Afghanistani Boys' Clothes

Figure 1.--Here we see two Afghan boys, one wearing traditional clothes and the other wearing traditional clothes.

HBC at this time has very little information on Afghani boys' wear. Until very recently, Afghani boys and even more so girls wore lsrgely traditional clohing. Clothing styles have been strongly affected by social trends and rule by a communist government, a rigid Tailaban theocracy, and then the more open society following the removal of the Talibn. We have little information on clothing during the communist era. The Tailban is promoting long closed shirts and baggy trousers. We now see Western clothing, especially in the cities. Traditional clothing, however, is still very common.

Reporting on Afghanistan

HBC is a history site focusing on children. As a result, the history of children and current children's issues are very important to us. We haved noted since since September 11, 2001, a great hypocracy and diservice to the children of Afghaistan with press reorting--especially reporting from the Arab press, on the situation for children in Afganistan. Certainly we do not object to reporting on civilian casualties resulting from the american air war. The military had gone to great length to limit civilian casualties, but some have ocurred and it is certainly legitimate to report on this. What we object to, however, is the lack of ballance in Arab reporting. While a small number of children have been killed in the American air offensive, the simple fact is that 10s of thousands of Afghan children have died as a result of Taliban rule. omen could no longer work outside the home, meaning that children have died because of the lack of food and medical care. Declining health care standards because of have caused further deaths. The Taliban has even made it difficult for internatioinal agencies to destribute humanitarian food aid--causing more deaths. Besides the mortalities, the Taliban has also riuned the lives of many children. Girls had trouble obtaining education and beyond a certain age education of any kind was impossible. Boys eduacations was also affected as before the Tailiban, most Afgahni teachers wee women. While the American bombing receives huge attention, the Arab press gave much less attention to the hugely greater number of lives lost and ruined by the Taliban. It is interested to see how the Arab press which was horrified at civilian lives lost in the bombing is not as nearly incensed about lives now beeing lost in Taliban terror attacks.

Afghani History

Afganistan, until September 11, 2001, is a country unfamilar to most Americams. Thus a brief survey of the country's history is necessary to understand Afgani fashion. Afganistan in fact has an incredibly interesting history. Many of the major towns were founded by Alexander the Great. Islam was spread to Afghanistan by the Turks who with the Mongols, Persians, and Indian Moguls have ruled the country. The 19th century found Afghanistan as the center of the "Great Game" pitting the Russians in Central Asia with the British in India. Many royal regimes appeared in Afganistan which both welcomed the British and delivered disastrous military defeats. Much of the subsequent history of Afganistan has been the tension betwwen wester reformers andIslmaic fundamentalists. More than one Afgani king has been deposed and killed by the fundamentalists. Nadir Shah established a constitutional monarchy in 1932. Despite efforts by NAZI infiltrators, Afghanistan stayed neutral during World War II. After the war the king was deposed and by the 1970s an incresingly pro-Soviet government communist sought tp modernize the country through often brital measures This was met by increasingly successful resistance from the Muhajedeen. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to support the beleagered coounist regime. After 10 years of bitter fighting, the Soviets finally withdrew, leaving their Afghani allies to their fate. Afghanistan is still a country in which an armed conflict over power between opposing political factions continues. Afghanistan has in the process been devastated, producing the world’s largest ever single refugee case-load, at times as high as 6.2 million persons. Throughout the following years while a bitter struggle over power between the various muhajedeen groups ensued with the strict fundamentalist Tailaban, until November, 2001 and the American war on terrorism, controling most of the country.


The wrenching political changes in Afghanistan affected clothing.

Communist era (the 1980s)

The communist government that ruled in Kabul adopted western dress for both children and adults, although in rural villages traditional clothing was still common.

Traditional clothes (the 1990s)

After the Soviet departure in 1989, traditional dress has returned. The rise of the Tailaban, especially after 1996, accelearted this trend, including the most extreme forms of Islamic dress fror girls and women. Men had to wear beards and baggy pants. Excpt for little girls, women had to wear the all covering burka.

Liberation (the 2000s)

The liberation of Afghanistan by the Northern Alliance and the United states in the aftermath of the 911 terror attack on the United states has had a major impact on women's clothes. Traditional clothing is still common, but now not all women have to wear the burka. we know of no major change in men and boy' clothing.



The closed front shirt apparently originated in the Islamic world. A HBC reader reports that the "long shirt" is now widely worn in Afghanistan. These garments have a very old history--probably over 1,000 years. They are the original garments worn in Islamic countries and are referred to in the Koran. As a pure form of Islamic dress code, the wearing of these is encouraged in Islamic countries. It is obviously a clue as to how the closed front shirts were originally made. When the cotton industry was established in British India (then including Pakistan) the Indians produced these shirts for Europeans in a shorter form. In fact, the British Army was probably the first organisation to wear them.

Shalwar kadiz

In Afghanistan, the Taliban are trying to make the wearing of the "Shalwar Kadiz" compulsory for all males. This is actually the combination of Long Shirt over baggy Pantaloons.


The Tailban insisted that men wear baggy trousers. Western dress of any sort was founded on. Short pants in particular were offensive to the Tailban as a visiting Pakistani soccer team found. The Taliban allowed soccer on special occasions, but with bizarre restrictions. Players had to wear long-sleeved shirts and long trousers -- preventing the showing of skin, whichthe Taliban denounced as un-Islamic. A 2000 match in the Taliban's stronghold Kandahar against players from the Pakistani border town Chaman ended in disarray when members of the feared religious police raced on to the pitch to arrest the Pakistani players for wearing short pants. Five of the Pakistani players managed to flee to the safety of their consulate in Kandahar while the rest had their heads shaved before being released. Pakistani diplomats lodged a protest. In liberated Afghanistan, soccer player Ahmed Zaia reports, "Before, the Taliban used to make us play in long garments, and today you see us in short sleeves and shorts. It's wonderful."


Pictures from Afghanistan are rare as the Islamic culture as interpreted by the Taliban, discouraged the taking of images.

Vintage Clothing

At this time we have only one vintage Afghan clothing item. It is a 1960s or 1970s Afghan suede coat for a little person. The coat is fully lined in sheepskin (even in the arms) and the cuffs and opening is trimmed with the softest long sheep or goat hair for decoration. There is embroidery at the sleeves. These coats were built to last! There is a very antique looking clasp to do the coat up. It is fully handstitched throughout and is also embroidered in purple and yellow silk thread in a psychadelic pattern on the front and the back.


Boyhood activities are quite different than in more modern countries. Activities are still stroingly influenced by Afghanisan's very traditional society. School is less important n Afghanistsan than many countries. Until the Communist era, there were few schools in Afghnistasn. Afghanistan is among the poorest countries in the world. The lack of a modern education system was part of the reason for Afghanistsn's failure to develop a modern economomy. The country had very high iliteracy rates and illiteracy contunues to be a major problem, especially among women. The Taliban had little interest in secular education and even prevented girls from going to school. The current Afghan Government has attempted to expand educatonal opportunity, but Taliban insurgents target schools, especisally grls attending schools. Some girls attending chool had sacid throiwn in their faces. Religion is a major factor in thelibes of boys. Also mny children work, both in the cities and countryside. The Taliban descouraged, but did not outfight ban sports like football. Some play activities such as kite flying were bsanned foir religious reasons.


Related Chronolgy Pages in the Boys' Historical Web Site
[The 1880s] [The 1890s]
[The 1900s] [The 1910s] [The 1920s] [The 1930s] [The 1940s] [The 1930s] [The 1940s] [The 1950s]
[The 1960s] [The 1970s] [The 1980s]

Related Style Pages in the Boys' Historical Web Site
[Long pants suits] [Knicker suits] [Short pants suits] [Socks] [Eton suits] [Jacket and trousers]
[Blazer] [School sandals] [School smocks] [Sailor suits] [Pinafores] [Long stockings]

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Created: July 27, 2001
Last updated: 8:09 AM 12/16/2009