Sunday, June 1, 2008

History of the Bowler Hat in Bolivia By: Lisa

Since our arrival in Bolivia I have been fascinated with the fashion of bolivian women. From head to toe their style is like no other I have seen. They begin with a basic flat shoe worn with socks, legs are kept warm with alpaca leg warmers, waists are wrapped with a flowy just below knee length pedicoat type skirt, tops are basic and often draped with a woven tapestry, hair is long black and braided, then topped of with a bowler hat. Yes, a bowler hat, like what Charlie Chaplin wore. This style can be found throughout the country worn by young and old. It wasn't until we shared a taxi with a British man who pondered the purpose of the bowler hat that I became curious of how it came to influence bolivian style. As the fellow tourist pointed out, they don't keep them warm and really don't protect them from the sun. They are not practical like the alpaca leg warmers, and thus must purely be worn for fashion. Tonight in the compound I decided it was an appropriate time to google this thought provoking question. Why do bolivian women wear bowler hats?
Apparently I am not the first to google this question, there are a variety of answers online.

This is what I found from Wikipedia:

"The bowler hat has also been worn by Quechua and Aymara women in Peru and Bolivia since the 1920s when supposedly a shipment of bowler hats was sent from Europe to Bolivia via Peru for use by Europeans who were working on the construction of the railroad. The hats were found to be too small and were distributed to locals."

I also found that they date back 500 years when the spanish were in control and sported this fashion.

Another myth is that the women believe it brings fertility.

Whatever the reason I've longed for the day that fashionable hats come back in style. I think this could be a good time to bring the bowler back to the states.


Susan said...

Hmmmmmm, and I thought Courtney was the fashion guru...I should have known Lisa...I DO expect you to be sporting a bowler hat when you return to Fairbanks. Enjoying your stories! Unwind, rejuvenate, and enjoy the rest of your trip. The best, hopefully, is yet to come with your hike on the Inca trail. Vamonos....Sue

Chip said...

I thought I made you a bowler hat (maybe not fashionable but definitely quite durable)! I think you should wear it sometime.

Chatoyant said...

I bumped into your blog as I was researching the native Peruvian hat since I wanted to make sure my bowler (from a sidewalk sale in NYC) looked at least like a traditional Peruvian Hat. I learned a lot about hats, and a lot about what appears to be a muddled history of the bowler in Peru. But I'm glad to know I am not completely nuts, and others might also have an interest in the topic! I've also decided not to "block" it, but it does need a band trim!

Big said...

The Spanish wore Bowler hats 500 years ago? Crikey!