Old man of Has of Prizren wearing a qeleshe

The qeleshe, also known as plis and qylat,[1] is a white brimless felt skull cap traditionally worn by Albanians. It has spread throughout Albanian-inhabited territories, and is today part of the traditional costume of the Albanians. The height and shape of the cap varies region to region.


Portrait of a young Albanian soldier wearing a qeleshe. Oil on canvas by Charles Bargue (1826–1883).

In Albanian: def. sin. qeleshja or plisi, indef. pl. qeleshe or plisa, def. pl. qeleshet or plisat.

The word qeleshe comes from the Albanian word for wool (lesh).[2] According to Vladimir Orel, the word plis comes from Proto-Albanian *p(i)litja, related to Old High German filiz id., Latin pellis id. and Greek πῖλος pilos id., Proto-Slavic *pьlstь id.;[3] according to Michael Driesen, Orel's reconstruction of Proto-Albanian *p(i)litja is incorrect.[4]


There are many ways to make the qeleshe but it is always hand made. The most common way, in Kosovo, is using soap on the wool. In the bazaar of Krujë, it is constructed by first getting a small chunk of wool that is placed on a table. Then, an instrument similar to a bow is used to beat the wool by hammering the string with a stone or a sturdy piece of wood. The wool is beaten and pressed until the wool strands become knotted around each other. Finally, it is washed, and shrinks.

It is then pressed by a flat wooden instrument on top of it, multiple times, until the wool becomes completely flat and smooth. Then, it is sealed in a flattener for 24 hours and soaked in hot water and salt. The hat is made by two finished, flattened and pressed wool. The corners are removed to form a round shape. Afterwards, soap is added as a glue substitution to finely keep the fibres smooth while both pieces of wool are rubbed together. Then it is washed and beaten to strengthen the fabric, and placed on a wooden model. The shape of the qeleshe is determined by the wooden model on which it is left to dry, and then rubbed with soap again to fix the shape. The wool will be smoothened with a razor. Lastly, a wooden instrument is firmly rubbed on the qeleshe.[5][6][7]


Albanian qeleshe shop in the Old Bazaar - Gjakova, 1936

The Albanian qeleshe has been handed down from Illyrian times.[8][9][10]

The Illyrian hemispherical cap dates from the Iron Age, found both in men's and women's graves, hence it can be assumed that it was worn both by men and women. A monument from Illyrian times that was found in Zenica shows a calotte-shaped cap, very similar to the qeleshe. The Albanian/Illyrian cap has been classified in a broader and general Mediterranean framework, relying on illustrations on situlae and girdle plates from the later Iron Age in Northern Italy and the Southern Alps. They also feature figures with hemispherical headgear with a small spike. The wearers of such caps are depicted carrying agricultural tools which leads to consider them as country people.[11] Furthermore, in monuments from the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD from Bosnia, Illyrians under Roman rule are depicted with similar cap shapes.[12] Such caps are absent in the eastern half of the Balkans, in the Pannonian-Carpathian region and in eastern Europe.[12]

The 1542 Latin dictionary De re vestiaria libellus, ex Bayfio excerptus equated an Albanian hat with a kyrbasia, and described it as a "tall pileus [hat] in the shape of a cone" (pileus altus in speciem coni eductus).[13] An early depiction of the hemispherical qeleshe can be seen on Johann Theodor de Bry depiction of Moisi Golemi from 1596, however, earlier Italian and documents exist depicting Albanians wearing the qeleshe from earlier centuries.[14] It is also argued by Nopcsa that it may have been coloured red. During the 17-19 centuries, the appearances description and appearances steadily multiplied, depicting it as a common Albanian headdress as it became more widespread and easily accessible to wear. The white version became the most popular one and was finally declared a specific Albanian national costume during the Albanian Renaissance.

In the 18-19 century, the qeleshe became popularly depicted in painting depicting Arnaut, painters like Jean-Léon Gérôme, Charles Bargue and Marie-Gabriel-Florent-Auguste de Choiseul-Gouffier would paint Albanian subjects of the Osman Empire with the qeleshe , as a diverse presentation of the orient. It would be casually depicted in a formal setting, such as in The Albanian Marriage by Jean Pierre Louis Laurent Hoüel in 1785, where the priest is depicted with a qeleshe.

During the 19-20 century, Albanologists started taking photographs of Albanian national attires, many of which would include the qeleshe. Franz Nopcsa von Felső-Szilvás is photographed multiple times wearing the headdress. It then became a popular headdress for Albanian soldiers to wear during the battle for independence, Shota Galica, Isa Boletini and Azem Galica are depicted wearing the qeleshe while fighting Italian, Turkish, Greek, Serbian and Montenegrin troops during the Partition of Albania. The qeleshe formed part of the official uniform of the Waffen-SS Skanderbeg division and Albanian Legion.[15][16]


The cap is part of the traditional costume of the Albanian highlanders[17][18] and is considered as a national symbol among a large number of Albanian communities.[19] During the Ottoman period, the hat as a white colored fez cap was the characteristic Albanian national headgear, in particular of Muslim Albanians.[1][20]

Wool products at the Kruja Ethnographic Museum.

In the northern Albanian highlands, the shape is hemispherical, while in Kukës, it is truncated.[21][better source needed] In southern Albania, the cap is taller than in northern Albania, especially in the Gjirokastër and Vlorë regions, with the exception of the Myzeqe low plains region. In some areas of southern Albania the cap has a small protrusion. The cap is made from one single piece of woolen felt, usually white, that is molded to the shape of the head.[21][better source needed]

The cap is used by men during the traditional weddings of the Tirana region.[22]


See also


  1. ^ a b Di Monaco, Florindo (1999). Un mondo di acconciature: itinerario alla scoperta di centomila idee e misteri che vengono quotidianamente al pettine. Edizioni scientifiche italiane. p. 354. ISBN 9788881145300. "Gli Albanesi, in parte di religione musulmana, conservano del lunghissimo periodo della dominazione turca il caratteristico fez bianco (qylaf o qeleshe), autentico copricapo nazionale, la cui altezza varia da regione a regione."
  2. ^ Vladimir Orel (1998). Albanian Etymological Dictionary. Brill Academic Pub. p. 219. ISBN 9004110240.
  3. ^ Vladimir Orel (1998). Albanian Etymological Dictionary. Brill Academic Pub. p. 334. ISBN 9004110240.
  4. ^ C. Driessen, Michael (2004). "Towards an Indo-European Term for 'Felt'". Journal of Indo-European Studies: 32. ISBN 9780941694872. Alb. plis recently received an etymology by Orel (1998:334) who reconstructs *p(i)litja- which he connects with Lat. pellis 'hide, fur', PSlav. *pblstb 'felt' and Gr. 'πίλος'. It is not very clear what he means with a reconstruction *p(i)litja-. A pre-form *pilitja- with the element *pil- of alleged *pil-s-o- is obviously incorrect. First of all, an element *pil-(s-) 'felt', as argued earlier on, probably does not exist. Secondly, intervocalic *l develops into Albanian ll (Pedersen 1895:535-536). One would therefore expect *pllis.
  5. ^ "Albanian MOUNTAIN FOOD in Krujë Castle!! BAZAAR Shopping for Qeleshe | Krujë, Albania". YouTube. 10 September 2020.
  6. ^ "A1 Report - Qeleshja mbijeton ndër shekuj". YouTube. 3 December 2014.
  7. ^ Gloyer, Gillian (2012). Bradt Albania (engelsk). Bradt Travel Guides. s. 49. ISBN 978-1-84162-387-0.
  8. ^ Stipčević 1977, p. 89: "It is generally agreed, and rightly so, that the modern Albanian cap originates directly from the similar cap worn by the Illyrians."
  9. ^ Recherches albanologiques: Folklore et ethnologie. Instituti Albanologijik i Prishtinës. 1982. p. 52. Retrieved 14 April 2013. Ne kuadrin e veshjeve me përkime ilire, të dokumentuara gjer më tani hyjnë tirqit, plisi, qeleshja e bardhë gjysmësferike, goxhufi-gëzofi etj
  10. ^ Schubert 1993, pp. 340, 342.
  11. ^ Schubert 1993, pp. 340.
  12. ^ a b Schubert 1993, pp. 342.
  13. ^ Bernis 1972, p. 706: "Le dictionnaire latin BAYFIO. «De re vestiaria», publié à Paris en 1542, constitue un témoignage intéressant du fait que les occidentaux consideraient le chapeau albanais comme un chapeau haut. Ce dictionnaire décrit la «cibaria» [kyrbasia] comme un chapeau albanais ou comme un «pileus altus in speciem coni eductus»."
  14. ^ ↑ Nopcsa 1925: Franz Baron Nopcsa: Albanien: Bauten, Trachten und Geräte Nordalbaniens. Berlin; Leipzig: Walter de Gruyter. 1925.
  15. ^ Kane 2014, p. 288.
  16. ^ Thomas & Babac 2012.
  17. ^ Andromaqi Gjergji (2004). Albanian Costumes Through the Centuries: Origin, Types, Evolution. Acad. of Sciences of Albania, Inst. of Folc Culture. ISBN 978-99943-614-4-1.
  18. ^ Richard C. Hall (9 October 2014). War in the Balkans: An Encyclopedic History from the Fall of the Ottoman Empire to the Breakup of Yugoslavia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 288–. ISBN 978-1-61069-031-7.
  19. ^ Gjergji, 2004, p. 166: "To this day many zones of the Dukagjin Plateau in Kosova and various zones inhabited by Albanians in Montenegro and Macedonia have preserved their folk costumes or some expressive element of the costume, such as the white "qeleshe" (brimless felt cap) considered as a symbol of their nationality."
  20. ^ Stipčević 1977, p. 89: "From among the various caps that the Illyrians wore, one can distinguish four different types. On the monument from Zenica one can see the more common type of skullcap. Fundamentally it does not differ from the present-day small, white Albanian fez known as a qeleshe."
  21. ^ a b Nagel (1990). Albania. Nagel Publishers. p. 62. ISBN 978-2-8263-0827-0. Retrieved 14 April 2013. The qeleshe, the white felt cap worn by men, was a distinctively Albanian type of headgear both within the country and beyond its frontiers" [...] "Among the mountain people of the north it was hemispherical in form; at Kukés in the form of a truncated cone
  22. ^ Vaqarri, Sabina (2010). "TRADICIONALITET DHE RISI NE DASMËN TIRANASE". Albanological Research - Folklore and Ethnology Series (40): 313–322.