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History of the Fez

Continuing with the recent trend of Ottoman history and culture (I'm biased, I know!), in this post we shall find out about the history of the Fez, a classical example of Ottoman culture. And one more thing... this post won't be a fashion post !

A simple Fez.
The Fez is, in essence, a hat. It's called fez in Turkish ( plural fezzes or fezes), or tarboosh in Arabic          
Mahmut II was the first Sultan to sport the Fez
 ( طربوش‎). They usually come in the shape of a red truncated cone or in the shape of a short cylinder made of kilim fabric.

Both usually have tassels.

The Fez was originally a Greek headgear that the Ottomans adopted in the early 19th Century as part of their efforts to modernize with their European counterparts.

There was thought to have been a myth regarding the choice of headgear.

The Ottomans rejected the Western 'European hats' (probably referring to top-hats and the sort) because it was not very 'user friendly' during the act of praying (I'd assume it kept falling off but feel free to speculate!)

The fez was made a part of the official Ottoman uniforms in the 1840's or so, after the Jannisaries (elite unit in the Ottoman army) were disbanded . Before, a turban was worn by Ottomans.

It's also used in North Africa (I believe that's where the name of the city 'Fez', in Morocco ,comes from ?) The use of the Fez in Anatolia died out with the Turkish Revolution.

The Fez in Greece and Turkey:

Let's focus on this geographic location.

A drawing of Turkish (L) and Greek (R) clothing
The fez-fesi in Greek-originate from the Greek islands and at first it was popular among the Greeks.

The Ottomans gradually abandoned turban and started using the fez.  Kemal Ataturk, the Turkish revolutionary,  condemned the fez as "the headcovering of Greeks" (this anti-Greek feeling was due to the recent Greco-Turkish war, as part of the Turkish War of Independence ) and banned it (this ban was part of a campaign by Ataturk to get rid of anything Ottoman ) in order to modernize Turkey.

Back to the origin, though the Fez is stated to have been Greek, we can precisely say that it was the Ionians in the Ionian and Aegaen sea (the Islanders of Greece) who made the hat.

 The Fez Nowadays:

It is safe to assume that the Fez is no longer banned in Turkey (much to the relief of Turkish TV shows!)

The Fez hat is also deeply significant in other parts of the world such as South Asia, where a large number of the followers and leaders of the Muslim League (The party that created Pakistan) adopted the Fez hat, primarily due to its links with the Ottomans. (The fall of the Ottomans saw a rise in Muslim nationalism and sympathy with the Turks, and created greater animosity towards the ruling British)

Nawabzada Nasarullah Khan, a Pakistani politician of the 90s is famous for his Fez.

The Fez has made an impact in popular culture as well, appearing in a wide range of television shows from Doctor Who to movies like Indiana Jones. It still remains an icon of Ottoman culture.


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