The cultures of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan are similar because these countries have a lot in common: history, traditions, lifestyle, and even genes. So, the national costumes and traditional clothes of these Central Asian countries often look alike as well. Today, we’ll try to distinguish different folk headdresses for men and women, describe them, give some photos, and share with you some interesting info about them. These folk hats, caps, and scarves can tell a lot about the culture and clothing traditions of Central Asia.
Central Asia is a very interesting part of the world. Five countries form this area: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. All of them historically are nomadic countries with unique and rich culture. A lot of ancient traditions in Central Asia are preserved till this day – it might be because these countries are still comparatively poorly developed today. Maybe it’s not too good for the local people but their culture definitely won from it.
Various tubeteika hats from Tajikistan. Different shapes, sizes, and embellishments
So, this article is dedicated to the variety of Central Asian headdresses. And there are plenty of them here.
This headdress is one of the most distinctive. It is most typical for Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Usually, this hat is made of white felt and adorned with embroidery designs. It is a high-crowned narrow-brimmed hat. There are kalpaks for various seasons – thicker felt or sheepskin is used for winter and thin felt is good for summer. This headdress is very convenient because it can be folded flat, so you can easily carry it in your bag or pocket.
Traditional kalpak hats from Kyrgyzstan
These hats are often worn during folk festivals and similar special occasions, but some people still use them in everyday life. Festive kalpaks are all-white with embroidery, while daily kalpaks have a black velvet lining.
Festive Kyrgyz kalpak with embroidery
Kalpaks for young men often have a notch in the brim at the front. Headdresses for older males don’t have any notches and the brim folds up all the way around.
High kalpak hats from Kazakhstan decorated with embroidery
There are also many traditions in Central Asia connected to this hat. For instance, it’s forbidden to set kalpak on the ground or near your feet – it’s considered disrespectful.
This is the most popular skull-cap in Central Asia. It is worn in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and even in Crimea (by Crimean Tatars). Also, this type of hat is used by Muslims and Jews as a religious headdress.
Male and female Uzbek tubeteika caps
This skull-cap is shaped like a yurt (round tent that serves as a portable house in Central Asia). It usually is embellished with embroidery patterns.
These headdresses are rare. They are made of white felt (just like a kalpak) but sit tightly on the head, like a skull-cap. They have similar design and decorations as the kalpak.
It is another male skull-cap worn in several Central Asian countries. The shape is formed from 4 panels of stiffened cloth, mainly black. Duppi hats are usually decorated with embroidery and beading.
This is a winter hat worn in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and other neighboring areas. This hat is made from fur for the most part, while its crown is made from felt or leather. It is a very warm and nice-looking headgear. Tebetei is especially popular in rural areas where people spend a lot of time outdoors and need something to withstand the harsh Central Asian climate.
This hat is very similar to tebetei but even warmer and fluffier. It has large fur flaps to cover the ears and neck.
Telpek or papakha
It is another variant of a winter hat (or just a hat for colder weather). Telpek is the name for this hat in Turkmenistan, it is called a “papakha” in Caucasus. A telpek is made of sheepskin, it is very large and fluffy. Usually, craftsmen don’t dye the fur, so this headdress is white or black.
Turkmen telpek made from white sheepskin
A lot of women in Central Asia wear colorful scarves around their heads. These are scarves with floral patterns and fringe. There are several ways of draping a scarf, including one similar to a hijab (around the head and under the chin).
It is a female equivalent of the male tebetei hat. This headdress is made from fur and leather. And it is decorated with a large pom-pom or a bunch of feathers at the top. Of course, this hat is made for winter. Suusar tebetei is often worn in Central Asia for ceremonies and special occasions, but the same hat without the top decoration is used in day-to-day life.
Traditional suusar tebetei from Kazakhstan. It is adorned with embroidery and a bunch of feathers
This is a traditional bridal headdress in Kyrgyzstan. It is a high conical hat adorned with furs, feathers, jewels, small amulets, etc. This hat used to be kind of a showcase of the family’s wealth – people tried to make it as ornate as they could afford. The shokulo is still used for traditional-style weddings and folk festivals, but modern Kyrgyz brides rarely wear it for their wedding.
Pretty women in Kyrgyz folk headdresses: elechek on the left and shokulo on the right
Elechek is another very curious and traditional headdress in Central Asia. It is used by the respected matriarchs. It consists of a hat and a scarf. The design of an elechek and the way it is draped show the tribal affiliation of a woman. Also, this headgear displays the social status and wealth of a woman – sometimes, up to 30 meters of fabric is used. When such a woman dies, this fabric is used as a funeral shroud. Today, elechek is mostly worn during special occasions and festivals.
It is a traditional skull-cap in Turkmenistan. These caps are very bright and colorful, richly covered with embroidery. There are tahyas for various occasions, ages, and regions of the country. Men also wear tahya, they even use it under the telpek.
Turkmen tahya caps – beautiful and very colorful skull-caps
This is a special headscarf with a deep symbolic meaning. It is a plain white scarf (or embellished with “white on white” embroidery) tied over a woman’s head. This headdress is worn by newlywed females – during first two years of their marriage. The jooluk is kind of a ceremonial headgear. During Kyrgyz traditional weddings, the bride’s mother-in-law ties this headscarf on the bride’s head. And only this mother-in-law can give the newlywed woman permission to change the jooluk into any other headdress.
It is a yurt-shaped women’s cap that has a pom-pom or a bunch of feathers at the top (similar to a suusar tebetei). Also, this cap is usually decorated with embroidery.
This is a Tajik traditional skull-cap, part of Tajik folk costume. Toqi is usually colorful and bright, with various patterns on the fabric. It matches the whole outfit. Often, the designs on toqi indicate the tribal affiliation of a female.
By the way, there are male toqi. They are similar but with less bright patterns.
This variant of a female ornate skull-cap is worn in Uzbekistan. It is usually embellished with a lot of embroidery, often in floral designs.
Various designs of tubeteika hats from Tajikistan
Festive women’s tubeteika from Uzbekistan decorated with jewelry and a veil