Waiting in a dimly lit coffee shop, Sara walks in with her turquoise plaid coat and her blue and green, stripped winter scarf. Before we go and order our drinks, she drapes her coat over the chair and walks over to the counter with me to order drinks.
“I know I’m not matching today,” she says as she glances at her outfit. “It’s laundry day.”
Before I say a word, I glance at what she’s wearing. Light blue jeans with a plum purple shirt doesn’t seem too mismatched to me. Then I realized she wasn’t talking about her jeans or her shirt, she was actually talking about her rich, chocolate-brown hijab, which she seemed to think wasn’t really jibing with her outfit.
Hijabs are Islamic head coverings worn by Muslim women for modesty. But this religious garb has also become a sort of a fashion statement, as it comes in all shapes, sizes, prints and colours.
“I match hijabs with all my outfits,” chuckles 20-year-old Sara. “You’re going to wear it anyway, so why not make it a part of your wardrobe?”
The different varieties of hijabs are becoming popular and are in great demand amongst hijab-wearing Muslim women.
Maysoom Kassim of Asra Islamic Superstore located on Lawrence Avenue East explained that there is more than one type of hijab, depending on which part of the world you come from, the styles change.
“Every ethnic group has their own type of hijab to wear,” she says while noting that hijabs from South Asia, Middle East, Turkey and Africa are all worn differently. “But Middle Eastern style is the most popular and stylish.”
Despite the different ways the hijab can be worn, there are still some rules to follow when wearing it.
“Hijab is to cover the ears, neck and hair,” Kassim says. “If some people wear it in a different way, showing their neck, ears or hair, then they’re not wearing it according to the Quran.”
There are three basic types of hijabs: the two-piece, the square, and the long shawl. The two-piece hijab is made of a small, headband type of under-hijab piece with longer scarf that goes on top to cover your neck and chest as well. Women can choose to mix and match the colours between their under-hijab piece and hijab. The square hijab is more traditional, as you can either simply tie the ends of your scarf to the back of your neck, or pin the two sides in front. The shawl hijab is made of a thicker material, usually with different prints, and can be wrapped around your head.
However, now with young Muslim females being interested in the hijab, Kassim says that the hijab styles are growing to cater to the tastes of younger Muslims who are more creative with their head scarfs.
These days the two-piece hijab is a popular choice for young females.
“The hijab is evolving according to the generations who grew up here, Kassim says. We’re thinking of improving our business to match their mentality . . . that’s why we created the under hijab matching with the hijab idea.”
Sara also agrees the two-piece hijab is the most popular among young females and that all her friends support this style.
Sequined and lightly embroidered hijabs are also popular among the younger crowd. In the Islamic superstore, a sea of hijabs varying from the plain traditional hijabs to the colourful hijabs with light gold embroidery and sequins; to bold floral prints or hijabs with small tassels at the end filled the store.
These hijabs also come with their own accessories — namely fancy pins to help hold them up.
“They match their pins with their hijabs and outfits, said Rehnuma Bhamjee from Hijab Fashions Inc. located on Nugget Avenue. Bhamjee wore a plain baby pink hijab with a black under hijab herself. “Since they’re wearing a hijab, the pins are like their jewellery.”
The pins also come in many different varieties where a simple coloured pin can costs up to 50 cents to bejewelled pins with flowers, butterflies or stars hanging from them costing up to $4 to 5 dollars.
As for hijabs, the average price in both of the stores was $10 to 20 dollars. But hijabs can be pricier, as there are fancier hijabs for special occasions. There are stores in Toronto who have hijabs ranging from $35 to 100 dollars, for the heavily embroidered, sequined and beaded ones.
A hijab is like a fashion statement, Bhamjee says. “That’s why the store is called Hijab Fashions.”
Hijab Fashions also caters to the ultra-fashionable, as the store had scarves that donned the Gucci, Calvin Klein or Versace print which is popular amongst young women.
Bhamjee also says that non-Muslims also come to her store to match the hijabs with their dresses.
“The long rectangular hijabs are used as a shawl to wear with their evening gowns, she said.
As for the styles of hijabs evolving, Sara believes that a person’s personal style also changes over time.
“You grow with your hijab,” Sara said as she sipped from her coffee cup. “You end up changing your style and the way you tie it.”
Sara also mentioned that she’s come a long way from her hood-wearing school days to her bunny-tie days (when you simply tie the ends of your scarf around your neck). Eventually she evolved to the square hijab tied with a single pin in the front, to being more stylish with her hijab and making sure it is tied up properly with pins and all tucked in.
Sara originally decided to wear the hijab at the age of 16 because she was going through a rough time. Her sister got her more into the religion, and after some time she decided to wear the garb.
However, her parents refused to let her wear the hijab initially, as she came from a non-practising Muslim family who were also afraid of the backlash after 9/11.
“I just wore my hood at school,” she said. After a week her parents allowed her to wear the hijab and accepted her decision.
Now she says she has quite the collection with more than 20 hjiabs.
Bhamjee laughed when asked how many hijabs she had. She said there were too many too count.
“You know how many different shades of blue are there . . . you need them all,” she chuckled.
Even though the hijab can be stylish, it’s important to remember the actual purpose of the hijab.
â€¨”The hijab is supposed to be a modest thing,” Sara says. “But you might as well have fun with it while you’re at it.”