White and Black Bonnets – What’s The Difference?

By Tobin Dimmitt

White and Black Bonnet – What’s The Difference?

The Amish way of life is quite fascinating. Amish people are known for their traditional living practices, simplicity, and utmost humility. They believe that they should flourish according to God’s will and the Holy Scriptures.

You can easily recognize an Amish person in your initial meeting, especially around Lancaster County. Their tradition and culture are engraved in their daily practices and in the way they dress. 

So, the next time you see someone wearing plain and solid-colored clothing, riding a horse and buggy, and have noticeable hats or bonnets, they are most likely part of the Amish groups. 

Today, you will learn the reasons why Amish wear certain types of clothing, keep things simple, and ensure that they have head coverings wherever they go.

Before we start, it’s important to note that the Bible frequently refers to white and black on numerous occasions. Amish communities focus their life around religion and the Bible; thus, they place a great emphasis on black and white colors. It’s not uncommon to see an Amish family dressed solely in these two colors. While outsiders may not find it overly “stylish,” the Amish are more concerned with the functional aspect.

Why do the Amish wear plain clothing?

Solid-colored clothes, non-patterned designs, suspenders, head coverings, beards, and bunned hair are the staples of Amish style. For many non-Amish people, this type of clothing manner appears plain, but for the community, this is a symbolism of conformity to the teachings of the Bible.  

Amish people wear plain clothing mainly because of their religious beliefs. However, this practice is also influenced by several reasons aside from their faith. 

Amish clothes are primarily made out of plain fabrics present in their family homes. Amish women traditionally make their dresses with store-bought fabrics in the community. Some old order communities prohibit buttons and zippers, so women use alternative materials to put together their dresses.

They make their clothes and rely on conventional buttons and pins to put the materials together. This practice of dressmaking and style worked wonders for the Amish people. It is simple, traditional, durable, and abides by their culture.

The dress code for women is much more specific than for men. Amish women abide by the many teachings in the Bible about their appearance and the clothes they need to wear. Aside from plain dresses and bonnets, hair, customs, usage of jewelry, and role in the community are also dictated in the scriptures. 

Modesty is also a significant factor in why the Amish wear plain clothing. They wear loose, conservative, and fully covered clothes any time of the year. Regardless of the season, they ensure that their long dresses, trousers, and head coverings are present. 

Amish men wear their signature dark-colored trousers, non-patterned short and long-sleeved shirts, suspenders, and hats. You will commonly see these Amish men sporting this plain clothing style indoors and outdoors.Men wear their trousers even in the summer (instead of shorts). 

The Amish community believes that by wearing these simple clothes, they subscribe to the values of Christianity and reject any form of superficiality. hey highly value their internal attributes rather than trivial things.

Plain style highlights the identity and separation of the Amish from the non-Amish people. As part of their belief system, they distance themselves from high society and modern technology and maintain a simple life. It gives importance to their identity as Amish, and it sets them apart from others.

For many Amish communities, an identifier is significant. Through their way of wearing and styling their clothes, they create a distinction among communities and people. 

The simple dress code is also highly influenced by the biblical verses in the New Testament. Chapters in the Bible, like Peter 3:3-4 and 1 Timothy 2:9-10, forbid wearing excessive jewelry, styles, and clothing for both men and women. 

You might often perceive these plain clothes as the same for every Amish wearing them. However, you should know that the type, color, and size of these clothes and head coverings vary for every person and community. The difference appears unnoticeable for non-Amish people, but for them, these distinctions are very evident.

Perhaps another interesting thing about the Amish (besides the plain clothing) is that they are always seen wearing head coverings, especially women. What are these head coverings?

What is an Amish bonnet?

Head coverings have been part of Amish custom for years. Both Amish men and women adhere to wearing one wherever they go and whatever they are doing. 

The practice of wearing Amish bonnets or head coverings is stated explicitly in 1 Corinthians 11. It strongly suggests that men should keep their heads uncovered during prayer and prophesying, while women should wear head coverings at all times, especially during prayers. The passage indicates submission to God and women praying without an end.

Even though the men don’t wear hats during prayer, they ensure that they have one wherever they go. Amish women, however, have to wear their head coverings at all times. 

An Amish bonnet or head covering is called kapp (or prayer cover). It is worn and topped with a black Amish bonnet used by women in Amish communities during certain occasions.

The material and how these head coverings are worn vary in men and women in the community. The different kapps worn by the Amish people signifies many things. It can symbolize their civil status, position in the community, and respect for special events or prayers.

For the Christian-based practices, these head coverings are more than just a belief. They show value to their origin and culture by following this practice. It shows that the people are indeed part of the Amish community.

White Bonnets

In most cases, the only time you see an Amish woman wearing a white bonnet is after she is married. It’s essentially a symbol that she is a lifelong relation and “off the market” so to speak. If a man sees an Amish woman wearing a white bonnet, he will know that she’s already married.

As you may already know, Amish men grow their beards out as a sign they are married, which is essentially for the same reason that Amish women wear white bonnets. Before they are married, Amish men must cut and trim their beards regularly. Becoming married, however, is a sign of manhood, and growing out a beard helps to symbolize this. Some men will have beards extending far down over their chest.

Black Bonnet

Black bonnets are worn by Amish women who are not yet married. If a single Amish woman wants to attend church, go out in town or just converse with some neighbors, she will usually place a black bonnet over her head to signify her relationship status.

Hopefully, this will give you a better understanding on the importance of white and black when it comes to Amish bonnets. These are two colors that are commonly found in Amish clothing with roots going back to biblical times. Today, you’ll see Amish women wearing both white and black bonnets to symbolize their relationship. In short, white bonnets mean a woman is married and black means she is single.

What do the Amish bonnets signify?

Almost everything in the Amish culture and tradition stemmed from their strong belief in God and the Bible. Even these Amish bonnets are written in the verses of the Holy Scriptures. That is why its significance is understood clearly and rooted in the minds of Amish people.

We can trace the origin of the Amish bonnet in the start of the Amish communities in North America. When the group was established in the country, they devoted their lives to obeying the teachings in the Bible. Covering their heads during prayer is written in one of the passages. 

As directed in 1 Corinthians 11, it is a sign of disrespect when men cover their heads during prayer, but for women, it’s the opposite. For women, their head coverings embody their respect for their beliefs and the church. They wear kapp all the time, even indoors. The bonnets and the way the Amish use them denote their submission to the creator and their separation from society. These Amish bonnets uphold the religious objectives of the community – which is to live a modest life.

How do the Amish wear bonnets?

The way Amish men and women wear their hats and bonnets varies. Every Amish community makes use of different materials for their bonnets. Before, the Amish households created their hats or Kapp, but today communities have their own seamstress that provides the people with their clothing and covering needs. These seamstresses make a living from producing these head coverings.

There are different types of bonnets used by various Amish communities. These head coverings serve as their identifier and separator from non-Amish people and other Amish groups.

The kapp, usually in white or black, is accompanied by a larger black covering in church. Married Amish women are to wear these two at all times. However, because of the difficulty and nuisance that the summer heat brings, this practice is not strictly observed. 

Married women wear white bonnets. A white bonnet somehow serves as a wedding band in Amish county. If women wear this to communicate their marriage and commitment to their family, men in return grow their beards and avoid trimming them after marriage. These practices counterbalance each other’s symbolism and show how unique the culture of the Amish is. This has been taught in their culture and tradition for years.

On the other hand, the black Amish bonnet signifies that the ladies wearing it are not yet married. It is worn by the single ladies in the community wherever they go and at church. Amish groups see to it that every woman in their community wears one all the time, even while doing errands. The more extensive black covering used by Amish women in the church is different from an Amish black bonnet. It is used explicitly in church and put over the smaller Amish bonnet or kapp.

How these bonnets are worn and are tied changes depending on the occasion and community. In low Amish churches, the bonnet strings are tied tighter compared to other churches. You can see in highly progressive communities in which bonnets are not tied, or even nonexistent.

On the other hand, men wear their straw hats or bowler caps instead of Amish bonnets. These hats often worn by men in Amish communities are called scribblers. The scribbler is usually made with straw, wool, or fur. It also changes depending on the season, but men commonly use the ones made with straws. They do not need to wear it at all times except at church. 

Children also wear hats, head coverings, or veils at a young age, especially girls. They are also dressed like their adult counterparts as early as four years of age. They teach the culture and values of the Amish as they grow up in the community. The Amish continue to foster their culture and traditions by passing them to the younger generations as early as possible.

Amish Women

Women in Amish communities are conservative. Because of their strict observation of the holy scriptures, they are more reserved and submissive compared to men.

They do not cut their hair nor do any excessive treatments with it. In traditional Amish beliefs, it is offensive and prohibited to cut a woman’s hair. It is why they maintain their long hair and put it together in a bun or a simple hairstyle to ensure its neatness. 

However, during the rumspringa, young women try to cut their bangs to appear fit in non-Amish communities. It is the only time where they can dress like a typical teenager outside the group vicinity and interact with the people outside.

It is clearly stated in 1 Corinthians 11 that women should cover their heads to show respect and submission to God and man. Women must wear their bonnets or head coverings at all times. However, they replace these bonnets with bandanas when doing house chores to prevent damaging their head coverings.

Amish bonnets serve as an identifier of civil status for women. Unmarried Amish girls wear black bonnets while married women wear white ones. So, people can easily distinguish their relationship status by the color of their bonnets.

Women opt for the heavier, larger, and quilted black bonnets during winter to protect themselves from the freezing weather.

Aside from the Amish bonnets, women are not allowed to use any form of accessories or jewelry. Everything they wear serves a specific significance in their way of life. The Bible implies that they should avoid any superficial things since their internal intentions are much more important.

Today, communities also have their own seamstress and essential apparel stores where Amish women can purchase dry goods and bonnets. Tourists also fancy these stores, so they avail Amish traditional clothes and hats for memorabilia whenever they visit Amish communities. 

It is undeniable that the Amish culture and belief system with regards to women and their clothing is stricter compared with men. They have to live by the rules stated in the Bible and give honor by being conservative members of the community. 

Amish Men

Amish men assume the role of being the head of the family and the church. They are primarily in-charge of the family’s financial resources. According to the bible, men represent the image and glory of God that is why their heads remain uncovered during prayers in the church.

If bonnets act as identification for women’s civil status, the men utilize their beards for this. When an Amish man marries in the community, they should keep their beards long and unshaven. The long beards symbolize their submission and commitment to their wives, family, and God. They have to grow it for the rest of their lives and represent the longevity of their marriage.

You might often see them grow their long beards, but not mustaches, since they want it to act as a separator from others. Cleanliness and modesty are also taken into consideration why they choose not to grow their mustaches.

Like the women in the community, they also keep their hair simple. They use straw hats when working outside and the ones made of wool to keep their heads warm during winter. The head covering used by Amish men is called a scribbler.

The wearing and specification of head coverings in Amish men are much more lenient than in women. So, their hats change according to occasion and weather. They also remove their hats upon entering the church, during prayers, and indoors.

There is little to no distinction between the hats of Amish men across communities. They usually wear their straw and wool-made hats depending on the weather and on other suitable occasions. 

Amish boys are also dressed like their fathers in the community. Young boys are not required to wear hats, but they have gotten used to wearing one because of their culture.

The more conservative the community is, or as the older Amish order constitutes it, the stricter and definite the rules. With new order communities, restrictions are lesser and comfortable.

Different types of Amish Bonnets

Apart from the differences in colors of Amish bonnets, certain types also exist in various Amish communities and occasions. Amish bonnets, known as kapp or prayer coverings, are a staple to the plain people of Amish. They are used everywhere by Amish women to show honor and to communicate their status.

In North America, where the largest settlement of Amish is located, numerous kinds of head coverings are worn. To give you a closer look, we will go through each of them and learn the traditional practices behind these prayer coverings.

Old Order Amish Kapp

This type of head covering is the most common among Amish people and the Old Order Amish. It is used by the majority of the Amish communities in America. There is no doubt in this since the old order Amish make up a significant fraction of the Amish population.

New Order Amish Kapp

This slightly different kapp is usually worn by the new order Amish. It is different from the old order Kapp in terms of appearance, shape, and material.

Dan Amish or Andy Weaver Amish 

The Dan Amish prayer covering, also known as the Andy Weaver Amish, originated in 1954. This type appears a lot simpler than the typical head covering. It is firm and fits the head snugly.

Swartzentruber Amish

The Swartzentruber Amish are regarded as the plainest people in Holmes County, so it is not a surprise that their head covering is one of the plainest types. 

Worn by some in the New Amish settlements

This head covering does not have a particular name but is said to be worn by a small population of Amish women in the new settlements. The pleats on this one are not as defined as the standard head coverings.

Geauga County Amish

The kapp used in Geauga County originated in 1886 and used by the Amish people in the settlement. The proportion of the flat side is wider compared to the pleated part of the kapp.

Lancaster Covering

This unique-looking prayer covering is widely used by Pennsylvania Amish. It looks different from the rest because of its heart-shaped appearance and absence of pleats.

Nebraska Amish Covering

The Nebraska Amish covering has the most undefined appearance among the head coverings. Despite this, many Amish use it in Big Valley, Pennsylvania, and it seems like the most comfortable to wear of them all.

Nebraska Amish Woman’s Hat

The hat is not specifically a bonnet but still a head covering. The Nebraska Amish woman’s hat is made of straw and used as protection from the sun’s scorching heat.

Amish Girls Head Covering in Milverton, Ontario

This black Amish bonnet is commonly worn by Amish Girls in Milverton, Ontario. The material is thicker than the white ones used by older women in the community. The black bonnet has two different designs, and the other one is larger, so it is utilized by Amish girls when traveling in a carriage.

Veiling or Veil

The veil is worn instead of the bonnets. This is to protect their Amish bonnet when doing chores or running errands. The veil comes in white and black colors.

Black Amish Covering

The head covering is worn by unmarried women in Amish communities. They are generally made of silk. The appearance resembles the head coverings worn by old and new order Amish, but in black.

Covering worn for work by some Amish girls

The last type of covering is a white Amish bonnet frequently used by girls in the community. They use this kapp while working outdoors or indoors. The strings of the head coverings are not tied or cut, these are placed at the back.


The respect that Amish people give to the creator is applaudable. Aside from their religious beliefs, they ensure that the value of their culture and traditional practices are given enough emphasis, which is admirable.

One can surely learn a thing or two from them just by observing how they go about their daily lives. It is great that they maintain their simple outlook and ways in life to thrive amidst the things happening in society. Reflecting on the ways of the Amish will create a more profound meaning towards plainness, and you will relieve yourself of the pressure of modern society.

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