Armenian traditional skull cap- arakhchi
The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has a wonderful collection of textiles and clothes. Among the exhibits is a small-sized skull cap that once belonged to an Iranian Armenian. This small cap was made circa the 1860s in Tehran using the Tunisian/Afghan crochet technique. The cap is adorned with silk yarn in red, green, orange, black, yellow, blue, and white palettes. The floral motifs in the main band consist of alternating flowers and trees, while a smaller band contains an undeciphered inscription in Armenian. It’s worth noting that the museum’s permanent collection also includes another skull cap that has not been identified in terms of place of origin, date, and previous owners. This cap is similar to the Armenian hat in terms of form, patterns, and color palette.
Interestingly enough, the silk skull caps embellished with needlework that supposedly belonged to Syrian Armenians can be found in museums around the world. For example, the Minneapolis Institute of Art in Minnesota has some such caps.
The Russian Museum of Ethnography houses an impressive collection of Armenian arakhchi-man’s hats, some of which are made of homespun cotton fabric and adorned with beads. Embroidered hats in the man’s Armenian costume are particularly characteristic of the Van region. The bright ornamentation likely indicates that they belonged to young men. The museum also has several women’s arakhchi hats dated back to the late 19th- early 20th centuries, which are also defined by their vivid colors and ornamentation.
It’s noteworthy that arakhchi (արախչի) hat was worn as a marker of its owner’s marital condition. The Armenian arakhchi was a truncated skull cap knitted from wool or embroidered with multicolored woolen thread and a predominance of red. Men’s arakhchis were relatively plain, especially those used for religious purposes. Women, in their turn, used hairpins to secure their veils on the arakhchi. The textile used to make an arakhchi was typically a single-color textile, such as tirma wool and silk, which was then decorated with embroidery, lace, beads, and even pieces of gold.