Schlupfkapp: The Photos of Alsace's Iconic Traditional Headdress


Located in northeastern France, Alsace is a region filled with a rich and complex history, often serving as a cultural crossroads between France and Germany.

This unique status is reflected in its hearty cuisine, charming villages and distinctive traditions.

One such tradition is the Schlupfkapp, a bright headdress that was once a hallmark of Alsatian women's attire.

Literally translating to "slip cap" in German, the Schluffcap is anything but subtle – a voluminous bow that has taken over both fashion and social identity in the region.

The Schlupfkapp originated in the 19th century. At the time, it started out as a simple affair – a coiffure, a head-covering cloth often made of linen, tied with a small ribbon.

But fashion, like history, is cyclical. As the Industrial Revolution gained momentum, wider ribbons became readily available.

This new abundance led to changes in the Schlupfkapp. The size of the ribbon increased and by the end of the 20th century it was an astonishing 35 centimeters wide.

It became impractical to draw these monsters in the traditional manner, leading to a change in style.

The ribbon was folded and secured, creating the signature oversized bow that has become synonymous with the Schlupfkapp (sometimes called Coiffe Alsassien in French).

Protestant women preferred a more restrained look, wearing a simple black bow that reached their shoulders.

In contrast, Catholic women had more freedom in their design choices.

Their bows were often long, reaching their waist, and featured vibrant colors, intricate embroidery, and sometimes other fabrics.

This subtle difference serves as a visual indicator of faith, initiating a silent conversation in a region where religious identity has played a significant role.

Schlupfkapp in Alsace was not just about religious affiliation; It also indicates the marital status of a woman.

Unmarried women sported bows with fancy ribbons, adding a lively touch to their traditional attire. However, once married, Schlupfkapp became more practical.

While the large bow remained, the focus shifted to functionality. Made from sturdy fabrics, it keeps hair well in place, blending practicality with tradition.

Alsace-Lorraine's history, shifting between French and German control before returning to France after World War II, deeply influenced its fashion, which was often intertwined with politics.

In 1793, during the era of national unification of the French Revolution, the Jacobin leader Saint-Just banned the traditional hat, deeming it "too German".

After disappearing during World War II, the bow experienced an unexpected revival in 2014 as a symbol of identity.

This resurgence occurred during the proposed fusion of the Lorraine and Champagne-Ardennes regions, which raised concerns among some about the potential erosion of Alsace's distinctive heritage.

Supporters of the "Unified Alsaceans" movement protested against this perceived threat by proudly wearing the Schlupfkaap, reaffirming its role as a symbol of regional identity.

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