12/17/2013 06:08 pm ET Updated Feb 16, 2014

The Social Fabric of Our Clothing: Google Glass and the Kippah

The clothing we put on every morning serves more of a purpose than solely to cover us. Our clothing makes a statement. It transmits messages to those who view us, possibly about our socio-economic level, our educational background, our profession, our race or ethnicity, our religion and our personal desires and inclinations. We choose certain clothing to impress; to scare; to intimidate; to sway or to attract. Our clothing is the social fabric of our society.

Every morning there are certain ritual clothing items that I put on. The kippah, the small knit hat that sits on head, is my identifying mark as a member of the Jewish religious community. It serves to introduce me as a religious Jew to anyone who passes me on the street and reminds me continuously of the presence of God. The custom of covering one's head with a hat goes back for a long period in Jewish history, even though the style and names of those hats have changed throughout time.

In addition, every morning I put on another ritual item. This is the tefillin, consisting of two boxes, one affixed to the arm and one to the head, that contain Scriptural passages. The boxes have leather straps that are used to secure them to the head and arm. The tefillin are only worn during morning services so it is very rare to see someone in a coffee shop or walking on the street wearing them. The obligation to wear tefillin once a day (with the exception of the Sabbath and holidays) is derived from the Bible, including the verse in Exodus 13:9: "It shall be a sign upon your hand and a memorial upon your eyes..."

Hence, every day when I put on my kippah and my tefillin I am identifying myself within a particular social fabric. The thread of this identification has run through the millennia of human history and I continue the legacy of my ancestors in doing so.


Recently, though, I acquired a new piece of clothing. Shortly before Thanksgiving I joined the Google Glass Explorer program and received my Google Glass. Now almost every morning not only do I put on my kippah when I wake up but I also put on my Google Glass.

What statement does Google Glass make? What does it say about a person who puts on cutting edge wearable technology? In the negative sense people who are constantly talking to their Glass outside and ignoring everyone else around them have been labeled "glassholes," but assuming one still maintains manners, what is the message being communicated by Google Glass?

Furthermore, when Glass is combined with an ancient custom like a religious head covering, what does it say about the merging of the ancient and the modern? Is this a coming together of religious values and modern advancements or a corruption of one or both?

As Google Glass and other wearable tech becomes more prevalent in society and people begin merging this latest clothing choice with their existing identity markers made of fabric, what other sorts of hybrids of understandings of self will be displayed? What other statements will people exhibit as they affix the latest technology to their face while maintaining their existing markers of identity?

I can't help but think of these questions every morning that I clip my kippah to my head and adjust the prism on the Google Glass before I venture out into the world.