CLOTHING xxiv. Clothing of the Qašqāʾī tribes



xxiv. Clothing of the Qašqāʾī tribes

In the 19-20th centuries the Qašqāʾī constituted a tribal confederacy of people of ethnolinguistically diverse origin; they were predominantly nomadic pastoralists who migrated seasonally between the low­lands and the highlands in the southern Zagros mountains. They created their own distinctive dress from market-derived goods and the work of village and urban craft specialists.

In the 19th century non-elite Qašqāʾī men wore wide-legged trousers (tonbān), collarless shirts (keynak), long lined cloth cloaks (ārḵāloq) secured with wide cummerbunds (šāl), and felt cloaks (kapanak). Their headgear consisted of conical and rounded black felt hats (berk). Guns, knives, daggers, swords, and clubs were an important part of men’s attire (Fraser, p. 93; Goldsmid, p. 576). When in towns and cities elite Qašqāʾī men, particularly the paramount khans, wore clothing similar to that of the Qajar elite (see x, above): collarless white shirts, long cloth cloaks with lapels that overlapped in front, and cummerbunds to hold the cloaks closed. Their black lambskin hats were tall, cylindrical, and often flat on top (Oberling, pp. 242-­50). They also wore loose outer garments (ʿabāʾ) and ornamented long brocade coats. Elite Qašqāʾī men wore less formal versions of this clothing while in tribal territory.

At the turn of the 20th century Qašqāʾī men wore collarless white shirts, wide-legged black trousers gathered at the waist, lined cloaks fastened in front with cummerbunds, and flared or rounded short black felt hats (Oberling, pp. 249-50). Some men wore sheepskin jackets and felt vests. Their shoes (malekī) were of the handmade type typical of rural Persia. For ceremonial occasions, hunting, and war men wore thin cloaks called čoqā, which they secured by two braided cords looped over the arms and tied in the back, with tassels on the ends. Weapons and cartridge belts (worn across the chest or around the waist) were prominent. Men of the different Qašqāʾī tribes were often distinguished by different ways of wearing cummerbunds and cartridge belts.

From 1307 Š./1928, when Reżā Shah outlawed eth­nic dress (see xi, above), until his forced abdication in 1320 Š./1941, Qašqāʾī men were forbidden to wear their customary cloaks, cummerbunds, and hats. They, like all men in Persia (except the Muslim clergy), were forced to wear prescribed dress, including European-­style trousers, suit jackets, and hats. After 1320 Š./1941 Qašqāʾī men continued to wear these trousers and jackets; the cloak (ārḵāloq) that had been everyday wear until 1307 Š./1928 became ceremonial attire, and the čoqā was no longer much used (plate clxii). In 1320 Š./1941 Nāṣer Khan Qašqāʾī, freed from prison and house arrest in Tehran by Reżā Shah’s abdication to play an active role as īlḵānī (paramount khan) of the Qašqāʾī confederation, introduced a distinctive Qašqāʾī hat (dogūšī “two-eared”), modeled on earlier styles; of beige, tan, or gray felt, it was rounded and had two distinctive raised flaps above the ears. It was quickly adopted by all Qašqāʾī men and became the symbol of revived Qašqāʾī power, autonomy, and identity (for photographs taken in 1325 Š./1946, see Duncan, pp. 140-57).

The dress of Qašqāʾī women in the 19th and early 20th centuries was similar to that worn by other rural and tribal women in southwestern Persia. They contin­ued to wear this dress through the 1970s (Amir-Moez, pp. 512-44; Beck, 1981; The Qashqa’i of Iran, pp. 34-­51) and, with variations, into the 1990s (plate clxiii). It was characterized by vividly contrasting colors, fabrics, and trims. Women wore multiple gathered skirts (šalīta, tonbān), tunics (keynak) slit at the sides, and short jackets (ārḵāloq) with pointed sleeves. Over their small caps (kolāqča) they wore diaphanous scarves (lačak, čārqad), which covered the napes of their necks and their backs. After 1320 Š./1941 many Qašqāʾī women added a wrapped silk headband (yāḡloq, qālāq), which they tied over the head scarf, with its ends trailing down the back. Jewelry (necklaces, scarf pins, earrings, arm plates) reflected familial and household wealth. Women of the different Qašqāʾī tribes were often distinguished by such subtleties in dress as the knotting of silk headbands and the choice of fabric colors. Qašqāʾī women never covered their faces. In this century, until the Revolution of 1357 Š./1978-79, they sometimes casually wore čādors when traveling to cities, in order to conform to general urban customs in Persia. Qašqāʾī women sewed their own clothes from fabric purchased in markets and from itinerant merchants. They wore the handmade shoes typical of rural Persia. Elite Qašqāʾī women wore more elaborate versions of the same dress, and, begin­ning in the 1950s, when they were in cities and towns they often adopted the attire of elite urban women.

Qašqāʾī children’s clothes were modeled after those of adults. Boys were often dressed as girls until around the age of three years, in order to confuse evil spirits and to avoid envy and hence repel the evil eye.

After the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1358 Š./1979 Qašqāʾī women traveling to cities and towns complied to a degree with the new codes of dress for women (see xi, above), by adopting more conceal­ing čādors in dark colors (author’s observations in Persia and interviews with Qašqāʾī people and Persians abroad). Only the urban Qašqāʾī wore the stricter dress required of urban women in general: black čādors or dark overcoats (māntow < Fr. manteau), hoods (maqnaʿa) fitted tightly around the face or scarves (rūsarī), wide trousers (šalvār), and dark stockings and concealing shoes. Nomadic Qašqāʾī women some­times publicly defied revolutionary guards and mem­bers of the revolutionary councils who attempted to enforce these changes. By 1368 Š./1989 some Qašqāʾī women, especially those in frequent contact with towns and cities, had adopted modified versions of the dress required of urban women. In 1370 Š./1991 these clothing standards had been somewhat relaxed throughout the nation, and many Qašqāʾī women were still wearing or had resumed wearing slightly modified tribal dress (author’s observations in Persia). Most women, except for the elderly, had substituted dark head scarves for the diaphanous scarves they had worn before the Revolution. Qašqāʾī schoolgirls were re­quired to wear overcoats, hoods or scarves, and trou­sers, but they almost always resumed wearing modi­fied versions of customary Qašqāʾī dress when they completed their formal education. Qašqāʾī men, more often in contact with members of the dominant Persian society, usually conformed to new urban styles of dress (long-sleeved shirts in dark colors), although they continued to wear the distinctive Qašqāʾī hat. As a symbol of renewed tribal power and identity, men who joined the Qašqāʾī insurgency (1359-61 Š./1980-­82) sometimes wore the thin cloaks (čoqā) that had served as ceremonial attire for their grandfathers (Beck, 1986, pp. 296-347).



Y. Amir-Moez, “Quelques aspects d’une culture materielle. Techniques des pasteurs nomades Qasqayi,” Ph.D. diss., Sorbonne, Paris, 1985, pp. 512-44.

L. Beck, The Qashqa’i People of Southern Iran, UCLA Museum of Cultural History, Pamphlet Series 14, Los Angeles, 1981.

Idem, The Qashqa’i of Iran, New Haven, Conn., 1986 (see in­dex, s.v. Qashqa’i dress).

Idem, Nomad. A Year in the Life of a Qashqa’i Tribesman in Iran, Berkeley, 1991. D. G. Duncan, The World of Allah, Boston, 1982, pp. 140-57.

J. Fraser, Narrative of a Journey into Khorasan in the Years 1821 and 1822, London, 1825.

F. Goldsmid, Telegraph and Travel, London, 1874.

P. Oberling, The Qashqa’i Nomads of Fars, the Hague, 1974.

The Qashqa’i of Iran, Manchester, 1976, pp. 34-51.

(Lois Beck)

Originally Published: December 15, 1992

Last Updated: October 25, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. V, Fasc. 8, pp. 850-852