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At Acme Hat Co, we specialize in custom embroidered hats, including snapbacks, flexfits, trucker hats, beanies, 5-panels, and more. But if we were based in a different part of the world, our offerings might look totally different. Just as every country is unique, so is their headwear. Today we begin a two-part series outlining the many different hats across the world. So sit tight, and you might even learn something!
Afghanistan: The karakul hat was popular for many years throughout the Middle East and Asia, but it has fallen slightly out of fashion in recent years. It looks triangular when you look at it from the front when it’s sitting on someone’s head, but it folds flat when the wearer takes it off. Traditionally, it is made of the wood from the Qaraqul sheep, though there have been fur and velvet iterations in other parts of Eurasia.
Argentina: Argentinean cow herders used the gaucho hat to help keep their heads warm and dry while herding cattle out on the prairies. With its short, flat crown, flat brim, and under-neck tie, it looks a little like a cross between a gondolier’s straw hat and Indiana Jones’ wide-brimmed fedora.
Asia: It may seem a little broad to say that there’s a hat for the Asian continent, but the conical (or rice) hat is commonplace across most Asian countries. Its tightly woven straw and cone shape keeps both the sun and the rain off of the wearer’s neck and shoulders but also allows for sufficient airflow.
Australia: The Aussie bush hat is probably the most iconic hat for Australia. It’s the hat that adventurers like Crocodile Dundee and the Man from Snowy River wear to ward off the elements. Akubra is the most popular name brand (consider it the Stetson of Australia), and the rabbit fur felt keeps the wearer’s head cool in the heat and dry during rainy weather.
Austria: The Tyrolean hat isn’t very common nowadays, but it’s definitely an iconic part of Austrian and German fashion. You know the one – green felt, colorful, braided hatband, feather adornments – worn by a guy playing the tuba. No Oktoberfest celebration would be complete without Lederhosen, flagons of beer, dancing the polka, and colorful Tyrolean hats.
Bolivia/England: The bowler hat originally hails from England, supposedly due to the inconvenience of having your top hat knocked off when riding under low-hanging branches. The hard, closely-fitting, round-shaped felt hat was ideal for people who worked in blustery, wet weather or, apparently, jobs that had low clearance.
While the bowler hat was first designed in England, it has a strong presence in several places across the world, Bolivia being one of them. The story goes that some enterprising British bowler hat salesmen sent a shipment to Bolivia for the railway workers. It turned out that the hats were too small for the men but the perfect size for the local Bolivian women, who took the trend and ran with it.
Cross-Cultural: The origin of the turban is difficult to pin down because it has been an integral part of so many different cultures for thousands of years. North Africa, West Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, India, the Arabian Peninsula – all of these places have used turbans, and as the turban has been found dating back before 2000 B.C.E., it can’t necessarily be attributed to a particular religion, either. Turbans are made of cotton, wool, or knit fabric, and there are almost limitless colors, patterns, and designs available.
France: No other hat quite speaks French like the traditional beret. History shows that the beret, in some form or another, has been around for hundreds (maybe even thousands) of years, but it didn’t hit its stride until it became part of the French military elite’s uniform in the 1800s. Since then, it has become the symbol of both the artist and militant.
Great Britain: The deerstalker hat is kind of like the temperate-climate version of the Russian Ushanka. It’s best known because Great Britain’s most famous (and possibly the world’s most beloved) detective wore one, though all of those flaps and bills do have a purpose.
The bills are designed to keep the sun and rain off of the wearer’s face and neck, and the flaps are designed to keep the wearer’s ears and cheeks warm while hunting or fishing for extended periods of time. The convenient ties that hold the flaps up and out of the way make this hat particularly adaptable for the unpredictable (and very wet) British countryside.
Greece: The Greek fisherman’s cap has been around for over a century, though it didn’t become popular as a fashion item until John Lennon donned one. These caps are usually made from wool or cotton, have a stiff brim, and sport a braided hatband where the brim meets the crown.
When you think of the scruffy, weather-worn fisherman gazing out on the horizon as he reflects back on his life and love of the sea – yeah, he’s probably wearing a Greek fisherman’s cap.
Guatemala: The Tz’utujil people are a Mayan ethnic group that live in Guatemala, and they produce some exceptionally beautiful headwear. The women in the area weave intricate and brightly colored patterns into their hatbands and decorations using the local floral for their dyes.
Probably the most eye-catching hat is called the toyocal, though it isn’t a hat in the traditional sense. The women wrap a thick piece of brightly colored cloth or felt around their heads many times, finally tucking in the beautifully embroidered tail. It is a hat like no other.
Kenya: The kofia (a Swahili word that literally means “hat”) is a traditional hat from Kenya that is covered with holes (for ventilation) and embroidery (for aesthetics). Its most distinguishing features are the lack of brim as well as the flat crown, though the many brightly colored and patterned designs are incredibly beautiful.
Mexico: The straw or felt sombrero (the Spanish word for “hat”) is quintessential Mexico. It gets its name from the Spanish word sombra which means shadow, and its large brim keeps the hot sun off of the wearer’s face, neck, and shoulders. This hat has been around for over 500 years, with the amount of decoration on a person’s sombrero serving as an indicator of wealth and social status in the past.
Ready for more interesting hats from around the world? Here’s part two of hats from around the world.