Skip to main content

Kaftans were very popular in the 1960s Flower Power era

The 1960s hippie look

Bard of Ely as he was in the 1970s with kaftans and banjo.

Bard of Ely as he was in the 1970s with kaftans and banjo.

A very long kaftan

Bard of Ely as photographed at home wearing a very long kaftan. Photo by Steve Lane.

Bard of Ely as photographed at home wearing a very long kaftan. Photo by Steve Lane.

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

Mughal Emperor Babur wearing a kaftan

Mughal Emperor Babur wearing a kaftan

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.

Kaftan poll

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.

Scroll to Continue

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


Steve Andrews (author) from Lisbon, Portugal on June 19, 2013:

I can`t remember what happened to mine, though I think some fell apart with age and the long robe-length ones (had 2) I sold.

Krys W from Abertawe, Cymru on June 19, 2013:

I had a kitenge like the one in your photo when I was a teenager. Today I have six in different styles, which I wear for much of the time when it's warm.

Steve Andrews (author) from Lisbon, Portugal on June 19, 2013:

Me too and I wish I still had one!

ali bevan on June 19, 2013:

Still love Kaftan's now :)

Steve Andrews (author) from Lisbon, Portugal on June 16, 2013:

Thanks for commenting!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 16, 2013:

Never thought of it as a style just super comfy.

Related Articles