Life around the world

Tuesday, 21 October, 2014 - 16:40

The hat that shaped an identity

by CharisM

Many cultures and countries boast a national dress. More often than not, these outfits or garments attest to the history and customs of the people who wear them. The Scottish kilt, for example, originated from the traditional dress of Highland men in the 16th century, when wool became widely available. The kilt ensured warmth while allowing the wearer to move unhindered. Now the kilt is worn on formal occasions, such as weddings and graduations. Another example is the German lederhosen, which were traditionally worn by Bavarian workers between the 16th and 17th centuries. The leather breeches proved durable for outside labour, and therefore suited the workers of the alpine regions. Nowadays, the attire can most famously be seen in Germany during Munich’s beer celebration Oktoberfest. Although it is not the official national dress of the country, lederhosen can also be readily spotted in other celebrations - such as this year's world cup celebrations!

A lesser-known traditional garment is the Colombian ‘sombrero vueltiao’, which roughly translates as ‘turned hat’.  Like the kilt and lederhosen, the hat was initially fashioned for practical purposes by workers.  The ‘Vueltiao’, originates from the humid Caribbean region in Northern Colombia.  The exact date it started to be worn is disputed, however the hat was originally, and continues to be, crafted by the indigenous Sinú who are local to the Cordoba and Sucre provinces.

Each and every hat from this region is hand made with painstaking detail and care. The hat is made from ‘caña flecha’, which is the vein inside of a palm tree leaf. The Sinú carefully extract the vein and leave it to dry in the sun for days. The strips are then soaked in mud, and then dried again to achieve a dark brown or black colour. Afterwards, the strips are hand woven and then sewn to create the hat.  The whole process can take weeks!

The hat was associated with poor and low class peasants up until as recent as the 1980s, however it is now treasured as a Colombian symbol and is a source of national pride.  It can be spotted all over the Caribbean region of Colombia, where it is worn to fend off the beating sun yet to also honour the ‘Costeño’ identity of the area. The unique patterns and elegancy of the design has attracted admiration throughout Colombia and abroad - it has been presented as gifts to popes and presidents alike!

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