Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, an Indian nationalist leader, who was also the longest serving President of the Indian National Congress wearing Karakul hat.

A Karakul hat (Dari/Urdu/Pashto/Uzbek/Kashmiri: قراقلی), sometimes spelled as Qaraqul hat, also known as an Astrakhan hat, Uzbek hat,[1] and Jinnah Cap.[2][3] It is a hat made from the fur of the Qaraqul breed of sheep. Karakul is directly translated as black fur in the Uzbek language and the hat originally comes from Bukhara.[4][5][6][7] The fur from which it is made is referred to as Astrakhan, broadtail, qaraqulcha, or Persian lamb. The hat is peaked, and folds flat when taken off of the wearer's head.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan, wearing Karakul.
Muhammad Ibrahim Khan, Hazara leader in 1944 from Afghanistan, wearing Karakul.

The cap is typically worn by Muslim men in Central and South Asia. It was worn by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan. The karakul, which had distinguished all educated urban men since the beginning of the 20th century, has fallen out of fashion in Afghanistan and Pakistan.[8][9][3]


The cap is made of the fur of the Qaraqul or Karakul breed of sheep, which is found in the desert areas of Central Asia. The sheep have been named in connection to the city of Qorako‘l, a town in the Bukhara Region of Uzbekistan. Later, the cap became popular in Mazar Sharif, a city in Afghanistan, after which Uzbek craftsmen also brought the business to Pakistan.[10][11]

The type of wool from which these caps are made is popularly known as astar, astarkhan, broadtail, qaraqulcha and Irani menda. The literal meaning of Karakul, which is a Turkish word, is black lake.[12]


In terms of design, the cap is peaked and has several parts. It folds flat when taken off the head. The cap has been particularly popular among the Muslim population of Central and South Asia, however, there is no religious significance attached to it.

The fur is obtained from a newly-born sheep, which gives the cap its tough and curly texture as well as a specific pattern.[13][14]

Soviet Politburo hat

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Leonid Brezhnev wearing Karakul in 1974

In the Soviet Union, 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 tsar and Soviet generals.[citation needed] 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[citation needed] because it resembled traditional Russian pies.[citation needed]

Karakul worn in Russia, or the Soviet Union, are cylindrical and are unlike the Gandhi cap (which is another type of hat of a different style, color and materials from the karakul) worn in South Asia.

Kashmiri variations

Karakul caps have been worn by Kashmiris for the past several decades.[15] The Karakul cap is colloquially known as a "Karakuli" in the Kashmir Valley. The traditional headgear of the gentry in Kashmir has historically been the turban tied in a similar fashion to the Pashtun equivalent.

Most of the mainstream lawmakers enjoy wearing the Karakul caps. A Kashmiri groom frequently dons a Karakul Cap while waiting for his fiancée to join him at his in-laws' residence.

African variations

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]


See also


  1. ^ Ahmed, Akbar S. (2005) [First published 1997]. Jinnah, Pakistan, and Islamic Identity: The Search for Saladin. London: Routledge. p. 85. ISBN 978-1-134-75022-1.
  2. ^ "Decoding Afghanistan's colourful headgear culture". AlJazeera. 18 March 2022. known as a Jinnah cap across the border in Pakistan, where it was popularised by the country's founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah
  3. ^ a b Baig, Zulfiqar (9 October 2019). "Jinnah Cap – a dying legacy". The Express Tribune.
  4. ^ "Hamid Karzai's Famous Hat Made From Aborted Lamb Fetuses". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 1 May 2008.
  5. ^ "Qaraquls Burst Upon the Fashion World". Taipei Times. Associated Press. 27 May 2007. p. 12. Archived from the original on 16 December 2007.
  6. ^ Humane Society of the United States (12 December 2000). "HSUS Investigation Reveals Slaughter of Unborn and Newborn Lambs for Fur: Dateline NBC Features Undercover Investigation Documenting Animal Cruelty". Infurmation (Press release). Archived from the original on 31 May 2006.
  7. ^ "Transcript of NBC "Dateline" Feature on Karakul Production". 11 December 2000. Archived from the original on 10 May 2008.
  8. ^ "Clothing in Afghanistan". Encyclopaedia Iranica. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
  9. ^ Nordland, Rob (26 January 2010). "The Afghan Leader's Hat, Always More Than Just Headgear, Is Losing Its Cachet". New York Times. Archived from the original on 10 June 2021. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  10. ^ Yasin, Aamir (2019-12-08). "The last Jinnah cap maker in Rawalpindi". DAWN.COM. Retrieved 2023-01-24.
  11. ^ "Jinnah Cap – a dying legacy". The Express Tribune. 2019-10-08. Retrieved 2023-01-24.
  12. ^ KO (2022-03-24). "The Royal Headgear: Qarakul - Kashmir Observer". Retrieved 2023-01-24.
  13. ^ "Jinnah Cap – a dying legacy". The Express Tribune. 2019-10-08. Retrieved 2023-01-24.
  14. ^ "Why we stopped selling Karakul Caps". 6 April 2019. Retrieved 2023-01-24.
  15. ^ M. Ashraf (1 January 2013). "The Karakul Cap". Archived from the original on 28 January 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2013.