Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hamid Karzai's hat's waning fortunes

I didn't know this, but apparently Hamid Karzai's iconic hat had a lot of political and cultural relevance:

Known as a karakul hat, and made of the pelt of fetal or newborn lambs of the karakul breed of sheep, traditionally it was something worn by Tajiks and Uzbeks from northern Afghanistan. When Mr. Karzai, a Pashtun from the turban-wearing south, took office in 2002, the karakul hat was part of his attempt to devise a wardrobe that was Afghan rather than ethnic or regional.

It was a move widely praised at the time, in Afghanistan and abroad. The American designer Tom Ford called the Afghan president “the chicest man on the planet.” Afghans looking for national symbols after decades of ethnic strife inspired a brisk trade in the hats, made of lambskins from Mazar-i-Sharif in the north and fashioned by Kabul’s hatters, whose shops lined both sides of Shah-e-do Shamshera Wali Road.

Evidently the hat's fortunes have waned along with Hamid Karzai's.

In any case, all the better for the poor lambs:

The more expensive ones are made from the skins of lambs taken from the pregnant ewe just before birth, by cutting open her abdomen, sometimes while she is still alive. Less costly are those made from lambs killed immediately after delivery; because karakul sheep are extremely protective of their young, that often means slaughtering both together, or forcibly separating them.

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