America, South America

The Wonderous Hats of Peru’s Women

Originally published in: Access Culinary Trips

High above Lima, Peru, in the Andes, hats are absolutely everywhere. Bowlers, Top hats, Sombreros, caps. There are so many ways to describe headwear but none of them quite capture the colorful complexity of the hats of Peru.

In the Peruvian highlands, hats have come to symbolize not just protection from the elements, but cultural identity, social class, age, and family professions. Wide-brimmed and slightly angled head pieces are to the Peruvian woman what the high heel is to the Italian. From purposefully undersized bowlers that sit high on their heads, to monteras, a wide brimmed hat shaped like a wide fruit bowl, hats are a symbol of pride for native Peruvians. While it’s fascinating to the outsider to imagine wearing such a substantial adornment, for members of the Quechua and other tribes, hats are like a name tag, or badge, signifying who they are and where they come from. Men’s hats are relatively understated in comparison. Smaller knit caps with ear flaps are preferred.  Often these will have pom-poms attached at the ears. While fun, they are definitely lower profile than their female counterparts.

Daily Life writer Kerry van der Jagt writes “The bowler is a relative newcomer (to Peru’s women). Appearing in the 1920s, when, according to local lore, a shipment of bowlers was sent from Europe to Bolivia earmarked for Europeans working on the railways.  But the hats were too small for the workers, so they were sold to wholesalers in Peru and Bolivia who turned the mistake into a fashion statement.

Today, the hats are made locally and come in all colors, from lime green to lipstick pink, the more outrageous the better. Most are adorned with gold or silver chains, trinkets, gemstones or feathers. All are worn at a rakish angle. Access Trips Peruvian Culinary Tour includes stops in the Peruvian highlands

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