CLOTHING xiv. Clothing of the Hazāra tribes



xiv. Clothing of the Hazāra tribes

Hazāra clothing has not been studied systematically; only sporadic evidence can be found in literature, photographs, and major museum collections. Much of the information given here is based on the author’s ethnographic work among the Hazāra in 1953-55 and in the Danish National Museum collection in 1948 and 1953-54.

The 19th century. Mountstuart Elphinstone, the fa­ther of Afghan ethnography, is apparently the earliest source on Hazāra clothing. He published one illustra­tion (Elphinstone, pl. XII, facing p. 483; plate cxxxii) with the brief comment “the dress of the meṇ . . . is distinguished by the rolls of cloth which they twist round their legs like the Uzbeks. The women wear long frocks of woollen stuff, and boots of soft deer­skin, which reach to their knees” (p. 483 ). In the 1830s Alexander Burnes reported that Hazāra women of rank “go unveiled, and wear two or three loongees [lungies] on the head, like a tiara” (p. 175). He added that the Hazāras manufactured a fabric called “burruk” (see barak) from the wool of sheep.

The American general Josiah Harlan, who was also in Afghanistan in the 1830s, gave more detail. Ac­cording to him, the manufacture of “berrick” was common throughout the Paropamisus mountains and among the pastoral tribes of Central Asia, but the best was made in Dāy Zangī in the southern part of Hazārajāt (p. 116). Of the Hazāra in particular he reported (pp. 128-30) that “the clothing of the poor or laboring class consists of a long frock made of the berrick i burrie and pantaloons of the same material fitting tight near the ankles. They wrap their legs with strips of the same material, about two and a half inches wide . . . com­mencing at the ankle . . . . This arrangement is commonly adopted by couriers and other foot men who have occasion to perform long journeys . . . . Their feet are usually protected by sandals of straw. The higher orders use shoes of Cabul or Bulkḥ . . . . During winteṛ . . . those of Tatar proclivity use boots, or mashee [mašī] as they are called in "Toorkie." But for all pedestrian purposes at this season they use a most serviceable contrivance for the protection of the feet called sooklies [soḵlī “lambskin”], which effectually and economi­cally secure the wearer immunity from the influence of cold, frost, and snow! This sooklie is prepared from the fresh skin of a horse, bullock or cameḷ . . . . These sooklies should be laced tightly . . . . The sooklie, how­ever, is generally made and fitted from the recent skin and mostly at the moment when it is desirable . . . on the line of a march and in the midst of a snowstorm. The people live under bare polls, except the gentry, who use either a closely fitting chintz padded cap or one of sheepskin and the turban of Khorasan; the head-dress is modified with the season. The women are habited like the men, except that they wear their hair in long braids and pendant locks.” With reference to “the leading chiefs and their confidential followers,” Harlan mentioned that “their dress assimilates either to the Uzbek or Persian” (p. 131). A detailed description follows, including mention of the Persian qabā and long lungies both wrapped round the loins and folded round the head. The Hazāra chiefs generally wore no shirt, an Uzbek custom; those who did wear shirts preferred the Persian qamīṣ of silk or cotton. The outermost wrap was the čūḵā, a long cloak with sleeves, a version of the Turkestan caftan.

The 20th century. Hazāra clothing has changed very little since Harlan’s time. The Hazārajāt is receptive to cultural influences from outside but retains distinctive features. Two excellent photographs taken in 1916-17 were published by Oskar von Niedermayer and Ernst Diez. In one (pl. 185) four Hazāra men from the “central mountain area” appear, all wearing conical cloth caps edged with sheepskin. One has no shirt but wears two barrak caftans, one over the other; two wear cotton shirts, one with a barrak waistcoat and short barrak caftan, the other with a long barrak caftan the front corners of which are caught up in his cloth waistband. One or two wear cotton trousers, the others possibly woolen trousers. Two or three have the special Hazāra shoes, kāpī, with a heavy sole and a vamp of a single piece or two pieces stitched together along the instep, and one wears “moccasins” of raw-­hide (čarāḵ soḵlī; see below) with tapes wrapped around the ankle and foot to hold them on. Two have bound their trousers below the knees (where puttees would start), a feature not encountered elsewhere. These mountain Hazāras evince many of the features de­scribed by Harlan and observed by the author in the 1950s. The second photograph (pl. 186) depicts two Hazāra porters from Kabul. They are somewhat more citified, with their turbans and traditional shoes with toes turned up. Both wear cotton trousers, one with puttees, and cotton shins with narrow neckbands, which Bruno Markowski designated “Parsiwān and Hazāra” (table XXV, fig. 21a; cf. the same type in Ferdinand, p. 31, fig. 12).

In the 1950s Hazāra women made all the family clothing, and they also wove barrak on a horizontal loom of a type common in Afghanistan. Cotton is cultivated in the warmer southern part of Hazārajāt, for example, in Šahrestān (formerly Sepāy) in Dāy Zangī and farther south in Orūzgān and Jāḡūrī; profes­sional male weavers make the traditional cotton cloth called karbās on a loom of a type found extensively in southern and western Asia (Wulff, Crafts, p. 201 fig. 280).

In 1954 the author met in the central Hazārajāt only two men wearing the traditional dress of Šahrestān. It consisted of skin caps (as in Niedermayer and Diez), trousers, waistcoats (waskat), and coats (mačew) similar to British military frock coats, all of barrak; cotton shirts; and the solid Hazāra kāpī. Although the land is 2,600 feet above sea level, it was summer, and these men were clad much more warmly than neces­sary. The typical summer dress of a farmer consisted of a shirt (perān, perō) and trousers (pāyjāma, tambān, Hazāra tambō, ezār) of locally made karbās or im­ported cotton cloth, a barrak waistcoat, imported rubber sandals (čaplī-e robbar), and a very specific kind of cylindrical cap (kollā) with a crown of four or eight quilted pieces (čār or hašt-tark), the lower part (gerd-e kollā) edged with scallops (palta). It can thus be concluded that the south-central Hazāra typically wore the cap and waistcoat and, when weather and circumstances demanded, the short barrak caftan (čakman) and frock coat. A belt (Hazāra kamarī or memand) or cloth sash was often wrapped around the waist. Puttees (pāypēč) were no longer much worn in Šahrestān, as stockings had been introduced from Jāḡūrī about thirty years earlier. Wealthier people were more influenced by styles from Kabul, prefer­ring imported cloth; they invariably wore the turban (Hazāra lungota, Pers. destār) over the cap and a shoulder blanket or shawl of cotton (šāl) or a soft fulled woolen material (šāl-e hazāragī), depending on the season. The shawl was also commonly worn while traveling.

Among the northern Hazāra, the Šayḵ ʿAlī and others in the upper Ḡōrband valley and near the Šebar pass, male dress was still quite traditional in the 1950s. Both short and long barrak caftans were common, and woolen trousers, puttees, and kāpī were generally worn. In winter men wore turbans and wrapped woolen scarves round their necks and faces as protection against the cold.

Among women hardly any element of the traditional dress described by Harlan remained. The author saw no women’s caftans at all; in cold weather the only wraps worn for outdoor work (e.g., weaving, in Ḡōrband) were large headcloths or short shawls (čādor), made exclusively of imported cloth. Dresses were plain and unadorned, usually long red or dark-­blue gowns (Hazāra perō, Pers. perān < pērāhan) with neckbands and front openings with buttons, worn over trousers (Hazāra tambō) in the same colors and some­times supplemented by small waistcoats. Ordinarily a cap (kollā) was worn with a dark-colored headcloth over it. Shoes, though rarely worn, were either kāpī or imports from Kabul.

Bright-red gowns were considered “modern”; in contrast to traditional gowns with long, full sleeves very wide at the wrists (Ferdinand, p. 27 fig 10; Figure 64), they had narrow cuffs and were embroidered along the edges of the front openings. The headcloth was folded in a thick, flat pad on top of the head, with the ends forming a sort of veil at the back of the neck; this headdress may be the “tiara” mentioned by Burnes (p. 175; see above; for a dark gown with narrow cuffs, see Ferdinand, p. 29, fig. 11).

Children’s clothes followed the same pattern as those of adults. Boys wore caps, cotton shirts, trou­sers, barrak waistcoats, and rubber sandals. Girls wore more colorful clothing, often long red gowns and red trousers, as well as caps and sandals. Very small children of either sex wore no trousers under long shirts or gowns. In summer children usually went barefoot. At puberty girls began to wear the headcloth. In southern Dāy Zangī the cap was worn on top of the headcloth to secure it.

In the collection of the Danish National Museum in Copenhagen there are the following items of Hazāra clothing: E. 1432 a-b: heavy-soled shoes (čarāḵ Hazārajāt); Punjab, Hazārajāt, 1948. E. 1433 a-b, 1434, 1435: cowhide moccasins (čarāḵ soklī), hair side outward, with tapes along the edges for tying onto the feet (cf. Harlan, above); Kabul and Hazārajāt, 1948. E. 1647: fulled woolen blanket; Hazārajāt, 1948. E. 1795: man’s cap (kollā); Šahrestān, 1953. E. 1796 a-­b: girl’s cap (kollā) with silver pendant; Šahrestān, 1953. E. 1797 a-b: woman’s cap (kollā) with pendant; Šahrestān, 1953. E. 1800: woman’s gown of locally made cotton cloth, cut in “modern” style with narrow cuffs and embroidery; Šahrestān, 1953. E. 1837: man’s short barrak caftan (čakman); Ḡōrband-Šebar area, 1954. E. 1838: man’s long caftan (čakman); Ḡōrband­-Šebar area, 1954. E. 1839 a-b: leather-soled men’s shoes (kāpī); Ḡōrband-Šebar area, 1954. E. 1840: woman’s gown, worn; Ḡōrband-Šebar area, 1954. E. 1841: woman’s cap; Ḡōrband-Šebar area, 1954. E. 1842: girl’s cap; Ḡōrband-Šebar area, 1954. E. 1843 a-b: leather-soled women’s (?) shoes (kāpī); Ḡōrband-Šebar area, 1954. E. 1847: white woolen men’s trousers; Ḡōrband-Šebar area, 1954. E. 1848: man’s cap; Ḡōrband-Šebar area, 1954. E. 1849 a-b: knitted woolen stockings; Ḡōrband-Šebar area, 1954. E. 1850 a-b: puttees (pāypēč); Ḡōrband-Šebar area, 1954. E. 1851: child’s cap; Ḡōrband-Šebar area, 1954.

Because Hazāra clothing is poorly documented, it has been possible to provide only a glimpse of its historical development and present character. It is noteworthy that the greatest changes seem to have taken place among women, in contrast to much ethno­graphic evidence from other groups. Paradoxically change has been least among the northern Hazāras, who live in a more easily accessible area. The com­plex developments in Hazārajāt are perhaps to be explained by the exploitative trading activities of the Pashtun nomads.


A. Burnes, Cabool. A Personal Narrative of a Journey to, and Residence in That City in the Years 1836, 7, and 8, 2nd ed., London, 1842; repr. Lahore, 1961.

M. Elphinstone, An Account of the Kingdom of Caubul and Its Dependencies in Persia, Tartary, and India, 2 vols., London, 1815; repr. Graz, 1969.

K. Ferdinand, Preliminary Notes on Hazāra Culture (The Danish Scientific Mission to Afghanistan, 1953-55), Danske Videnskabernes Selskab, Historisk Filosofiske Meddelelser 37/5, Copenhagen, 1959.

J. Harlan, Central Asia. Per­sonal Narrative of General Josiah Harlan 1823-1841, ed. F. E. Ross, London, 1939.

B. Markowski, Die materielle Kultur des Kabulgebietes, Leipzig, 1932.

O. von Niedermayer and E. Diez, eds., Afganistan, Leipzig, 1924.

(Klaus Ferdinand)

Originally Published: December 15, 1992

Last Updated: October 25, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. V, Fasc. 8, pp. 815-818

Cite this entry:

Klaus Ferdinand, “CLOTHING xiv. Clothing of the Hazāra tribes,” Encyclopædia Iranica, V/8, pp. 815-818, available online at (accessed on 30 December 2012).