever we visit a new place, my 'touristy' purchase is always a new head cover! Why do I wear a cover i am asked? Not only am I reminded that I am under a covenant with my husband, with G-d and to show the world this, but I am also reminded of the wonderful places and times my husband and I have spent together and travelled together! Who wouldn't want that? :)

I am disappointed with some of the comments made by other readers. It's as if the idea of modesty and head covering is frowned upon, based on a modern standpoint. I live in a city in Canada and sometimes get odd looks...as does my husband for wearing a kippah and his tzittzit untucked. We sometimes hear whispers and sadly, laughter at times. It's an odd world and I am pleased to not be influenced by modern society. I gladly do what I think HaShem is asking. A covering reminds me of that. Reply

F New York, NY November 1, 2010

Ladies, if a head scarf doesn't go with your image, try a wig occasionally - Ricky's has a few normal-looking blonde ones among the party wigs. Very easy, cheap, comfortable, good-looking. Forty dollars. Washable in cold water. Super easy, on a bad hair day or any day. It helps if you have short hair, or just pin your hair around your head and wig on. Reply

F New York, NY October 31, 2010

Having gorgeous hair, easily, and doing a commitment to a mitzvah all at the same time, is FUN. We are allowed that - we are supposed to serve G-d with joy. Judaism is not ascetic. We are allowed to love beauty, and to be beautiful. That's not slavery to any patriarchy. Synthetic wigs today are beautiful, inexpensive, and wash and wear. They frame your face, look great, and both do, and do not, make a religious point, depending how you play it. There is nothing wrong with saying to co-workers, "no, I don't have cancer, this is religious". Strangers just think you look good. If they figure out you're an Orthodox Jewish wife, that's fine too. The Rebbe liked wigs best; now I see why. They DO stay on. He respected women, and knew they would love looking good. I can have any hair I want now, and change it any time. Woopie. Kind of fun. Reply

Elaine Thompson Alpena, Michigan September 12, 2010

The hijab, or even a head scarf, is Arab, and it's been said is, "trying to be Arab." African Muslim and African American Muslim women wear colorful headdresses, instead. Muslim women in the hijab bear the brunt of public attention and criticism, whereas, Muslim men get off scott free because they look like everybody else. More important, their physical freedom is not restricted in any way.

Until Muslim men wear the equivalent (identical) to the hijab, I think the hijab is ego-driven, false modesty, showing off, and has nothing to do with spirituality or degree of devoutness. The huns aren't over-running the continent any more, either, that women have to shroud themselves. Reply

Anonymous Blacksburg, VA September 10, 2010

Most of the time, I think it was women who invented the head covering = modesty thing. Seriously...it's yet another accessory to play with in the morning. :)

And unlike a purse, you don't have to carry it, so it's shabbat-friendly.

I can't bring myself to do scarves out of the home though...I feel like they interrupt the outfit and offend my aesthetics. (Occasional exception for when I'm dressing Bohemian.) Reply

Ancient Christian Fairfax, VA January 31, 2010

Great article! I am an indigenous (pre-Arab) Egyptian Christian. Many older women in our services--whether Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant--cover their hair loosely, usually a white lace scarf draped over the hair but not tied. Also, many of the lower-income classes in Egypt, whether Christian or Muslim, wear creative headwraps daily.

I, however, agree with those who lean towards "G-d sees the heart, not the head." The comments here reflect similar ones from some "fundamentalist" Muslims and evangelical Dominionist Christians: that 21st centruy uncoveredWestern women are the ones who are ruled by men's desires and the head-coverers are the "real liberated" ones.

I believe no such thing. Whether you undress to please the male gaze, or cover up to avoid it, both are two sides of the same patriarchal coin. Patriarchy was in the Bible and Quran, but that does not mean that it is what G-d wants for His children forever. . I am a human being made in His image. Peace, sisters. Reply

Elaine Thompson Alpena, MI July 8, 2009

That women today "have fallen for a counterfeit 'freedom' and 'power'" is only too true. Showing skin has little to do with either.

It started with the late 1960s social revolution. Once upon a time "MInding your manners" meant that there were unwritten rules you followed-- out of "respect!" (what dat?) Except for parties, one kept covered and men still do! But suddenly all such rules were out. Though I'm sure there were underlying political and economic agents, from my vantage point this was to protest the utter control that parents exercised at the time when women were back in the home after WWII (as after most wars) and they aimed to rear perfect children! I remember one of my daughters asking me at the time as I talked about appropriate dress for the occasion, "Who made that rule?"

Is the answer a shroud for sheep? Women are dressed by a bunch of middle aged men in Hollywood and N. Y. who promote the hooker look for ever younger ages.

No, not freedom or power. Reply

Carol Huntington Woods, MI July 8, 2009

Yeah, it takes a lot more fortitude to dress modestly today. Modesty is the new naked! Reply

Anonymous Otis, OR July 5, 2009

It used to be, a few short decades ago, that a woman with "everything hanging out" was stared at. Now that modest dressing is so rare, those of us who dare venture out in public fully clothed receive the funny looks. Being old enough to remember those days is a blessing that helps one discern the value of modesty. True freedom and power come by walking the path of Torah. The prophet Yeshayahu defines nakedness: "... expose your hair and bare a leg; expose a thigh.... Your nakedness will be exposed and your embarrassment will be seen..." (chapter 47, verses 2 and 3)So many women today have fallen for a counterfeit "freedom" and "power." Reply

Elaine Thompson Alpena, MI June 4, 2009

When you observe personally little girls of seven or eight 'way up in the hills of Afghanistan automatically pulling their head and neck covering-- a very long diaphanous scarf-- across their mouths when they talk so that only their eyes are visible, you know that it is ingrained early. At the same time, the Afghani boys of any age are totally free of any clothing restrictions on physical activity or indication of their religon. A vast gender difference! In my small town in the U. S. there will be a husband and wife standing in line at the market. It is sweltering hot. The woman is dressed in heavy black faille trom neck to hands to shoes, her head and neck wrapped. Her husband, likely a doctor here, is cool in stylle and fabric and calls no attention at all to his body. But I note his freedom and the discrimination. I recognize it as POLITICAl. (Power.) The patriarchal custom of the female "veil" has little to do with devotion, but one is free to believe so. Reply

Cassie London, UK June 3, 2009

This issue has brought me nothing but discomfort. one day I will have the guts to give up covering my hair for good. I am tired of feeling ugly and uncomfortable, and at great financial expense too (wigs are pricey). Reply

Chana Huntington Woods, MI USA March 4, 2009

...to Georgia for such an eloquent speech! Reply

Georgia Verona, Italy March 4, 2009

In a Chabad restaurant during a Shabbat dinner I saw two of the most beautiful women I ever saw in my life. Both their heads were covered by very simple but lovely scarves. I was fasciated and intrigued by the particular feminine beauty of these two women. Though their feautures were "normal", there was something queenly, dignified and spiritual about their beauty that no Marilyn Monroe could ever equal. To me they represented the essence of the feminine. The interesting thing was that though the elder woman must have been in her 70's there was no difference between her and the younger 30-something woman. This kind of beauty is ageless. It is spiritual beauty. A head scarf or any kind of apparel is a manifestation of the perception one has of herself as a woman. You conceal what you feel is most precious, most sacred. This has nothing to do with burkas or chadors or men looking or not looking at you. It is the way you see inner self that makes the difference. Reply

sara australia February 26, 2009

if you would know the blessings (listed in Zohar) to yourself and famly and family finances that come upon one's household when a jewish woman covers her hair, you would not risk doing anything other that covering you hair- although you can make it as beautiful as possible_happy hair covering... Reply

Elaine Thompson Alpena, MI USA February 26, 2009

So, (some) Jewish men need to wear a tiny almost invisible non-restrictive head covering to remain devoted? Conclusion: Women are in need of a much greater degree of reminder of their G-d, so choose to be swathed-- with the result in US society, they often draw more attention to themselves. The very practical reason for the ancient burqua was protection from predatory men's eyes and behavior, and the head scarf today, a remnant.

However, as already mentioned, society worldwide is coarsened today, with "vulgar sexual behavior" as Chana says, and covering is a wonderfully freeing response. More, it's a beautiful and sensible fashion, I think, and needn't be rationalized by the religious.

Meanwhile, why some of us find the practice threatening is a good question. Maybe because it indicates to some of us where the real power to change the world continues to lie. Reply

Rivkah February 25, 2009

As far as vulgar sexual behaviour is concerned - a prostitute can cover her hair and body and yet still offer her services (yes- even the oldest profession in the world was hidden- even in ancient times under the look of modesty) and a woman who shows more skin than fabric on the street can still be a virgin or only have ever had one or very few sexual partners in her life. Your actions and who you are is not about the way you look - its about who you are and what you want out of life. No where in the ten commandments does it say that women have to cover their hair and hide their body. The other mitzvot is all open to interpretation and i feel that the very orthodox women covering themselves up to the point that they do and declaring it as if it was a mitzvah has gone way to far. Reply

Chana Huntington Woods, MI USA February 25, 2009

I suppose to some covering may seem repressive. As a Jewish sociologist (one who studies Jewish society) my findings from research suggests that covering is a threat to many. That said, I have also found that one reason many women cover is because they feel uncomfortable around strange men and want to not cause attention to themselves. Regardless of why you cover it is a personal choice. Rivkah, G-d may accept me for who I am but general society sure doesn't. I would have to be a size 2, six feet tall, blonde/blue eyed and show more skin than fabric on the street. This would not make me, my husband or G-d any happier and I would be perpetuating the vulgar sexual behavior that has become mainstream today. I don't think I'm pretentious or superior or a better Jew actually quite the opposite. I still recommend researching the mitzvah before passing judgment. There are many different commentaries each one interesting and thought provoking. Thank you, Linda for your articles. Reply

Lisa Goldstein Pittsburgh, PA February 25, 2009

Men ALSO cover their heads, with a skullcap, kippah, yamulka, however you want to call it. For a man it is because he needs a constant reminder that G-d is Above him and he is not the creator in this world. For a woman it is to retain the holiness and G-dliness that is within her hair and to keep it sacred for her and her husband. Men it is an external reminder, for women an internal reminder. Reply

Elaine Thompson Alpena, Michigan, USA February 25, 2009

Cover if you want to. There are entirely too many women dressing like hookers these days, anyway. There is no right or wrong, I suppose, but if it so spiritually uplifting and wonderful, why aren't men wrapping their heads? I know: They are the ones who still retain real power. In my view, power and automony are the acid test. Reply

Linda Korn Los Angeles, CA February 25, 2009

I am so moved and and inspired by the thoughtful commentary and discussion that is emerging from this article. It is these kinds of discussions that keep all of us growing and thinking and opening our hearts to one another. Kol Hakavod, and thank you for caring enough to comment. I feel blessed to be connecting in this way. Reply