I have been told, from sources most uncertain, that arranging the tassel so it dangles down in front of the fez indicates that the wearer is in an adventurous mood, quite possibly ready for action with a member of the appropriate sex.

Anyone willing to confirm (or perhaps do some empiric research?) on this?
This node is dedicated to that tiny terror of Everythingland, thefez.

Emperor Mahmud II of the Ottoman Empire wasn't exactly a native son - his mother was Creole, and he much preferred the stately dress of the Europeans to the robes and turbans of his countrymen. So he decreed a change - in headdress. Mahmud preferred the three-corner Colonial cap, but that wouldn't fly in a Muslim land - the corners would bonk on the ground five times daily. But the fez was a brimless hat. Useless against the sun, but quite applicable for deep bows towards Mecca. In 1827, Mahmud declared that all of his subjects shall doff the splendid turban and begin sporting a fez.

It wasn't very popular. People loved their turbans, and law or no law, they weren't going to change. The decree was never really enforced, except in the court of the Emperor, where a European suit and a fez was the required garb.

Slowly, though, the Turks slowly grew to love the fez. In fact, by the beginning of World War I, the fez was a national symbol. Heck, the Germans sent over two battleships for the Ottomans, crewed entirely by fez-wearing Germans. That little token of friendliness stroked the nationalism of the Turks and persuaded them (in part, anyway) to join the German/Austrian side of the battle.

Now, the post-WWI dictator of the new Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, had a problem. He, like Mahmud II before him, much preferred the European mode of dress. He thought he looked quite fetching in a tweed suit and a bowler, and he began to wear this everywhere. This was, at the time, the Turkish equivalent of prancing about 1920's London wearing nothing but leopard print Lycra and pink feather boas. Worse, in fact, because the dress was, to the Turks, a symbol of their old WWI enemies. But, as dictator, Ataturk had the power to make everyone agree with him that, yes, this suit and bowler thing was quite fine. So in 1925, not yet 100 years after the banning of the turban, the fez was banned.

Ataturk paraded around villages to demonstrate how to wear the fine clothes - basically, he put on a traveling fashion show. Instructions on 'How To Wear Hat X' were distributed. But best yet, Ataturk actually stuck to his guns when it came to enforcing the laws. If you are caught with a fez, three months in jail. Up to 15 years for 'anti-hat propaganda'. Fez wearers went underground.

There was many an old Turk at the time went and boxed up their prized fez, bringing it out only at night, crying over the lost glory that they once bore proudly atop their heads. A sad state of affairs.

The laws got a bit worse during a late 1920's Kurdish uprising. Ataturk sent in troops to handle the uprising and to arrest or shoot anyone breaking laws. This included fez wearing. Mass arrests of fez lovers commenced. And a pro-fez riot was planned.

The planners of the riot weren't exactly professionals. They got large groups ready in three different towns. Each group (up to 60 men each, I think) was to lock themselves in a room for 40 days with only a barrel of dates and a barrel of water. After the 40 days, they would burst forth (figuratively and literally) and, frenzied from 40 days of dates, they would wreak havoc for their beloved headgear. They all locked themselves in on the set day, but they kind of lost track of time. One group broke out early, killed 10 people, and was put down quite harshly. The other two groups were quickly rounded up afterward. 28 executions were ordered.

The law was still in effect in later years - in 1947, 600 men were arrested for fez-wearing.

The law may no longer be enforced nowadays, but the intended effect has happened. If you go to modern-day Turkey, you will be hard-pressed to find one soul proudly displaying his fez for all to see. So goes progress.

Fez (?), n. [F., fr. the town of Fez in Morocco.]

A felt or cloth cap, usually red and having a tassel, -- a variety of the tarboosh. See Tarboosh.

B. Taylor.


© Webster 1913.

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