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Kösem, the brand reinventing Moroccan headwear

Published on 17 May 2018

Morocco’s sherifian, brimless felt hat, the fez or tarboosh, is back in style thanks to two hat lovers who decided to turn this venerable male head garment into a contemporary unisex fashion statement

The ancient Greeks invented it, but the cylindrical, flat-topped, tasselled hat (usually red) has been part of traditional male dress across North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean for generations. And now, thanks to fashion-savvy hat aficionados, Sara Hatimi and Ali Sbaibi, it’s getting another lease of life as a must-have 21st-century headdress for both men and women.

The idea came to the former pharmacist and economics graduate when a cyclist in a tarboosh stopped by them at traffic lights. “The image of this man, sitting tall on his bike, embodying tradition and modernity with a tarboosh on his head, didn’t just catch our attention, it filled us with a sense of national pride,” they told the online news site Le360. “Something clicked. It marked the start of a new enterprise, and inspired our slogan ‘head held high’”.

To revisit the fez (and encourage women to adopt something traditionally associated with men), the team recruited a talented crew of experienced artisans, then let their imaginations flow, drawing inspiration from both real and make-believe places around the world. They also replaced the traditional red felt with unexpected fabrics—crocodile and snake-look leather, or bright pink and electric blue sequins—and gave the designs fun names like Croc Power, Purple Abyss, Pinky Power and California Dreaming.

Even a barbary lion wears a tarboosh

Tarbooshes haven’t just been making waves in the fashion industry. They’re cropping up all over the art world: Last year, Casablanca’s Villa des Arts showcased contemporary artist Ryad Mouline’s famous ‘little men in red Fez hats’, and emerging Tunisian designer, Mohamed Kilani Tbib (aka Inkman), drew a barbary lion in a tarboosh for the Moroccan 2026 World Cup candidacy. Fashion, art and football! It’s a hat-trick the fez can be proud of.