History and cultural impact of the Afghan coat

History and cultural impact of the Afghan coat

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The Afghan coat is a long, thick, sheepskin coat widely popularized in the 1960s and 1970s. Originating in Afghanistan, these coats became a staple garment among hippie counterculture movements and young people embracing ethnic clothing. Their loose-fitting cut and use of textures and embroidery embodied the casual, bohemian aesthetics of the era.[1]

==History and Origins of Afghan coat==

Afghan coats find their roots in sheepskin coats traditionally worn by nomadic groups in Afghanistan as protection from the cold, mountainous climate. Known as “postins,” these coats were decorated with embroidery and designs unique to the various ethnic tribes in the region.[2] During the 1960s and 70s, imported Afghan sheepskin coats emerged as a fashionable cold-weather garment among Western hippies and young people looking to distance themselves from mainstream fashion. Their exotic, ethnic look and use of textures appealed to the bohemian, anti-establishment counterculture movement.[3]

The coats rose to mainstream popularity in the 1970s as ethnic clothing entered wider fashion. Afghan coat retailers emerged in areas like Kabul, importing the traditional garments to Western markets.[4] Popular among both men and women, the coats became a staple of 1970s fashion alongside similar ethnic and “world clothing” like dashikis, caftans, and Nehru jackets.[5]

==Cultural Impact==

Afghan coats came to symbolize the hippie and counterculture movements of the 1960s and 70s through their rejection of mainstream Western fashion. To many youths, the exotic coats embodied their anti-establishment, freethinking philosophies and desire to reject their parents’ lifestyles.[6] The coats were also popularized by some celebrity musicians like Bob Dylan, who wore Afghan coats as part of their relaxed, bohemian images.

Some schools and authorities banned Afghan coats for promoting what they saw as overly casual, inappropriate or distracting attire.[7] But supporters of the coats saw the bans as attempts to suppress counterculture and restrict students’ rights to freely express themselves.

==Variations==

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Afghan coats appear in a variety of styles, lengths, and patterns. Some key variations include:

– Long coats extending to the calves or ankles, evoking a robe-like look.[8]

– Shorter coats ending at or above the waist.[9]

– Vibrant patterns like plaids, geometrics and paisleys, adapted to Western tastes.[10]

– Intricate embroidery and mirror work along collars, sleeves, and borders.[11]

– Coats with side pockets, buttons, and adjustable waists to adapt the loose silhouette.[12]

– Shearling coats made from the reverse side of sheepskin pelts for a woolly texture.[13]

==See Also==

– Hippie fashion

– 1970s in Western fashion

– Dashiki

– Caftan

– Nehru jacket

– Sheepskin § Shearling

==References==

1. Eicher, Joanne B. Ethnic Dress in the United States. Rowman & Littlefield, 2021.

2. Saidazimova, Gulnara. “Afghan Fashion Revival.” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, 15 Aug. 2002.

3. Schoeffler, O.E. “Out of Town Coats.” The Guardian, 25 Oct. 1975

==Popularity over time==

The popularity of the Afghan coat rose steadily through the 1960s and peaked in the early 1970s. It became a widely recognized symbol of hippie and bohemian fashion during this period.[1] By the mid-1970s, some began to view the coats as outdated or overly associated with earlier counterculture movements. Mainstream fashion moved away from the ethnic clothing boom even as Afghan coats remained staples in niche bohemian circles.[2]

Hippie Fashion From the Late 1960s to 1970s Is a History Lesson
Hippie Fashion From the Late 1960s to 1970s Is a History Lesson

In the 1980s and 90s, Afghan coats faded from mainstream fashion as new styles and youth subcultures emerged. However, the coats retained a cult following among vintage clothing collectors and remained part of the bohemian chic aesthetic.[3] The coats saw some revival in the 2000s and 2010s with the rise of music festivals and renewed interest in 1970s fashion. Contemporary variations modernized the coats while retaining their signature long, decorative silhouette.[4]

==In popular culture==

Afghan coats became iconic in Western popular culture due to their association with 1960s and 70s counterculture figures. Musical artists like Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin wore coats as part of their anti-establishment images.[5] Afghan coats also appeared in classic “hippie era” films like Easy Rider (1969) and Alice’s Restaurant (1969) as visual symbols of the era’s bohemian culture.[6]

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Bob Dylan

Characters in TV shows like That 70’s Show and parody films like The Muppets parody the stereotypical “stoner hippie” image of characters relaxing in Afghan coats. This reflected the coats’ lingering cultural associations decades after their peak.

==Manufacturing==

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Add details on materials and construction methods used in the traditional production of Afghan coats:

  • Coats typically made from sheepskin, lambskin or goatskin [1]
  • Pelts undergo processes like tanning, deburring, and degreasing [2]
  • Wool piled and sheared to consistent lengths for smooth finish [3]
  • Hand-stitched seams and borders using waxed thread [4]
  • Embroidery and mirrorwork added by skilled artisans [5]

==Modern variations==

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Describe how Afghan coats have been adapted in contemporary fashion:

  • Shorter waist-length and hip-length coats [6]
  • Slimmer, fitted versions in place of traditional loose silhouette [7]
  • New colors like red, blue, pink instead of traditional tan, brown and gray [8]
  • Contemporary fabrics like suede, faux fur, wool blends [9]
  • Removable faux fur linings and collars [10]

==Cultural significance==

Analyze the coats’ lasting cultural impacts:

  • Association with “hippie” symbolism and nostalgia for the 1960s/70s counterculture [11]
  • Debates over cultural appropriation of traditional Afghan garments [12]
  • Enduring “boho” aesthetics in fashion, interior design, and music festivals [13]
  • Classic “retro” and “vintage” style revived periodically [14]

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