By Tamjid Alkohali
Since ancient times, men have worn headwear. This male headwear varies according to nations, people, and religions. For example, the turban, a long piece of cloth wrapped around the man’s head in different styles, is considered the Arabs’ dress before Islam.
Until recently, people in the Arab East considered a man who doesn’t wear headwear as impolite. Headwear indicates manhood and virility.
In Yemen, there are many kinds of headwear. According to cultural heritage experts, the diversity of men’s headwear in Yemen has different reasons. The British expert and traveler, Freya Stark, attributed the cause of the difference of headwear to commercial activities and migration. In describing a wedding in Tarim, she said that she noted a lot of men putting on different hats from different places.
However, the founder of San’aani house in old Sana’a, Amt al-Rzaq Jhaf, said that the beginning of headwear in Yemen was when Yemenis returned from Hajj with hats made of cloth from Mecca. They then started wearing the Alqaweq, hats made of straw or small bamboos.
Writer Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Maqaleh confirmed the diversity of headwear. He said, “without exaggeration, I can say there is nowhere in the world with more diverse fashion than Yemen. Many times I am surprised in public meetings because of the diversity of headwear.”
The most important men’s headwear in Yemen is the turban. Usually, men wear Alqaweq then they wrap the turban around it. Jhaf said that the turban in Yemen I made of different kinds of cloth, with different qualities and styles.
Another kind of headwear is the Alqaweq. It’s famous in the Hajjah and Thula provinces. “Sometimes it is worn without turban. There are different kinds of Alqaweq. The first one made of a piece of cloth and the second is made of straw or bamboo,” Jhaf explained.
According to Jhaf, the Alqaweq made of a piece of cloth is worn by children and the poor while the one made of bamboo is worn by old and rich people.
“Alqaweq made of bamboo is very expensive; its price reaches 500,000 YR (2500 USD). It is very rare today, and instead there is a cheaper Alqaweq made of straw,” she explained.
Jhaf added that men’s headwear in Yemen has a social and political function. “We were able to know the economic level of men by the way they wrap the turban. He stated that the class divides in headwear no longer exists, but sometimes it appears in social occasions.
Studies about the political function of Yemeni clothes confirm that the revolution of 26 September 1962 helped remove the political and social indication of clothes, especially in the northern areas of Yemen. It was a revolution against the turban, the royal regime, and racial discrimination.
Dr. Al-Maqaleh said after forty years of Yemeni revolutions, citizens have become free to wear whatever they want and follow the modern fashion.