The palm leaf hat of Vietnam

When I was on holidays in Vietnam I felt it would be such a pity to be there and not to try wearing something Vietnamese. Alas, the choice was not that big. Their traditional dress, ao dai, was not available in a ready-made variant and I was just too lazy to be bothered ordering it at the tailor's. So, the only other thing left was their traditional palm-leaf hat, nón lá. Especially considering that it cost almost nothing and was available literally at every corner.

Vietnam street food

Vietnamese woman wearing conical palm leaf hat

This conical is a symbol of nation, the item that can be easily recognized at any part of the world as Vietnamese. These hats have been made by peasants from time immemorial. The popularity of it can be explained by the availability of the palm leaves and bamboo from which the hats are made from, by the simplicity of the construction techniques and by the multi-functionality of the hat itself. It not only offered protection from the sun and rain. It could serve, for example, as a fan, as a basket to hold things when shopping or as a water container for drinking. However the shape of a hat and the material it was made from depended on the owner's social position: different kinds of hats have been made for soldiers, mandarins, monks and even for kings.

Vietnamese man on a bike wearing palm leaf hat

Vietnamese Soldiers statues at Khai Dinh Emperor's Mausoleum, Hue, Vietnam Vietnamese Soldiers in conical hats statues at Khai Dinh Emperor's Mausoleum, Hue, Vietnam. Photo source

Besides, this simple conical hat plays important role in tradition of worshipping Holy Mothers. The Holy Mothers are worshipped in small temples and shrines that are sometimes built behind a pagoda. They symbolise the universe's four worlds: Heaven, Earth, Water, and Mountains and Forests. On the ceilings of the temples and shrines dedicated to the Holy Mothers hand many conical paper hats of four colours representing the four Mothers: red for Heaven, white for Water, yellow for Earth and green for Mountains and Forests.

Kate Moss wearing Vietnamese hat, 1996Kate Moss by Bruce Weber for Vogue US June 1996. Photo  source

What are my personal impressions of wearing this hat? I can say that it is the best choice of a head cover to wear in such climate: it is light and being made of natural material it gives perfect protection from the scorching tropical sun without making your head sweating underneath. 

I wore it during our excursions to the ancient town of Hoi An and to the jungles of My Son, I wore it on the beach. Perhaps I didn't look that glamorous in it but still I felt gracefull enough and comfy. And yes, very Vietnamese.

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  1. AHHH! Vietnam less more similar with Indonesia...we have that hat as well. Most people wear it when they work in rice field or farm like my grandma.
    And it looks fab you wore it in the beach :) I never thought that I would look awesome like this. I love pictures that you took of old ladies wearing hat.

  2. You look so adorable in it, dear, just perfect for you. Very interesting about the Holy Mothers. I had no idea about the religion of this area so this was fascinating to me. And I really like the idea that a hat can be used as a basket too :)

  3. Wonderful pics from your journey in Vietnam. I love to have a look into foreign countries. And of course you look very Vietnamese with this cute little hat and very lovely.
    Sabine xxx

  4. Bold and beautiful. You attract attention in this dress.
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  6. It was an awesome tour for me. The people was vary helpful to us. We even stay with host family. They are very generous to us and give the total enjoyable moment of the tour.