A skull cap is a brimless, visorless, close-fitting cap, usually made from fabric or leather. Unlike most caps and hats, skull caps often are worn indoors as well as outdoors. The term "skull cap" most frequently is used to refer to a kippah that is worn for religious reasons, but the term also applies to a wide variety of caps worn for both religious and secular purposes in cultures all over the world.
Traditionally, Orthodox Jewish men wear a skull cap called a kippah or yarmulke at all times as a symbol of humility and as what they consider a reminder of God's constant presence. Kippahs also are often worn by Conservative and Reform Jews in religious contexts, such as during prayer or while inside a synagogue, and in these branches of Judaism are sometimes worn by women as well as men. Many kippahs are smaller than other kinds of cap, sitting perched on the crown of the skull rather than covering the entire head. The kippah's materials, color and size can vary, and different styles often are associated with different religious and political movements.
Skull caps also are prominent in other religious traditions. Members of the clergy of the Catholic Church often wear a skull cap called a zucchetto, especially in the upper levels of the Church's hierarchy. The color of the zucchetto depends on the rank of the wearer; black zucchettos are worn by priests, purple by bishops, red by cardinals and white by the Pope. Many Muslim men wear a skull cap, called the taqiyah in Arabic, which can be worn either by itself or under a turban or scarf. Many Muslim regions and nations have their own style of skull cap, such as the Pakistani topi.
Skull caps also are widely worn for purely secular reasons. Skull caps referred to as beanies, tuques, toques or stocking caps often are worn during cold weather in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. Their close fit to the wearer's head prevents heat loss and keeps the wearer warm. “Beanie” also can refer to a type of knitted or crocheted skull cap, usually visorless, that commonly was worn by boys in the 19th and early 20th centuries. A novelty variant with a propeller attached to the top of the cap, called a propeller beanie, often is associated with members of geek subcultures such as science fiction fans and computer programmers.