Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Dior, Kangol: what do all of these…
Welcome back to our two-part series on hats around the world! In our last article, we discovered hats from several different countries. In this article, we’ll continue that round-the-world tour, tracking down the headwear trends of even more countries.
Morocco: Shriners, Morocco Mole, the 11th Doctor – all of these people (and moles and Time Lords) have an affinity for the crimson Fez. Colored from the berries found in Fez, Morocco, Fezes became a vital part of military uniforms after one zealous ruler banned turbans. The bright red color, flat crown, and tassel coming down from the top of the hat make this piece of headwear instantly recognizable.
North America: North America was the birthplace of several different kinds of hats, but the one we are going to talk about today is the coonskin cap. Popularized by trappers such as Davy Crockett and Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis and Clark), the hat made from an entire raccoon actually originated as a part of Native American fashion. The appeal of wearing a whole raccoon on your head eventually waned, but in the 1950s, it surged back into popularity with Disney’s film on Davy Crockett (“Davy, Daaaavy Crockett: king of the wild frontier”).
Peru: The chullo hat is knit or woven from the wool of sheep, alpaca, llama, or vicuña (a relative of the llama). It has earflaps, a chin strap, and often very colorful designs depicting llamas or geometric shapes and patterns. The colors and patterns have cultural and tribal significance to the indigenous people in the area. Chullos have been made in the Andes mountains for hundreds of years, though there is some debate in the academic community whether the hat originated in the area or was brought over by Spanish settlers.
Russia: The ushanka hat (the name coming from the Russian word ushi for “ears”) is the epitome of function. This fur-lined hat keeps the wearer’s head warm, and it has ear flaps that fold down to keep the ears and cheeks warm, too. In a country where the average winter temperature is around 5° F (though some places can get down to -80° F), the warmer the hat, the better!
Scotland: The Tam o’Shanter (AKA tam, tammy, or ToS) is just about as Scottish as you can get. Dating back to the 1500s, the earliest version of the tam was made from wool stretched and felted over a wooden circle. What distinguishes the tam from other Scottish bonnets is the large pompom nestled in the center, and though you can get a tam in just about any color or pattern nowadays, traditionally it was dyed only using natural dyes (commonly indigo). Across history and the world, different people and organizations have used the tam including both servants and masters, the Hong Kong police band, the Canadian army, the Scottish infantry, Masters and PhD students, and people trying to hold in all of their dreadlocks.
Saudi Arabia: The Keffiyeh is less of a hat than it is a head covering. The large square piece of fabric is usually made from cotton (though sometimes you’ll find it with a mix of cotton and wool), and it is wrapped and draped over the head and shoulders to prevent sunburn and irritation from sand or dust. The keffiyeh is generally white, white/black/orange, white/red checkers, or black/white fishnet. Over the years, it has morphed into a way for other countries to show support for Palestine as well as a way to show resistance against military leaders. Even with its political and military significance, it oddly found its way into the fashion industry in the 1980s and then again in the early 2000s.
South Africa: The Zulu people live in the KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa, and one of their most iconic contributions to the world of hats takes the form of the isocholo. This hat actually mimics the original hairstyle of the same name, and some of the more delicate pieces on the market today are still made with ochre-dyed human hair woven into the basket form. The isocholo was originally a way for women to show that they were married, and even now, women wear this style of hat for special occasions and ceremonies, though you’ll find it in more colors and patterns than just ochre (and it’s often missing the human hair element).
South Korea: The ayam is a traditional head covering for South Korean women, though some historical evidence suggests that it was at one time used by both men and women. This cap covers the forehead and has a large bow draping down the back. Depending on the importance of the wearer, the heavily embroidered and quilted crown could be inlaid with jewels, though for most people, it was just a way to keep their head warm. It is now a modern and integral part of traditional South Korean clothing with wool and flannel ayam being worn in the winter and lighter silk used in the spring.
Spain: The Montera hat is what you think of bullfighters wearing as part of their ornate traditional costume. The bulbous protrusions on the side are meant to represent the horns of the bull, and the whole hat is usually covered in fur. For a little bit of extra luck in the arena (because, let’s face it – they’re fighting a BULL!), some bullfighters have an image of a saint printed on the inside hatband.
Hats are more than just protection for the head. In many cases, they shed light on the culture, history and climate of a place and also give a glimpse into the individuals who make that country unique.
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