Why do Mennonites wear bonnets (what is the symbolic meaning of bonnets)?

Whether you were raised in an Anabaptist church or not, you may have encountered Mennonites in your daily activities. You may also have wondered to yourself, why do Mennonites wear bonnets? Well, wonder no more as you are just about to find out why!

Mennonites wear bonnets as a way to preserve their religious culture. Since the 18th century, Mennonite women have embraced bonnets as standard headwear. This religious tradition is backed up by 1 Corinthians 11:4-16 where the bible instructs women to cover their heads while praying. Mostly, Mennonites wear a black bonnet, which signifies humility, compliance, and honoring God.

Mennonites’ religious culture mostly relies on being humble and submissive in the eyes of God and not attracting attention towards themselves rather than to him. Hence, Mennonite women were required to wear bonnets at all times. The tradition is still ongoing in some conservative churches, where bonnets are necessary for church prayers, community, and professional appearances.

What type of bonnets do Mennonites wear?

The typical color of Mennonite headwear is black. Hence many women typically wear black bonnets to cover their heads. However, in some communities, married women wear white bonnets to symbolize their relationship status. In the 18th century, the wearing of bonnets by women in many religious groups became widespread.

It has been named a mandatory headwear for Mennonites since then. However, in the 19th century, the bonnets were slowly challenged by the introduction of hats, which were more fashionable, flush, and had decorations. Seeing that the bible did not specify the exact kind of wrap a woman used to cover her head with, many Mennonite women fought for a change, to wear hats instead of bonnets.

However, this was not taken lightly by the Anabaptist leaders, who saw the hats as a way of rebelling against their core values, humility, and submission in the eyes of God. They felt that women would betray their core principles by wearing them, and hence insisted that they wear the black bonnets, which were humble and didn’t attract attention.

In terms of size, bonnet sizes have evolved since the 18th century, when they first became popular. Initially, bonnets used to be larger and covered the whole head. They also had a cape on the front. However, with the gradual change in fashion, bonnets also changed. At first, they no longer had the cape in front. With the continued reinvention, the bonnets became smaller and smaller and now resembled beanies.

Today Mennonite women wear small bonnets, barely covering all their hair. The modern bonnet’s dimensions are about 24 inches. In less conservative communities, the bonnets are much smaller, some even the size of a dollar coin.

what is the symbolic meaning of bonnets?
What color is recommended for Mennonite bonnets? See below

What color is recommended for Mennonite bonnets?

In the Mennonite communities, the bonnet’s color is symbolic. Hence women wear them to pass a specific message.

In most cases, the only time you see a Mennonite woman wearing a white bonnet is when she is married. Thus, she wears the white bonnet to signify that she is in a lifelong relationship. Hence, any man looking for a wife will beware not to go near her as she is already married.

On the other hand, black bonnets are worn by single women. If a single woman, or Mennonite, wants to attend church or go to a public gathering, they will throw a black bonnet on their head as a symbol of their relationship status. Hence, a single man with the intention of marriage may progress to pursue her. These two colors have been the most common among the Mennonites since the 18th century and have remained so to preserve the Mennonite’s religious tradition.

What is the symbolic meaning of wearing bonnets in the Mennonite community?

In the Mennonite community, wearing bonnets symbolized humility, compliance, and obedience to God, honoring him as the figure of authority. The main idea backing this Mennonite tradition since the 18th century include:

  • Preserving the Mennonite religious tradition
  • Showing submission to God
  • Not attracting too much attention to oneself
  • Serving God

The Mennonites wearing bonnets has always been their way of life. This culture is related to 1 Corinthians 11:2-16” I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of every woman is her husband and the head of Christ is God. Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But any woman who prays or prophesies with their head unveiled dishonors her head; it is the same as she was shaven. If a woman will not veil herself, she should cut off her hair, but it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven and let her wear her veil. For a man ought not to cover his head since he is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of man. (For man was not made from woman but woman from man)(Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man)That is why a woman ought to have a veil on her head because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the lord, woman is not independent of man nor man of woman, for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. Judge for yourselves; is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that for a man to wear long hair is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her pride, for it is given to her for covering. If anyone is disposed to be contentious, we recognize no other practice, nor do the churches of God.”

Though the bible states that women should cover their heads during prayer, it does not specify what kind of wrapping it should be. Hence the Mennonite culture of wearing bonnets is not based on the scriptures but on their religious tradition. It is a way of life for the Mennonites.

Today, wearing bonnets gives the Mennonites a sense of identity while showing respect for their traditions. It also signifies submission, humility, modesty, and honoring God’s authority.

what is the symbolic meaning of bonnets?
Do Mennonite men also wear bonnets? See below

Do Mennonite men also wear bonnets?

Mennonite men do not wear the Kapp on their heads during gatherings or church prayers. This is because the scripture in 1 Corinthians 11 states that a man who prays with his head covered dishonors his head(Jesus). However, some Mennonite men wear black hats on Sundays to show their humility to God. Also, they may wear black hats on other days to protect themselves from the sun.

Unlike Mennonite women, who are easily recognizable as Mennonite, Mennonite men do not wear anything that sets them aside from other Christian men. Unlike the Amish, who grow out their beards when they marry, Mennonite men shave and hence have a regular look.


What size are the Mennonite bonnets

Do Mennonite men wear bonnets

Why do Mennonites wear bonnets?

What is the symbolic meaning of wearing bonnets in Mennonites?

What type of bonnets do Mennonites wear?

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