Uzbek Tubeteika

Tubeteika (skull-cap) can become suitable attire for both gray hair of a sage and the braids of a bride. It has always enjoyed people's favour. Popular maxims say, "Tubeteika does not weigh heavy upon a dzhigit (young man)", "When there is no one to talk to, tubeteika becomes a good company". Tubeteika, a round slightly pointed skull-cap beautifully decorated with embroidered or applique patterns, is the national head-dress throughout Central Asia.  

The history of this scull-cap can be rooted in the remote ages. They say that Islam, which forbade walking in the streets bare-headed, contributed to the custom of wearing this cap. The cap appeared to be rather handy: to wear it on the head one just needs to unfold it, whereas being folded the cap can be easily tucked up in the sash.

  Apart from its purely utilitarian function, skull-cap has always served as decoration for the attire. Skillful seamstresses sought for real beauty, for perfection and thus elevating their handicraft to the level of art.

  Historically the form of a tubeteika originated from a pointed cap worn under turban. The word 'tubeteika' is derived from the Tatar word 'tubete', meaning 'top'. In Uzbek such a cap is called 'duppi' or 'kalpoq'. By the 19th century tubeteikas as head-dress became widespread and there was established certain diversity of their shapes: cone-shaped, hemispherical and tetrahedral, round-shaped and dome-shaped; in short, tubeteika could be of any shape depending on the local traditions and seamstress's creativity. Richness and diversity of colours and patterns, embroidery techniques make it difficult to list types of tubeteika's decor.

Most often, black sateen or velvet are chosen for men's caps. Women's caps are made of silk, velvet, and brocade. They can have high or low border; can be trimmed with one-colour or multicoloured edging made of other fabrics; they can be embroidered in silk, decorated with beadwork, gold and silver threads and metal patch pieces.

Diversity of shapes and texture of tubeteikas is amazing. They can also be differentiated depending on the end-user: a man, a woman, a child or an old man. This difference can seem insignificant to an outsider, but an expert can clearly see whom it is intended for and he can never permit himself to put on an 'improper' cap.

Most widespread man's tubeteika from Chust in Ferghana Valley, for example, has a conventional, unpretentious, still rather decorative form. Contrast combination of four white pattern in shape of a capsicum (called 'qalampur') against black background is typical of tubeteikas from Chust. Hence, the four flowers on the top of a tubeteika, are supposed to protect a man's health from four sides, while sixteen small patterned arches, located along the edge of the cap, mean a wish to have a big and friendly family and sixteen children. Without such a tubeteika no man can appear in mosque as well as visit a wedding or funeral.

Tubeteikas vary from region to region. There are six historically formed regional groups, including the Fergana-Chust group, and those of Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, Kashkadarya, Surkhandarya, and Khorezm. In each district there has developed its own style, passed over from generation to generation, from mother to daughter. Every woman enriches the traditional ornamental motifs with her own creative images. The ornament of embroidered articles has been formed gradually - from ritual magic patterns to poetic images, and is distinguished by variety of forms and high level of stylization.

The works of local masters are full of symbols. In composition of many works there prevail images of bushes in blossom, circles, rosettes, flower heads on thin stems, sprouts with leaves. Images of animals and bright plumaged birds are sometimes entwined in vegetable patterns. As a rule there are depicted the images of those plants which are believed to possess healing properties. 'Duppi' tubeteikas are embroidered in silk: in satin-stitch, in creed-stitch 'iroki', in special stitch named 'basma', and are decorated with beadwork. Experienced seamstresses arrange the patterns directly during the process of embroidering with no prior outlining.

'Gilam-duppi' tubeteika from Shakhrisabz and 'piltaduzi' from Surkhandarya, embroidered in creed stitch 'iroki', are distinguished for their picturesque multicolored patterns. Young Uzbek women often complete their modern costumes with a bright elegant scull-cap. In Tashkent the most popular man's skull-caps are 'shobpush' tubeterikas, made of cotton fabric with lining, quilted manually or on sewing-machine.

The most peculiar is the gold embroidered skull-cap from Bukhara region. It's shape is usually round or tetrahedral, with vegetable or geometrical ornaments, decorated with a fringe and elegant tassels. Gold embroidery makes this scull-cap look brilliant and festive. That is why these skull-caps used to be an essential part of the emir's attire as well as that of the nobility. Nowadays such a tubeteika is an important element of a wedding costume. It is curious that as late as the beginning of the 20th century gold embroidery was exclusively man's trade, but in the later period women began getting involved in this craft more and more.

Uzbek skull-cap is justly considered to be one of the national types of applied art, an integral part of folk costume. The art of embroidery achieved its prosperity in late- 19th and mid- 20th centuries, when skull-caps got high popularity in everyday life of Uzbek people and were manufactured everywhere - in big industrial centers and in small villages. Mastership of tubeteika-making that have followed a long period of development of people's craftsmanship is full of deep emotional essence, love for ornamental images, high artistic culture.

Uzbek skull-caps are well-known worldwide. Being created by skillful craftswomen they decorate expositions of many museums. The best and most complete collections of skull-caps can be found in Tashkent museums, whereas among the people there still exists an old saying that "man's honour and morality lies in his skull-cap".