Hat Types: The Papakha

Papakha | Royal Hats

When Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan wore a grey Karakul fur papakha hat to the funeral of the Duke of Wellington last week, a number of you asked for further explanation on this hat style.

History: The papakha has been worn by men throughout the Caucasus region for several centuries. Following several campaigns in the Caucasus mountains in the mid nineteenth century, the Russian army adopted the papakha for Cossack soldier’s uniform in 1855 and for the entire army around 1870. After the Russian Revolution in 1917, papakhi were removed from the new Red Army uniform because of their association with the old Tsarist regime. When they returned to the uniform in 1935, it was in a high-ranking capacity for just colonels, generals and marshals. In 1994, the papakha was deemed insufficient for cold Russian winters (where wind and snow drops temperatures far lower than in the mild Caucasus) and were dropped from the uniform again.

Characteristics:  A papakha is a tall, cylinder hat made of fur, faux fur or wool that resembles a a tall, fur pillbox hat (A papakha shaped like a triangle with a peak at the top of the hat is known as a Karakul. The Karakul hat is common in Pakistan, Afghanistan and in other parts of central Asia.)  While papakhi are usually made of karakul sheep wool, any fur can be used –  royal papakhi are often mink. The papakha is worn straight on the head so that the bottom of the brim just touches the temples. While traditionally a male hat, we see papakha hats today on more royal women and these female royal winter hats are usually made on a larger scale than a true papakha.

Royals Associated with this Hat Style: European royals who live in cold climates. While a few younger royals have sported a papakha, it is a hat most often worn by the older crowd.

King Ferdinand I of Bulgaria, 1901 | Royal Hats Crown Prince George of Serbia, 1908 | Royal Hats King Carl Gustaf, January 16, 2014 | The Royal Hats Blog  Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, January 8, 2015 | Royal Hats

King Ferdinand I of Bulgaria, 1901; Crown Prince George of Serbia, 1908;
King Carl Gustaf of Sweden, March 2014; Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, 2015

Queen Paola, February 19, 1998 | Royal Hats Princess Michael of Kent, December 21, 2006 | Royal Hats Queen Sivia, March 12, 2010 | Royal Hats Queen Beatrix, Janary 27, 2005 | Royal Hats

Queen Paola,1998; Princess Michael of Kent, 2006; Queen Sivia,2010; Queen Beatrix, 2005 

Kate Middleton, March 17, 2006 | Royal Hats Duchess of Cornwall, December 25, 2010 | Royal Hats Queen Elizabeth, December 25, 2010 | Royal Hats Lady Helen Windsor, Janaury 13, 2013 | Royal Hats

Kate Middleton,2006; Duchess of Cornwall and Queen Elizabeth, Christmas 2010; Lady Helen Windsor, 2013

Princess Anne, March 7, 2014 |Royal Hats  Queen Elizabeth, December 25, 2013 | Royal Hats 2002-02-02 WA and Max wedding 2 Grand Duchess Maria Teresa , November 11, 2008 | Royal Hats

Princess Anne, March 2014; Queen Elizabeth, Christmas 2013; Queen Mathilde, 2002; 
Grand Duchess Maria Teresa, November 11, 2008 

Princess Benedikte, October 07, 2008 | Royal Hats  Duchess of Cornwall, December 25, 2009 | Royal Hats  Princess Astrid, February 6, 2012| Royal Hats 

Princess Benedikte, October 07, 2008; Duchess of Cornwall, Christmas 2009; Princess Astrid, February 6, 2012

The papakha is a rather regal royal winter hat, perhaps because of its association with Russian Imperial times. I think, however, the scale is what is most important about this hat- too big and the wearer looks to be wearing a wild animal, too small, and the wearer looks to be wearing a ski cap. Controversy about fur aside, I think this hat is best left to Scandinavian queens to wear on the coldest of winter days (and best kept away from coloured dyes). What do you think about the papakha hat?

Photos from Historical Collection and Hulton-Deutsch Collection via Corbis; Vasterbottens-KurienMax Mumby/Indigo via Getty; Van Parys Media/Sygma/Corbis via Corbis; Photoshot via Getty; Abaca via Pure People; Sean Gallup, Tim Graham, WPA PoolWPA PoolMax Mumby/IndigoAlan Crowhurst and Chris Jackson via Getty; Reuters; Gamma RaphoNiels Henrik Dam/WireImage, and Chris Jackson via Getty; and Albert Nieboer via Corbis

26 thoughts on “Hat Types: The Papakha

  1. Lovely hats! I always enjoy these educational posts. This was very timely for me, as I just purchased a vintage fur hat myself. It is more of a pillbox style, though. I agree with most commenters, I wouldn’t purchase any new fur items, unless they were faux. However, vintage doesn’t bother me and I’d assume that most of these ladies are wearing faux, vintage or recycled as mentioned. In some of the Scandinavian countries, fur is a necessity! 🙂

  2. I agree….scale is key to making this look work. I think it works better on the gentlemen than the ladies, too, as the scale seems to be overall better on their hats. For the ladies, though, I think Queen Paola’s and Princess Michael’s are the best.

  3. In Ukraine I have seen fur hats called “shapka” (guessing at the spelling), Is this the same thing? If not, in what ways do they differ?

  4. I have a beautiful black “fur” jacket I wear with long dresses in the winter. It is made from recycled milk bottles (plastic). It is so warm and I like the way it feels, but I am always very careful to tell anyone within listening distance it is totally fake. I would not want to encourage anyone in wearing fur, although it think if you eat meat you should wear the skin of the animal you ate out of respect for the animal if nothing else.

  5. There was a post about fur-covered pillboxes a while back where Archduchess Kathleen looked great in one. As for the ethics of using fur, I’d bet so many of these royal houses have antique fur coats and stoles that are damaged and can be repurposed, and of course they can afford very nice-looking faux fur. I think these look better with less “fluffy” fur types.

  6. Thank you for the history lesson! I have a black fur one (faux) and now I know what to call it! I agree with your comments regarding scale and color, though I must admit Ben’s purple number is tremendously fun!

  7. So this hat type is a new one on me. Never heard of it – thanks for the 101. I quite like it, and my favourite is QEII in that lovely pale fur number with the beige checked coat – that was a fab look for her, and one that I don’t think she’s repeated which is a shame.

    • True – no repeat seen that I know of. Wonder what the rest of the ensemble might be. QE2 has plenty of off-white / beige / tan dresses, of course, but each has its own hat (and jacket or coat), and no new appropriate dress has been worn since this coat’s Christmas 2010 debut.

  8. A possible explanation about the fur ones–they are not necessarily made of animal fur. Today, it is sometimes difficult to tell whether it is real fur or faux fur. I could see royals being able to afford the high-end faux fur. Just saying.

    • The brown hat Camilla is wearing was made from recycled fur. I suspect the coloured hats are faux fur and that most of the fur hats have been around a long while. And of course, sheep are not hurt when harvesting their “fur”!

  9. Thanks HatQueen for explaining this hat type and finding so many examples. You are right in saying that the scale is what is most important about this hat. Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, 2015, is wearing my overall favorite one, and the best one of the men. My favorite ones on the women are Queen Paola,1998; Queen Silvia, 2010; and Queen Mathilde, 2002, in descending order from best, to second to third.

  10. Gosh I am first up. I did not know the history of the hat although I knew it had been in existence for years. Unless it actually covers the ears it is not totally warm. I have seen similar with ear flaps.
    I do like the look of them on women. Does this mean in some cases animal killing for fur is back in vogue . I have seen an increase in the wearing of fur including coats by a few European Royals. Seriously I do not approve of that.
    Several Royals are wearing ones made out of various materials. I will not pick favourites as I do not want to see fur fashions making a come back. Thank you.

    • I agree. Even if they themselves have no problem with fur, it is a PR disaster. Nowdays the faux furs can look really good so some royals might be wearing that. Although, I think in those cases they should tell that. Otherwise people will think it is fur.

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