#10 – Bowler Hats by PQ Bird

BirdAvatar Hi all- PQ Bird here. Welcome to my first post. As a bird, of course, I have the opportunity to travel quite a bit and observe all kinds of animals and people and their habitats. So in my last journey, I saw some indigenous South American women wearing hats that didn’t seem to fit exactly. Didn’t fit on their heads and didn’t seem, well, indigenous.

So I wondered, how did they end up wearing this hat? I did some quick research and found out that the women are Quechua and Aymara natives of Peru and Bolivia and the hat, originally from England, is called a bowler hat (bombin in South America).

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The hat itself has an interesting story. It was apparently created for gamekeepers on an estate in England who were having trouble keeping their top hats on as they rode through the forest (picture that!). The bowler was designed to be sturdy and lower on their heads so as to stay on and protect the head. The hat keepers who made the hat in 1849 were named “Bowler”- hence the name. But how did the hat get to South America, and how did it become popular with the indigenous women there?

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A bit more research revealed the following possibilities:

the hats were brought over by immigrant British railway workers, and the fashion caught on locally;

the hats were introduced in South America by the Spanish, along with the full skirts and sweaters worn by the indigenous women;

a merchant in Bolivia ordered too many hats (or maybe the wrong size?) and decided to sell the extras by marketing them as a hat for women;

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Hmmm….so no clear answer on how the bowler hats came to be so popular with these South American women. In the meantime, here’s a link to a site on helping indigenous people – http://www.culturalsurvival.org/ and a link to a site that explains who they are http://www.iwgia.org/culture-and-identity/identification-of-indigenous-peoples

Photo credits: bowler hat, wikimedia commons; bolivian women, travelpod blog, Ashi Freeshma; Peru/Bolvia map, news.bbc.co.uk; Ireland/England map, indymedia.ie; other images, public domain. Note: all images altered except photo by Ashi Freeshma.

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