The Kurdish traditional clothing is still used sometimes today, though, mostly by older people. Particularly, the ancient outfit called the “shal and shepik” can be rarely seen these days in everyday life; it is mostly worn as a ceremonial dress. These clothing pieces were even banned by Turkish politicians at one time – they were called “uniforms for illegal organizations”. But in reality, shal and shepik are just the handmade folk garments that are considered Kurdish cultural heritage.
The Kurds or Kurdish people are an Iranian ethnic group of the Middle East. Today, they inhabit some territories in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. The total population of Kurdish people is about 30-40 million. Kurds are skilled artisans in weaving, jewelry making, weaponry, and other handicrafts.
These are colorful woolen fabrics in Duhok, Kurdistan region. They’re used in traditional Kurdish male garments known as “shal” and “shepik”.
The clothes in Kurdistan can often indicate one’s social class. The traditional outfits are often worn to weddings, funerals, and meetings.
“Shal and shepik is an old Kurdish traditional clothing used by our fathers and grandfathers, and we are very proud of it. But unfortunately, it has been declining day after day. This old and well-known dress becomes like an identity for the Kurds. If you wear them, wherever you go, no one will ask your ID because your dress will show that you are a Kurd”, says Jamil Nuri, seller of Kurdish traditional clothing.
The costume is made out of pure goat’s wool, which must be premium and carefully selected.
The wool has to be cleaned, combined, and converted into wool yarn via a hand spindle.
Then, the yarn is made into pieces 15 cm by 6 m. Two of these pieces are needed in order to tailor one outfit. This process commonly takes place in the Christian villages in the Berwari area of Duhok.
The fabrics are normally brown in color but can be also dyed blue, white, or green.
“Each outfit needs about a month because the required work is very difficult. The woman needs a long time to clean and combine the wool, along with spinning. Approximately, 20 days are needed to produce 1 kg of wool that is enough for one costume, and then the manufacturing here at the factory also takes 5-6 days to make them. Then, it will be finished here”, says Zeiya Audishu, fabric manufacturer.
The prices vary. A very high-quality Kurdish outfit could cost up to $1,500; average ones range from $600-800, while polyester clothes may cost only $200.
The high prices and long hours required for the shal and shepik are behind the drop in those making it. However, despite a spread of Western trends in Kurdish society, the majority of older people in Duhok still wear their traditional clothing.