Chinese Hats

Why you need to have a Chinese Conical Rice Hat

chinese hats

History and Traditional Uses

The conical hat is present throughout many East Asian cultures, including those of China, Japan and Vietnam. The various names which have been given to this conical hat have resulted from its origins in different regions included in the oriental culture. Traditionally, this hat has been widely used by farmers or field-workers, as the East Asian regions have a long history and correct climate for rice-picking. This rice paddy hat, was used as a force that shielded them from both sun and rain. Despite their more traditional purpose as protection against natural forces, this style of hat is multi-purposeful. Both in its ancient use, as well as in its modern, the wearers of the coolie hat find that this structure can serve as a container for food, a bowl for water, or even, depending on the materials used in construction, as a cooling device. One can achieve this either by soaking the hat in water and proceeding to wear it normally, or by using it as a fan for the heat. Because the original wearers of this hat were peasants, farmers, or any type of laborer whose daily work dictated his presence outside, this hat provided cover for that heat which they most likely had to inevitably endure.

Materials

Although this sedge hat looks simple in design, its construction is a complicated process requiring great artisan skill. Because of this, these traditional Asian hats are always hand crafted. There exists, two major components required in the making of this hat. The first, is the frame, which is typically constructed out of bamboo. The second, the canopy of the hat, is then woven from straw, or various types of grass-like plants, such as sedge, however alternatives to this material do exist. Depending on the culture, the materials used in the making of this hat differ slightly. In Vietnam, for example, in addition to the straw version, the cover can instead by created from dried palm leaves.

Vietnam History

In Vietnam, this style of hat is known as a “Non la”, meaning leaf hat. In fact, there actually exists a story that introduces the Non la into the Vietnamese culture. Legend has it that in the infancy of mankind, a great rain of biblical proportions fell upon the Earth. Before it could wash away the humans, however, a goddess emerged and shielded them from the oncoming storm with four gargantuan leaves held together by a structure of bamboo. Once she left the Earth, the Vietnamese people followed by example and created their own hats in the fashion of hers. Thus is the mythical origin of the Non la. However, from a more historical standpoint, the Non la emerged in Vietnam at least 2500 to 3000 years ago. Existing in a tropical and temperate zone, Vietnam is subject to heavy rainfall and high humidity which can occur for approximately half a year at a time. Accordingly, its design resulted from a need to shield the people from the region’s intense climate. Many cities are in the business of producing these bamboo hats, however the small village of Chuong, located in the Ha Tay province in Southern Vietnam, has a famous reputation for their exquisite and plentiful production of this accessory.

Japanese History

The various hats classified under the term “kasa” have been used in many different aspects throughout Japanese culture. Some of these examples include the jingasa and the amigasa. The jingasa was used for Japanese warriors during travel or resting periods while the amigasa was utilized by ninjas as a disguise and is today used in traditional dances. However the sugegasa is the conical hat that is an iconic style of East Asia. As a suitable environment for the growth of sedge, Fukouka, a Japanese city in the island of Shikoku, became well-known for its production of the sugegasa. The sugegasa was worn both by laborers in agriculture as well as by travelers who wished to escape the heat that the sun brought upon their journey.

Chinese History

The use of the conical hat in Chinese culture was mainly confined to the peasantry class, which, throughout China’s history, typically included the majority of the population. As a large agriculturally-dependent culture, the creation of these rice-paddy hats allowed for the working of long hours in the heat, which, in turn, led to the cultivation of more crop.

Various Names

The conical hat has gained its name in reference to its general shape. However it also takes on many different names, each depending on the culture in which it is present. The Vietnamese culture uses the name “Non la”, meaning “leaf hat”, to identify this style of protective gear. Like Vietnam, the Chinese culture has chosen to name this hat based off of the materials used in its creation. The dǒulì, as this hat is known in Chinese, loosely translates to mean ”bamboo hat”. In Japan, this hat is called a sugegasa. Some however, may hear this hat referred to as a kasa. Although this name is also correct, a kasa refers to a group of traditional Japanese hats, whereas the sugegasa relates specifically to the conical hat. In English, the conical hat has taken many names, each having slightly different origins and meanings. The first of these is the “coolie hat”, the word “coolie” meaning laborer. This means that our identification of this hat as a “coolie hat” is due to its popularity among the peasants and farmers who labored in the fields. Another name to which we refer this hat, is as a sedge hat. A sedge is a type of grass-like plant that can be used as a material to weave the cover of these conical hats. Thus, the name reflects a material used in its production. Other names include rice hat, or rice paddy hat. These names stem from the agricultural tradition of the cultivation of rice abundant in East Asia. Referring to those who labor in the rice fields, we have named their headgear after their occupational work.

Asian Conical Hats

Traditional Oriental Conical Hats. An item whose existence has for years been an iconic image in East Asian cultures. An image that can be incorporated into our modern times by keeping its original purpose in practicality while bringing an aesthetic beauty to our world of fashion. These Asian sun hats, unique in their variety of possibilities for the wearer, can add a degree of functionality to your life while also introducing a new statement piece to your wardrobe.

We have often looked upon the cultures of others in order to gather ideas of their styles and set the trends for the upcoming years. This is apparent through style icons such as David Bowie and how his inspiration drawn from the Japanese culture created and popularized his most famous character of Ziggy Stardust in the 1970s. This same tradition of finding beauty in cultures, either foreign or within a different aspect of your own, can be continued today by the wearing of this conical hat. A hat that, no matter by which name you call it; Chinese hat, Vietnamese hat, rice hat, sedge hat, coolie hat, sugegasa or Non la; can make its name as a global accessory.

For All Trendsetters, Aspiring Trendsetters, and Those Who Would Classify Themselves as Unique Chic

Making fashion choices is a risky business. It is a pursuit that can often times seem riskier than submerging yourself in piranha-infested waters while crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. If you google “Crazy High Fashion”, a very strange and…unique… mix of images will appear that may leave you wondering about the giant leaps people take when it comes to fashion; many fall flat, but others end up creating looks that will later turn into classic, iconic styles. Luckily, those images are the result of designers and their attempts at innovation, which is a very noble quality and a trying task (not sarcasm). Even luckier, is the fact that this oriental coolie hat is the invention for the common people created out of necessity and practicality in order to protect themselves from weather conditions. This bamboo hat has been in use for thousands of years, and the sight of them is already integrated into our knowledge as being a functional yet stylish piece. However the quirky benefit of this hat is that it is fairly uncommonly seen in the Western regions and therefore provides an aesthetically interesting look to your fashion choice of the day. This Asian hat, in short, will allow you to distinguish yourself in a traditional yet original manner.

Just How Do I Wear This Oriental Conical Hat?

This style of headwear is extremely practical when your day’s activities require you waiting outside, exposed to the blazing sun overhead. Depending on the region and time of year, the sun can feel like a glowing orb of death in a post-apocalyptic world. The only shade in sight will be packed full of all the people who either did not think far enough in advance to realize the sun would be shining or were simply too naïve not to bring a hat. Your advantage comes in the form of this Rice-paddy hat. Created specifically as a method to shield its wearers from that orb of death (a.k.a. the sun) this hat has been in use for thousands of years, typically used by people in the business of rice-picking, despite the emergence of other styles. This is because of its superior design and its multi-purposeful functionality. Modern hats, such as baseball caps and visors can only provide you with shade, and, depending on the style, a very limited amount. Contrastingly, the straw sedge hat comes with three different types of cooling mechanisms. The first is in the traditional form of shade, a feature shared among pretty much all types of hats. The second, is as a wind generator. Fanning oneself with this item can bring refreshing breaks from the sun’s rays in the form of small doses of breeze. Finally, the third technology of cool-down design strays slightly from normal use but has been used by the wearers of this Asian hat for years and been proven to be extremely effective. It involves submerging the hat in water prior to placing it atop the head. And although this Asian Sun hat is traditionally regarded as the hat of workers, particularly farmers, its use is not confined to that line of labor. The sedge hat can be worn in many of our different modern traditions, such as in the attendance of music festivals. Many of us have, not only witnessed, but also experienced the time commitment required to securing an at least adequate spot at an outdoor venue. But when you arrive five hours prior to your favorite band’s concert and must wait in the heat and anticipation of their commencement by sporting this bamboo coolie hat, you will find that the length of your wait time will seem to simmer down (pun intended). The practical benefits of this oriental cone hat are plentiful, however we can also draw from it, a more meaningful representation in our culture.

In the life of music and art, we have all witnessed the outlandishly shocking fashion statements that are made, not just by the artists who perform for our entertainment, but by the people who come together to form a crowd of devoted fans. These statements last the test of time and often become the iconic images from which we base our views of the culture at that moment in time. We, today, see the pictures taken at Woodstock in 1969 and can see the views of the period reflected in the fashion choices of those days. The present case of this is no different than it was 47 years ago. These conical Asian hats can represent, not only our modern views, but also our present reality. Our general acceptance of other cultures views and beliefs is representative of our open-mindedness resulting from our current state of increased globalization.

Costumes - For Both the Laid-back and Professional Settings

Dressing in costume and make-believing that reality isn’t reality is a fantastic cure to forgetting life’s daily conundrums. And of course, one of the most popular, and frankly the only day out of the year when we adults are allowed to do just this, is October 31st. Now yes, although other factors are typically included into the Halloween equation that allow us to maximize the night’s fun, the costume is the centerpiece on which we base the whole evening. Many of us can’t very well show up to a Halloween party wearing only our typical daywear. I mean, many people can and do, but often they are met with well-deserved ridicule, because this is a night that is dedicated to fiction! With this bamboo conical hat, the possibilities on your next head-turning costume are vast. You could dress as an actual ninja, for they frequently wore these sugegasa (Japanese name for the cone hat) to blend in with the crowd. Or, if you’re feeling particularly creative, wanting to go more with the intellectual, puny humor that is extremely popular in the modern day Halloween style, then you could go as an item such as Chinese Tea. This can be achieved by wearing this rice-paddy hat while carrying around a teacup and pretending to sip gingerly like Queen Elizabeth herself. There really are, a great number of interesting choices that this straw sedge hat can provide you with when the time comes for you to transform out of yourself and into character. However, be warned! I implore you not to use this Asian sun hat to dress simply as a person of Asian descent. That’s not very PC bro! (South Park reference, anyone?).

But for all those people interested in the arts, whether it be through theatre, ballet, music, film etc., then the costume abilities accomplishable by this traditional coolie hat are not just limited to Halloween day. The performing arts is an important part in our society that has the reputation of captivating audiences no matter their cultural divides. This hat can also play its role in helping vitalize the performing arts. How, you may ask, is such a broad task achievable by an old conical peasant’s hat? Let’s set the stage: In the entertainment business, a huge part of story development can be translated through proper costume design. This is evident in Tchaikovsky’s, The Nutcracker, where, although slightly stereotypical, the costumes must match the music, the choreography, and the culture from which it is derived. Another case scenario is this: you are tasked with wardrobe design for the setting of a dramatic period piece. If the story was set during the Middle Ages, in a city crowded with people dying of the Black Plague, then the style of the young NYSYNC Justin Timberlake may not be well-received or understood. Thus, more often than not, a proper use of fashion guidelines is necessary in entertainment. These Asian hats can give to you, a sense of authenticity within the story you must relay. In the Nutcracker, there is a piece called the Chinese Tea, and the dance typically dictates the wardrobe to be of Chinese style. This can include the iconic image of the rice hat. Additionally these famer sedge hats are superbly crafted, a much needed quality to withstand the normal wear and tear that numerous dress rehearsals and productions put upon their costumes. Some situations, such as certain cultural dances, specifically call for the use of this bamboo Non la, such as the traditional Vietnamese Conical Hat dance. Fairly self-explanatory, the wardrobe necessary for this dance includes the popular Vietnamese Conical hats. Additionally, this sedge hat is a perfect addition to the wardrobe or set design of a film maker, amateur or professional. This hat has a rich history, and whether you are looking at its origins in Vietnamese, Chinese or Japanese culture, a writer or creator of any kind will be able to draw from it inspiration.

Use as a Decoration for Those Too Poor to Actually Travel to Asia

If you were not, or think you were not, born with a head that is capable of looking fantastic in hats, then this traditional straw Asian hat can still add a flare to your style through its use as a house decoration. Many of us do not possess either the finances, the time, or more often than not both, to put down our work and take a spontaneous trip to East Asia. But you do not need to visit Vietnam to possess this Non la. Nor do you need to go to Japan, or China for this rice-picking coolie hat. Instead, you can purchase this stylish, engineering marvel (in terms of hat design) right here and place accordingly in your home. And when friends stop by to visit, either for a dinner party or a house party (typically dependent upon your age and personality) you now possess the ability to gloat to your guests and pretend that you are extremely cultured in the ways of the world. You are now cooler than your friends. You are very welcome.

The Traditional Conical Hat in Conclusion

So with all of these varying reasons why you should purchase this hat, is there any one reason better than the other? The answer to that is a resounding no. This oriental conical hat can be seen in many different ways, each unique to the person who desires it. Some may take the heavier approach when deriving meaning and see this Chinese hat as representative of a massive cultural movement. Others may simply view this it as an interesting piece to add to their collection of stuff. But whatever the differing reasons are that sparked interest in this bamboo hat, one factor remains constant. It is that this is a well-structured and functional hat that has the ability to be diverse in its meaning and use. In short, this hat, by whatever name you wish to call it, is a fantastic statement piece capable of providing for some very interesting conversation.

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