Turkmen like to say they are the only national ethnic group in the Soviet Union that have kept their traditional costume as it was before the revolution. For Turkmen women this means their solid-color tribal dresses with patterned hand made yokes—thousands to choose from in a line of women merchants a football field long—and standard head pieces, which are simply pat terned kerchiefs.
The male costume is more complicated. Starting from the head down, it consists of a fluffy lamb's wool telpek (hat)—brown for everyday wear, white for weddings, and special occassions; a red-and-yellow striped silk khalat (robe) that comes down to the middle of the knee like a lady's housecoat, and is still worn mainly by elders; Turkmenbalak, which are gray, brown, or dark blue pantaloons of wool or cotton; and high black boots, which have been traded in for cheap Soviet loafers or sandals. This is not, of course, the costume of an actuary or tractor driver, but of a horse-mounted desert warrior. For this reason, and perhaps for political considerations as well, more and more Turkmen men are turning to Western dress, though the majority still wear their brown fur hats on even the hottest day of the year. It would be unimaginable for Turkmen men to give up wearing their fur hats.