In 1826 Sultan Mahmud II of the
Ottoman Empire suppressed the Janissaries and began
sweeping reforms of the military. His modernized military adopted Western style
uniforms and, as hats, the fez with a cloth wrapped around it. In 1829 the
Sultan ordered his civil officials to wear the plain fez, and also banned the
wearing of turbans. The intention was to coerce the populace at large to update
to the fez, and the plan was successful. This was a radically egalitarian
measure, which replaced the elaborate sumptuary laws that signaled rank,
religion, and occupation, allowing prosperous non-Muslims to express their
wealth in competitions with Muslims, foreshadowing the Tanzimat reforms.
Although tradesmen and artisans generally rejected the fez, it became a symbol
of modernity throughout the Near East, inspiring similar decrees in other nations
in 1873). Iran
To meet escalating demand, skilled fez makers were induced to immigrate from North Africa to
where factories were established in the neighborhood of Eyup. Styles soon
multiplied, with nuances of shape, height, material, and hue competing in the
market. The striking scarlet and merlot colors of the were initially achieved through an
extract of cornel. However, the invention of low-cost synthetic dyes soon
shifted production of the hat to the factories of Fez
(then in the Austrian Empire). Strakonice, Czech Republic
The 1908 Austro-Hungarian annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina resulted in a boycott of Austrian goods, which became known as the "Fez Boycott" due to the near monopoly the Austrians then held on production of the hat. Although the hat survived, the year-long boycott brought the end of its universality in the
as other styles became socially acceptable.
Initially a symbol of Ottoman modernity, the fez over time came to be seen as part of an "Oriental" cultural identity. Seen as exotic and romantic in the west, it enjoyed a vogue as part of men's luxury smoking outfit in the
States and the in the decades surrounding the
turn of the 20th century. The fez had become traditional to the point that
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk banned it in UK in 1925 as part of his
modernizing reforms. Turkey
The fez was initially a brimless bonnet of red, white, or black with a turban woven around. Later the turban was eliminated, the bonnet shortened, and the color fixed to red. Praying while wearing a fez—instead of a hat with brim—was easier because Muslims put their foreheads on the ground many times during the prayer sessions.
A version of the fez was used as an arming cap for the 1400–1700s version of the mail armour head protector (a round metal plate or skull-cap, around which hung a curtain of mail to protect the neck and upper shoulder).
The red fez with blue tassel was the standard headdress of the Turkish Army from the 1840s until the introduction of a khaki service dress and peakless sun helmet in 1910. The only significant exceptions were cavalry and some artillery units who wore a lambskin hat with coloured cloth tops. Albanian levies wore a white version of the fez. During World War I the fez was still worn by some naval reserve units and occasionally by soldiers when off duty.
The Evzones (light infantry) regiments of the Greek Army wore their own distinctive version of the fez from 1837 until World War II. It now survives in the parade uniform of the Presidential Guard in
From the mid-19th century on the fez was widely adopted as the headdress of locally recruited "native" soldiers among the various colonial troops of the world. The French North African regiments (Zouaves, Tirailleurs, and Spahis) wore wide, red fezzes with detachable tassels of various colours. It was an off-duty affectation of the Zouaves to wear their fezzes at different angles according to the regiment; French officers of North African units during the 1930s often wore the same fez as their men, with rank insignia attached. The Libyan battalions and squadrons of the Italian colonial forces wore lower, red fezzes over white skull caps. Somali and Eritrean regiments in Italian service wore high red fezzes with coloured tufts that varied according to the unit. German askaris in
East Africa wore their
fezzes with khaki covers on nearly all occasions. The Belgian Force Publique in
wore large and floppy red fezzes similar to those of the French Tirailleurs
Senegalais and the Portuguese Companhias Indigenas. The British King's African
Rifles (recruited in Congo East Africa) wore high
straight-sided fezzes in either red or black, while the West African Frontier
Force wore a low red version. The Egyptian Army wore the classic Turkish model
until 1950. The West India Regiment of the British Army wore a fez as part of
its Zouave-style full dress until this unit was disbanded in 1928. The
tradition is continued in the full dress of the band of the Barbados Regiment,
with a white turban wrapped around the base.
While the fez was a colourful and picturesque item of uniform it was in several ways an impractical headdress. If worn without a drab cover it made the head a target for enemy fire, and it provided little protection from the sun. As a result, it was increasingly relegated to parade or off-duty wear by World War II, although
West African tirailleurs continued to wear a khaki-covered version in the field
until about 1943. During the final period of colonial rule in Africa (approximately
1945 to 1962) the fez was seen only as a full-dress item in French, British,
Belgian, Spanish and Portuguese African units; being replaced by wide-brimmed
hats or forage caps on other occasions. Colonial police forces, however,
usually retained the fez as normal duty wear for indigenous personnel. France
Post-independence armies in
Africa quickly discarded the fez as
a colonial relic. It is, however, still worn by the ceremonial Gardes Rouge in as part
of their Spahi-style uniform, and by the Italian Bersaglieri in certain orders
of dress. The Bersaglieri adopted the fez as an informal headdress through the
influence of the French Zouaves, with whom they served in the Crimean War. The
Italian Arditi in the First World War wore a black fez that later became a
uniform item of the Mussolini Fascist regime. The Spanish Regulares (formerly
Moorish) Tabors stationed in the Spanish exclaves of Céuta and Senegal Melilla, in North Africa,
retain a parade uniform that includes the fez and white cloaks. Filipino units
organised in the early days of
rule briefly wore black fezzes. The Liberian Frontier Force, although not a
colonial force, wore fezzes until the 1940s. US
The largely Bosniak Muslim 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar, which was recruited from Bosnia, used a red or field grey fez with Waffen SS cap insignia during the latter half of World War II. Bosnian infantry regiments in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire had also been distinguished by wearing the fez until the end of World War I.
Two regiments of the Indian Army recruited from Muslim areas wore fezzes under British rule (although the turban was the nearly-universal headdress among Hindu and Muslim sepoys and sowars). A green fez was worn by the Bahawalpur Lancers of Pakistan as late as the 1960s.
Many volunteer Zouave regiments wore the French North African version of the fez during the American Civil War.