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Kristine Aghalaryan

Akhalkalak's "Master" Hat Maker Aghasi - Last of a Dying Breed

Varpet Aghasi has been making hats in Akhalkalak for the past 50 years.

The master hat maker even sews the old Stalin caps even though they have long gone out of style.

When I asked Aghasi why he continues to make this style hat, he answered, "It's my craft. You have to keep the tradition alive."

His stall in the Akhalkalak market is the largest around. Today, he even sells some new style hats that others produce.

The hat maker has seen better days.

Up till about 1980, his hat business was booming. Aghas was even forced to stay up nights completing the orders he'd received. Wearing a hat was in vogue then.

In the ensuing years, hat wearing fell from fashion.

"The old guys died off. My business was fine for as long as they lived," Aghas jokes.

Ousta Aghasi didn't learn his trade at the knee of his father as is so often the cae.

His father was a "kashkaji" (wagon maker) who went missing in WWII.

From the age of 15 Aghas Baloyan apprenticed with two well-known hat makers – Oustas Vardan and Grigor.

The craftsman can sew all types of hats. The only hats he doesn't make are the ones from hard to get raw materials, like the straw hat.

69 year-old Aghasi Baloyan represents a dying breed.

He's the last hat maker in Akhalkalak, a craft that was once held in high esteem.

(To be continued)