If we are to present the Vietnamese charm, the conical hat worn by the Vietnamese is certainly a strong symbol of the country. Very light, fragile even, this wooden object and bamboo stems covered with latanier leaves is worn by women from North to South, without distinction of social affiliations, rich or poor, young or older.
The image of the conical hat in Vietnamese life
In the Western imagination, the image of conical hats is almost inseparable from that of Vietnamese women. Women or girls wear them when they work in rice fields. Grandmothers often use it as a fan to help their grandchildren fall asleep on hot days. At the wedding, a conical hat can replace the words a mother wants to say to her daughter, putting it on her head before leaving her.
Nowadays, many foreign tourists wear conical hats on their heads as typical Vietnamese souvenirs.
These Vietnamese hats are also increasingly present in art shows or fashion shows, or beauty contests, often they are worn with traditional Vietnamese orbs the ao dai. Such shows are often highly applauded. The famous Italian collector Alberta Ferrerti once presented a collection in which we find renovated conical hats full of colours!
Vietnamese hat and its varieties
Next to the hats in conical shape “non la”, there is another model of hat also made from latan tree leaves called non quai thao. This model has rather a round shape, flat, and especially very wide (diameter of 70-8m cm). Today, these hats are mainly used as part of folk shows, in particular for the singing shows of the province of Bac Ninh north of Hanoi. But until the beginning of the 20th century, it was often worn by women in North Vietnam.
The conical hat is also for men
On the other hand, if most people get used to seeing the conical hat for women worn, few people know that there is one for men, it is in fact almost identical to that for women, it is simply bigger!
Origin of the conical hat
Historically, Vietnamese girls and women have been wearing the conical hat for a long time. The first traces of the conical hat can be detected in the drawings engraved on the bronze drums of Ngoc Lu and the bronze jars of Dào Thinh which date from 2 to 3 millennia BEFORE our era. Legend has it that the Genius Giong chasing the invader An wore a conical iron hat that resisted the arrows… “Although no one knows exactly when the hat was born, for a long time the conical hat is considered the symbol of Vietnamese and Vietnamese peasants.
The manufacture of the conical hat
For a foreigner, conical hats arouse another curiosity: how can we manage to create the bamboo frame and fix such thin leaves on this structure? In the manufacture of a conical hat, everything must be done by hand. There are two main stages that each contain a lot of secondary work.
The first step is to prepare the materials. This is a very important step. To make a conical hat, a conical wooden shape and latanier leaves are used. This detail is very important: the retained leaves should be quite young and dried in the sun. The sewing thread and needle must also be prepared.
The second step is manufacturing. First, grooves are created around the conical shape. Then we cover this form with the lataniers. Then we sew on the grooves. Finally, we separate the shape and the sewn fins. But it takes about four or five hours of continuous and meticulous work in total concentration!
Vietnamese villages famous for the conical hat
If conical hats are a fairly common object from North to South, each region leaves a local stamp on its products. In the north, Chuong village in the western suburbs of Hanoi has a national reputation for making these products.
Today, this village continues to produce thousands of conical hats every day. 80% of its population still lives from the manufacture and export of these products. While the daily use of these products is less common than in the past, the demand for art-conical hats for shows is increasing dramatically.
In this village, a supply market takes place every 4th and 10th day of each lunar month. Because the raw materials come from Yen Bai province for palm trees, Hoa Binh and Phu Tho for palm fibers, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh for latanier leaves. The reinforcements are made in the village of Lua, the bamboo circles in Trang Xuan, the fern filaments in Dau Tê.
The conical hats of the Tày ethnic group stand out for their distinctive red colour. Descending towards the centre of the country, the province of Thanh Hoa has conical hats that differ from the others with a frame of 20 hems.
The conical hat in Hue
In Hue, a conical hat is rather thin but very elegant, decorated with poems or decorative images that are clearly revealed only in sunlight. It, therefore, rises to the rank of an object of art, more than one object of common use. The village of Phu Cam, also known as the Phuoc Vinh district, located in hue city, has a reputation for making Huean conical hats.
There are also a number of criteria to be met. The look of the hat depends mainly on the good realization of the structure and the roundness of the passes. After the frame, the leaves of the latanier of a greenish-white colour are laid. The choice of leaves is very important; they must not be too young or too old. The Hue conical hat has 16 passes. These bamboo broken passes are curved, well rounded, and skillfully linked at both ends by a wire. The last step requires meticulous work consisting of sewing the latanier leaves on the passes with a polymer thread.
Average price of a conical hat
For those who wish to buy a conical hat, this information can be useful:
The price of a good Vietnamese hat (not the) is about 100,000 VND (about 4 euros).
In addition, the Vietnamese hat for women, not the (conical hat), is regularly seen in movies.
Today, during a tour in Vietnam, on country roads, both in the North and in the South, a visitor will certainly see women wearing such hats working in rice fields or going to markets. Even in Hanoi, one will sometimes notice with astonishment and pleasure, among a crowd of people wearing motorcycle helmets, some conical hats worn by retail vendors from around Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. Real touches of charm!
Video on the conical hat – the charm of Vietnam