A karakul (or qaraqul) hat (Pashto/Persian: قراقلی) is a hat made from the fur of the Qaraqul breed of sheep, often from the fur of aborted lamb foetuses. The triangular hat is part of the costume of the native people of Kabul which has been worn by many generations of men in Afghanistan. The fur from which it is made is referred to as Astrakhan, broadtail, qaraqulcha, or Persian lamb. Qaraqul means black fur in Turkic, similar types of hats are common among Turkic peoples. The hat is peaked, and folds flat when taken off of the wearer's head.
The qaraqul hat is typically worn by men in Central and South Asia. The folding qaraqul was worn by the former king of Afghanistan, Amanullah Khan in 1919. The karakul, which had distinguished all educated urban men since the beginning of the 20th century, has fallen out of fashion in Afghanistan.
Soviet Politburo hat
In the USSR, the karakul hat became very popular among Politburo members. It became common that Soviet leaders appeared in public, wearing this type of hat. The hat probably gained its prestige among Party leaders because it was an obligatory parade attribute of the czar and Soviet generals. By wearing the karakul hat, Soviet leaders wanted to underline their high political status. In the Soviet Union this hat also took the nickname the pie-hat because it resembled traditional Russian pies.
A Jinnah cap is a fur qaraqul hat named after the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The cap was worn by many of the early politicians of Pakistan, especially the founding party: the Pakistan Muslim League. The Jinnah cap and shalwar kameez are the national dress of Pakistan. Many Pakistani politicians and heads of state including President Ayub Khan have worn the Jinnah cap.
It is also worn in Nepal by men mostly of Indo-Aryan descent. It is called Dhaka topi and is the national hat of Nepal. The Jinnah Cap is particularly popular amongst Islamic religious scholars and the elder generation of Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Kashmir.
The velvet version of the cap is called a Rampuri cap, and was worn by the first Prime Minister of Pakistan Sahibzada Liaqat Ali Khan.
In 1937, the 25th Annual Conference of the All-India Muslim League was held in Lucknow under the chairmanship of Quaid-e-Azam (The Great Leader), Muhammad Ali Jinnah. An amalgamation of nearly seventy preeminent people were summoned at Butler Palace in Lucknow. What was to ensue after that day would prove to be a decisive moment in the course of history. Prior to attending this historic session, Nawab Mohammad Ismail Khan suggested that the day held an auspicious meaning within its clutches. It was a day when the Indian Muslim population earnestly embraced and hailed Muhammad Ali Jinnah as their foremost leader. Perceiving it to be apt; Nawab M. Ismail Khan took his Samoor Cap and generously offered it to M. A. Jinnah, insisting that it would suit him well. The humbled gentleman graciously accepted Nawab Sahib's offer, to thereafter wear a traditional Sherwani/Achkan along with it. The outcome was visually pleasing as it greatly added to his personality. When the Quaid appeared on the dais in his rustic attire; the massive crowd, consisting of 50,000 people, burst into loud cheers upon feasting their hopes on the Great Leader. The brisk slogans of "Allah-ho-Akbar" (God, The Greatest) dominated the atmosphere and the clapping continued for a long time. Since that day, Nawab Mohammad Ismail Khan's Samoor Cap—rather unknown to the masses—was dubbed and came to be known as the iconic "Jinnah cap" all over South Asia and elsewhere in the world. Over the active years of the All-India Muslim League, before eventually Pakistan was consummated, Nawab Sahib's cap would be lent to M. A. Jinnah on several occasions.
Karakul caps have been worn by Kashmiris for the past several decades. The Karakul cap is colloquially known as a "Karakuli" in the Kashmir Valley. Although it is now associated with the Kashmiri gentry, it is not actually a native Kashmiri headgear. It seems to have been made popular by Muslim leaders in the Kashmir Valley during the freedom movement of the 1930s/40s and was pioneered by Sheikh Abdullah. The traditional headgear of the landed gentry in Kashmir has historically been the turban tied in a similar fashion to the Pashtun equivalent (but this has now disappeared) as seen in many old photographs. The peasants in Kashmir still wear the typical skull cap associated with Muslims world over.
Some of the turbans have been of ordinary dyed muslin cloth mostly of saffron color with a dashing of green sometimes, where as some represent very exquisite and fashionable headgear. Most of the politicians in Kashmir have given up the use of a turban which used to be the symbol of dignity and honor, except for ceremonial use. The Karakul caps are the present rage amongst most of the mainstream politicians. It is quite common for a Kashmiri groom to remove the traditional turban and replace it with a Karakul Cap as he waits at his in-laws house for his bride to accompany him home. In the Kashmiri Muslim diaspora the Karakul cap is now only worn at important moments.
Karakul caps became popular among Africans and African-Americans in the 1960s. African Presidents such as Modibo Keïta of Mali and Ahmed Sékou Touré of Guinea, who were themselves both of pre-colonial African royal descent, wore the karakul cap to show their independence from European colonial power. The karakul cap is often worn by African and African-American Christians and Jews.
Both the velvet and faux fur versions are worn by men of African descent with Western suits, and African attire such as the grand boubou. Muslims of African ancestry wear these caps with the dishdasha. In urban slang, the karakul cap is called a fur kufi, while the Rampuri cap is called a velvet fez hat. When worn properly, these caps are always slanted at an angle, and never placed straight on the head. Leopard print karakul caps are common in Africa, but are rarely seen in the United States. In popular culture, Eddie Murphy wore the karakul cap in the movie Coming to America.
- Hamid Karzai's Famous Hat Made From Aborted Lamb Fetuses Fox News
- Qaraquls burst upon the fashion world, AP, KANIMEKH, UZBEKISTAN, Sunday, May 27, 2007, Page 12
- HSUS Investigation Reveals Slaughter of Unborn and Newborn Lambs for Fur: Dateline NBC Features Undercover Investigation Documenting Animal Cruelty Archived 2006-05-31 at the Wayback Machine., December 12, 2000
- Transcript of NBC "Dateline" Feature on Karakul Production Archived 2008-05-10 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Clothing in Afghanistan". Encyclopaedia Iranica.
- Nordland, Rob. "The Afghan Leader's Hat, Always More Than Just Headgear, Is Losing Its Cachet". New York Times.
- Kashmiri Karakul