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Style in a land of war

©Associated Press
April 24, 2002

KABUL, Afghanistan -- It's the rage in Kabul and is getting attention in Milan, but the ultra-chic hat made famous by Afghan leader Hamid Karzai has a rather unpalatable origin -- it's made using the downy fur of aborted lamb fetuses.

The karacul hat, a football-shaped construct with ripply baby-soft fur, has been popping up in Afghanistan's capital since Karzai was appointed interim prime minister after the fall of the Taliban.

"Since the change in government, many people are coming and buying karacul hats," said Aji Ali Mohammed, who has sold two hats to Karzai. "Business is getting better every day."

Afghans aren't the only ones taking a look at the headgear.

At Milan fashion week in January, Gucci's Tom Ford dubbed Karzai "the chicest man on the planet" saying the karacul hat and flowing capes the Afghan leader wears give him a winning look that is "very elegant and very proud."

Though the hats are unmistakably dashing, the method of their production is a bit stomach-turning. Shepherds in northern Afghanistan slaughter the mother and then remove the fetus, whose downy fur is incredibly smooth because it has never been exposed to the air or sun. Sometimes shepherds wait for the ewe to give birth before killing the lamb.

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