11 July 2011

'Cock your hat ...

angles are attitudes’ – so said the great Frank Sinatra. If that's true, Peruvians have a lot of attitude!


Almost everyone here wears a hat of some shape, size or colour. According to livinginperu.com, it was the Spaniards who introduced the hat to South America, though there are unverifiable reports that the locals of Peru and Ecuador had already been weaving various garments – possibly including hats – before that time.

Peruvians have certainly taken the hat-wearing custom to heart – or should that be to head? It’s understandable, given both the cold temperatures in the mornings and at night, and the burning qualities of the midday sunshine.

There are an incredible variety of shapes, sizes and styles. For example, we have the very practical chullo, a hat with earflaps, knitted from vicuña, alpaca, llama or sheep's wool. These are very popular with young tourists but the locals also wear them. Apparently the colours have a significance among the Andean native peoples. The chullo may be practical but it’s not always flattering and the wool can be scratchy.

Then there’s the bowler, called the bombin here and in Bolivia. It has been worn by Quechua and Aymara women since the 1920s, when it was introduced to Bolivia by British railway workers, according to wikipedia.

As well as more modern inventions like the baseball cap, there are local versions of the forage cap (often worn by school boys), the fedora and the akubra (sometimes made of felted wool, sometimes leather), the chupalla (a straw hat, usually found in Chile), and the top hat (most commonly white, and worn by women not men).

And then there are the monteras, the traditional women’s hats that vary from region to region, even from one community to another, and are so unique that it is possible to identify where a woman comes from by the hat she wears.

I haven’t bought a hat ... yet.