Kaftans were very popular in the 1960s Flower Power era
The 1960s hippie look
A very long kaftan
Kaftans and the Swinging Sixties
Do you remember kaftans in the Swinging Sixties and Flower Power era? Everyone who wanted to look alternative and hip had at least one. I had several and went on wearing them well into the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. I would wear one again if I had one!
So what made the kaftan so popular? Well, for a start they were associated with Morocco and India which were very popular locations for hippies and followers of the alternative culture that was developing, aided and abetted by rock and pop stars and the fashions they were wearing and the media that featured their photos and publicity reports.
India and the Far East were where all the Gurus and Eastern religions were from and where to go if you were searching for spiritual liberation and enlightenment via meditation and other practices from the Hindu and Buddhist pathways. The floaty and free kaftan was the ideal garment and it gave you a certain image. It made the wearer look colourful and liberated and had mystical overtones too.
First Mughal Emperor Babur
Types of kaftan
Kaftans actually come in many forms but basically are loose-fitting tunics or long robes. They can be made from cotton, from silk, cashmere, velvet or wool. They can be long garments that go all the way down to the ankles or much shorter. They usually have long sleeves.
Kaftans are often decorated around the neckline and cuffs. The bottom hem of the garment often features the same sort of matching decoration.
There are kaftans you have to pull over your head to get on and that come with a V-neck style and others which button up along the front. Technically speaking this type of pullover garment is generally known as a dashiki. They are a popular form of traditional dress in West Africa. Dashikis usually have short sleeves.
Kaftans are generally made of very colourful and flamboyant materials which give a very ethnic appeal. Batik fabric is a popular choice.
Embroidery may be used to decorate plain material used in a kaftan. Other kaftans are boldly printed.
Some kaftans have hoods and look like some sort of oriental wizards robes. Others are more refined with just one colour used for the bulk of the garment and maybe some decoration around the collar and cuffs.
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Kaftans in fashion
Because kaftans were being worn by so many singers and musicians in bands that were aiming to look as if they were part of the 1960s psychedelic and swinging era the kaftan became a fashionable garment to wear for both men and women.
As well as authentic ethnic kaftans that were imported from the Near-east and Asia, as well as those that came from Africa, kaftans were designed and produced by clothing manufacturers elsewhere.
BA Robertson - Kool In The Kaftan
Kaftans in Pop Music
Besides being worn by many rock and pop singers in the 1960s and 1970s, one artist had a big hit with a song that mentioned the kaftan in the title. Scottish singer-songwriter B.A. Robertson made the charts in 1980 with his hit for Asylum Records entitled Kool In The Kaftan. The lyric includes the words “Love and peace, Man!” making reference to the hippie culture and the 1960s.
© 2013 Steve Andrews
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