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Pakol (Balti بروقپی نتینگ; Pashto: پکول; Urdu: پکول; Tajik: Паколь; Shina/Khowar language: Pakhui; Wakhi Seeked/Brushashki: Phartsun), also known as Chitrali cap, Gilgiti cap, is a soft round-topped men's hat, typically of wool and found in any of a variety of earthy colors: brown, black, grey, or ivory, or dyed red using walnut. The origins of the cap are complex but the cap is thought to originate either from Nuristan region in Afghanistan, The main source of production is Chitral in Pakistan. It is popular amongst the Pashtun men of Afghanistan, and the KPK region in Pakistan. It is also worn by Nuristani people of the adjacent valleys in Chitral such as Kalasha in Pakistan.
The Pakol hat is made from a rugged warm material with a lined interior. It is 100% wool which can be altered by rolling a thinner or thicker border by adding or removing material scrapsand. Before it is put on, it resembles a bag with a round, flat bottom. The wearer rolls up the sides nearly to the top, forming a thick band, which then rests on the head like a beret. The Swati Dress Pakol has a pleated cloth exterior band which can not be rolled up.
Pakol is remarkably similar to the ancient Macedonian kausia hat, worn by men in ancient Southeast Europe, which may have been its ancestor. According to Bonnie Kingsley the kausia may have came to the Mediterranean as a campaign hat worn by Alexander and veterans of his campaigns in India. but according to Ernst Fredricksmeyer the kausia was too established a staple of the Macedonian wardrobe for it to have been imported from Asia to Macedonia. The pakol gained popularity in Nuristan in Afghanistan a few centuries ago. It is now also very commonly worn in Chitral, Swat and Dir in Pakistan and exclusively to these people around that similar region, as it is a staple of their ethnic background. In the past couple decades, the pakol has also been worn in India, especially in parts of Delhi and Jammu & Kashmir.
Pakol is remarkably similar to the ancient Macedonian kausia hat, worn by men in ancient Southeast Europe, which may have been its ancestor. According to Bonnie Kingsley the kausia may have came to the Mediterranean as a campaign hat worn by Alexander and veterans of his campaigns in India. but according to Ernst Fredricksmeyer the kausia was too established a staple of the Macedonian wardrobe for it to have been imported from Asia to Macedonia. The origins of the cap are complex but the cap is thought to originate either from Nuristan region in Afghanistan or the adjacent valleys of Chitral in Pakistan. Later Pashtuns of adjoining areas like Swat, Dir adopted it. In the 1980s, the pakol was worn by a special unit of the Afghan Mujahideen who fought against the Soviets. Ahmed Shah Masoud seems to have been influential in popularizing this headgear to be worn by the mujahideen. The pakol owes its global celebrity to the Tajik-majority members of the Jamiat-e Islami Afghanistan, who, following their leader Ahmad Shah Masoud, first adopted it as a standard item of their outfit. Since then this cap is famous in Afghanistan.
The pakol came into vogue in India in the 2000s, after Afghan refugees emigrated to Delhi and opened businesses selling pakols imported from Kabul. The pakol's popularity also surged after actors in various Bollywood films sported the cap.
Several shops run by Afghani refugees at Sharif Manzil now have flourishing businesses of imported carpets, pakol and karakuli caps (below), shawls and vasket (jackets). “We import these caps from Kabul. They are now becoming popular in India too,” says Sikander Khan, who runs a small garment shop in the area.
On my way for tuition to the Unique Academy at Zaina Kadal, one of the busiest marketplaces crowded with Tonga, I often spotted a couple of these known political goons sitting on a shopfront or the backseat of a Tonga puffing cigarettes cascading air around with cannabis aroma. One of them a hefty chariot driver donned in what has now been popularised by Bollywood films as ‘Pathani Suit’, ivory coloured ‘Pakol cap’, and golden thread Peshawari chappal known for his thoul (head fight) was evil personified.
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