A Complete Guide About The Traditional Vietnamese Hat

Vietnamese hat is called Nón lá, meaning Vietnamese conical hat. Non La has become a typical symbol in Vietnamese culture, specifically related to the women and Ao Dai dress.

Vietnamese hat
Many girls like to wears a Vietnamese hat with Ao dai. @thanhphuongiir

History of appearing Vietnamese hat

Where is the conical hat from? Since ancient times, under the influence of the tropical monsoon climate, with a lot of rain and sunshine, Vietnamese people have known how to put leaves together. This way can create items to wear on their heads to cover the sun and rain.

Gradually, the traditional Vietnamese hat appeared as a necessary item in daily life. Conical hats are made from simple and readily available materials such as palm leaves, conical leaves, bamboo, etc.

With normal materials, but through the skillful hands of artisans, the Vietnamese conical hat has become a symbol of many traditional villages for centuries.

According to Vietnamese history, conical hats were born around the 13th century under the Tran Dynasty. At that time, conical hats were used to make accessories for rich women, but the hat was quite thick and heavy. With the flow of time, the hat becomes lighter and more elegant.

Conical hats have had many stages of change in their shape, from the round flat hat in the ancient North to the round conical hat in Hue City and Central Vietnam. A conical hat is commonly used because of its solid contouring appearance, both improving the aesthetic and having conical depth to serve the rain and sun protection.

Although it has undergone various changes, Vietnamese hats have become an indispensable item in the daily life of Vietnamese people for generations. Many generations have handed this type of hat as a Vietnamese cultural feature, entering poetry and literature.

How to make conical hats

The main materials to make a Vietnamese hat are mainly palm or coconut leaves, bamboo stalks, thread, etc.

making hats
Making Vietnamese hats. @ahuhtgnoud

Step 1: Choosing leaves

The first step when making a hat is choosing leaves. There are many types of leaves that can be used to make hats, Vietnamese people often use coconut or palm leaves. Coconut leaves must come from the South, while palm ones are abundant in the North.

The leaves will be dried in the sun, then the workers use a heated iron to iron the leaves to make them flat. The temperature on the iron is just hot enough otherwise it will burn the leaves.

Step 2: Creating frame and sharpening bamboo sticks

Next is the process of making a frame for hats, sharpening bamboo sticks. The craftsmen sharpen each stick so that it is round evenly. Typically, people try to make these sticks a very small diameter so that it is easy to bend them without breaking.

conical hat frame
Making a conical hat frame. @naxouppa_

A complete hat will have about 16 bamboo spokes bent into a circle from large to small arranged in a pyramidal frame. The number 16 symbolizes the most beautiful time in the female lifetime.

But, conical hats for Buddhist monks will have 18 bamboo spokes, which says that the Buddhist people want to keep the bustling life away when wearing big hats.

Step 3: Put the dry leaves on the hat frame

After the leaves are made flat and the conical mold is completed, people arrange about 24-25 leaves on top of each other in 2 layers.

making vietnamese hat
Making Vietnamese hats. @naxouppa_

To put all leaves on the frame, workers cut one head of leaves diagonally, and sew this head together with a needle.

In the middle of the two layers, people add dry banana leaves or paper or pictures, creating the third ordinary layer, to make the hat hard and durable.

This step seems simple, but it requires a lot of techniques, to make it even, not to be displaced.

Step 4: Sewing the Vietnamese hat

The final step is to sew the hat. The craftsman uses a thread and a sewing needle to keep the leave layers together.

sewing Vietnamese conical hat
@ahuhtgnoud

They often stitch each stitch through several layers to make sure to create a beautiful cone shape.

Each stitch on the hat, although there is no specific measurement, it is neat, showing the ingenuity and professionalism of the hat maker. The stitching joints on the hat are also guaranteed to be perfectly concealed.

After finishing the stitching, the craftsman will add on the inside top of the hat a flower made of colorful thread to make the hat more beautiful.

The hat is finished after being coated with a layer of glossy plastic paint made of plastic. This skill can prevent rainwater not go through the pinholes on the hat.

Finally, the hat is dried again to increase its durability.

Step 5: Add the strap to the conical hat

Inside the conical hat, there are additional straps to create symmetry on both sides, which helps the users can wear it easily, not fall off the hat.

The hat strap can be made of normal fabric, velvet fabric, or silk with different colors to add beauty to the wearer.

non la is Vietnamese hat
Non La is made with different styles. @karakoram690

Different types of Vietnamese hats

Vietnamese conical hats have different types according to each historical period. However, many kinds of hats are not suitable, so now there are a few types that exist:

  • Palm-leaf hats: The hats made of palm leaves and bamboo frames are the most popular type in Vietnam, have a pointed pyramid shape and strap to wear.
  • Coconut-leaf hats: The hats are formed from coconut leaves, usually in the South of Vietnam, especially the Mekong region.
  • Nón Quay Thao: Quay Thao hats are made of palm leaves, with wide and flat brim. This type is popular in the North, only used in decoration or festivals.
  • Hue poem hats: These hats are also made of palm leaves. But, in between two layers of leaves, there are poems and pictures about Hue.
  • La Bang hats (nón lá bàng): This new type of hat has recently appeared in Hue. The artisan uses carefully treated leaves of Terminalia catappa (also called Singapore almond) to make very beautiful hats, often used for decoration or performing arts.

When do the Vietnamese people wear hats?

wear vietnamese hats
Wear conical hats while working in the fields. @palinuro1971

Vietnamese traditional hats have been used in most work, working in the fields, going to the market, and going out.

However, today there is a change in fashionable style, not many Vietnamese people use conical hats as popularly as before.

In spite of that, you can also see traditional conical hats on the rice fields that farmers still wear.

And, when some girls take pictures with a traditional long dress, the Vietnamese conical hat is an indispensable accessory.

Vietnamese people also use conical hats to decorate their homes, restaurants, or cafes.

In the past, cyclists could wear conical hats; but, today this is not allowed, because of the danger that can occur. Therefore, you need to pay attention when riding a bicycle in Vietnam, you should not wear conical hats.

How much is a conical hat in Vietnam?

selling vietnamese hat
Selling Vietnamese hats in Dong Ba Market. @soaipham

The price of Vietnamese hats has different from the types, quality, and various regions in Vietnam.

At Ben Thanh market, conical hats are sold at souvenir stalls. The hats are printed with many eye-catching patterns and images, with different sizes with prices ranging from 40,000 to 200,000 VND.

In particular, hats with hand-embroidered pictures, landscape paintings, or knitted bamboo slats are favorite models. The hats with ancient style are often used as performance props with the highest selling price: 200,000 – 300,000 VND.

At some high-end fashion stores, this price can increase, but it is never a popular item.

In Dong Ba Market in Hue City, you can find a lot of Vietnamese conical hats, typically Nón Bài Thơ – Poem conical hats. The price per one comes from 40,000 VND to 80,000 VND.

Nowadays, people who come to buy conical hats are mainly tourists, they buy them as souvenirs when they come to Vietnam. Vietnamese people also have bought but not much because of changing fashionable thinks.

vietnamese conical hat
Photo: TieuBaoTruong/pixabay

Vietnamese conical-hat villages

Many conical hat villages in Vietnam preserve the image of conical hats. Each hat will have the characteristics of each region, but the common point is that they are all made by dedicated workers.

In the North, it is famous for making hats with Chuong conical village (Làng Chuông) located about 40km from the center of Hanoi in Thanh Oai district, Hanoi.

The conical hat of Chuong village was born in 1940, through many generations still maintains the traditional model of conical hat. The special feature of Chuong village’s conical hat is that the palm leaves are quite white, which are taken from the mountainous areas of Thanh Hoa and Ha Tinh. These leaves are dried in the sun until they are silvery white.

Along the central region, conical hats flourish in the ancient capital of Hue with many conical villages such as Da Le, Phu Cam, Doc So…The characteristics of Hue conical hats are not only ordinary hats but also masterpiece works of art, the most unique of which is the poem conical hat.

In the South, there is Thoi Tan hat village in Can Tho over 70 years old, made of bamboo and typical leaves of local trees. These materials make the hats look smooth and durable.

Thoi Tan villagers also divide hats into two types of going-to-market hats and working-in-field hats. The market hats are a more carefully selected type in the leaves, much more elaborate than the field hats.

A Vietnamese girl wears non la
A Vietnamese girl wears non la. @dshongthu947

A traditional conical hat is a simple object, but it contains a lot of meaningful cultural values ​​for Vietnamese people. Surely, when visiting the S-shaped country, holding a conical hat in hand, you will have interesting impressions and experiences.

So, you should range your time to find out the charm of conical hats along the Vietnam map during your holidays there when you have a chance.

About the author

The editorial staff of Vietnamdrive is a team of travel experts managed by Mr. Thom who has worked in tourism for 14 years. Trusted by thousands of tourists from all over the world.