Conical Hat - The Beauty of Vietnam

For a long time, "Non La" - the conical hat has been a cultural symbol for the Vietnamese. The image of mothers wearing conical hats is usually associated with each person's childhood. We can see the image of conical hats anywhere, such as the image of the head wearing a sunny and dewy algae hat of a grandmother and mother, the image of a graceful Vietnamese woman in a tunic and a conical hat, or foreign tourists who enjoy the Vietnamese conical hats.


I. When was the conical hat born?

There are many narratives about the origin of the conical hat. An early version of the conical hat is said to have been seen on Ngoc Lu bronze drum and Dao Thinh bronze jar around 2500 - 3000 BC. However, many people assume that the conical hat gained popularity and was worn frequently in the 13th century during the Tran dynasty. In spite of being thick and heavy at that time, women still used it as an accessory. There is also a story in Than Village, Hanoi about a princess teaching the villagers how to make “non chao rang”, which was an early version of the conical hat made by sewing the old palm leaves. The concept of creating "non bai tho" in Hue originated in Tay Ho in the late 1950s with an artisan who manufactured conical hats and also loved poetry. Between the layers of leaves, he generated a layer of the poem's verses. Since then, the conical hat has become representative of traditional Vietnamese headwear. Men or women, children or adults are able to wear it with no distinction at all. It’s gonna be a symbol for the workers and farmers, but it also evokes the elegance of Vietnamese women in the past and the majesty of the country. 


II. How Inseparable It is? 

Vietnam is known as a tropical country with a wet rice growing culture. While working on large paddy fields or ferrying passengers over rivers, local farmers are generously protected from the harsh sun and heavy rains by the development of conical hats. Other useful applications for a conical hat include serving as a basket for produce when locals shop at the market and as a fan for farmers working during the highest temperatures of the summer. A conical hat is frequently worn in a romantic setting to protect a young couple's intimate moments while they are dating.

The conical hat is associated with the image of Vietnamese girls wearing the traditional long dress (Ao Dai), in addition to being an ordinary necessity for farmers. If Ao Dai represents the modesty and grace of a woman, her gentle beauty may be seen peeking out from behind the brim of the conical hat.

In general terms, the conical hat is not only a representation of Vietnamese agriculture but also a rich icon of Vietnamese culture and history. Don't forget to add "Non La" to your top list of things to buy in Vietnam. It can be a terrific alternative for Vietnamese souvenirs for travelers to take home.


III. Usage of the conical hat

The conical hat can be worn in a variety of ways. It can serve the same purpose as other hats: to shield your head from the sun's harsh rays. You may use the conical hat as a wonderful basket to hold little products from marketplaces by turning it upside down. On hot summer days, the conical hat is like a cooling device, wetting the conical hat with a little bit of water then wearing it and using  the evaporation to keep your head cool or simply as a handy fan. The multi-usages lightweight, and low price of a typical conical hat have made it the favorite headwear for Vietnamese, especially to the farmer and street vendor sellers.

Another representation of Vietnamese fashion is the conical hat. Although conical hats are less common in urban areas than in rural ones, many young ladies continue to wear "Ao Dai" or "Ao Ba Ba" with them for photo sessions, adding a touch of class to Vietnamese traditional clothing. 

In Hue city, which is the poetry land, poems are attached to conical hats as an alternative to writing on paper. They are often offered for sale as a souvenir, not just to visitors but also to residents. “Non bai tho” is not only a special gift to those who have a love for poetry but it could also be a keepsake of the past.


IV. How to make a conical hat?

The Vietnamese conical hats look simple, but the process of making them is extremely complicated, requiring the ingenuity of artisans. How to make a conical hat? Hats are made of different materials, but mainly made of conical leaves, to make the brim, people use bamboo to sharpen them into round bars and then bend them into circles of different diameters and sizes. Usually, the largest brim has a diameter of about 50 cm, gradually decreasing according to the cone shape, a hat has 16 brims and the smallest brim is the size of a coin (the tip of the cone).

The leaves are used to make hats, people pick them in the forest and then dry them until white and store them in a plastic bag to prevent mold. When making hats, the craftsmen take each leaf, flatten it, then cut the top with scissors and thread them together about 24-25 leaves for a turn, then arrange them evenly on the cone mold. The conical leaves are thin and also quickly damaged when it rains a lot, so the craftsmen immediately thought of taking advantage of the dry bamboo sheath to be the layer between the two layers of conical leaves to make the hat both hard and durable.

To complete the conical hat, we put the conical rims into a conical mold, then arrange the conical leaves into this frame, must arrange the mold completely and then use silk threads to bind the leaves to the frame together.


V. The Lands of Conical Hat in Vietnam

A well-known conical hat-making hamlet can be found in any province of Vietnam. In Ha Noi, Chuong Village is one of the most well-known settlements. This historic village boasts a large number of antique homes, and they have been making conical hats according to tradition for more than 300 years. Chuong Village organizes market events in June exclusively for the purpose of selling conical hats.

Nghia Chau Village, which has been producing conical hats since 1940, is one of numerous craft villages in Nam Dinh that have grown to be crucial components of the tourism industry in this region. Ha Thon village in Quang Binh is another old community with a long tradition of conical hat production dating back 100 years. The light and graceful poem known as "non bai tho" is made famous in Tay Ho, a village in Hue.

Traveling to the South, it is easy to find a village in Can Tho that makes Asian conical hats. They use the indigenous palm leaves from the lady palm trees that are common in the Southern provinces of the Mekong Delta, such as Phu Quoc, Tay Ninh, Ca Mau. If your town doesn't have a conical hat-making community, you can still get the attractive headgear by visiting the local markets and shops.


VI. How much is the conical hat?

According to statistics, conical hat manufacturing provides a living for 80% of the village's residents. A hat costs between VND 3,500 and VND 10,000 in the hamlet, but depending on the quality, it may cost between VND 30,000 and VND 100,000 in Hanoi.

If you are interested in the conical hats or other handicrafts products in Hanoi, let's join our wonderful day tour to handicraft villages from Hanoi

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