Crowning glory: Afghanistan’s colorful headwear culture

Villagers say that a Pashtun boy marks his entry into manhood when he takes on the turban.

In southern Kandahar, young men wear round, soft caps that are split in the front above the forehead, while older men, especially farmers, prefer turbans and headscarves.

Afghan women in some rural areas, especially in the western province of Herat, also wear embroidered bonnets over or under a chadar shawl that flows over their shoulder.

The pakol, on the other hand, worn by the Tajiks, is all soft with chubby rolls of sheep’s wool to keep cold heads warm in winter.

It has become emblematic of the late anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who wore it perched far back on his head, and his fighters in the scenic Panjshir Valley.

The wedding often calls for exceptional headgear, such as the Gilgit hat worn by the bride and groom – similar to the pakol but featuring a feather pinned to the front or side for a touch of elegance.

One of the oldest styles worn by Afghans is the Karakul, made from the wool of newborn lambs and known as the Jinnah cap across the border in Pakistan – where it was popularized by the country’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

He has found favor in Kabul as a staple of former President Hamid Karzai. —AFP

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