Today is National Hat Day, and we, at Norlha have reason to celebrate. Though Norlha’s hat history is short we look to a rich future, knowing that we draw from the rich and long saga of the Tibetan hat.
Hats are worn either to protect one from the cold or from the sun. Tibet has ample amounts of both, resulting in a very rich culture surrounding head wear. There were regional hats, which alone offered a wide and rich variety, religious hats marking rank or order and official hats which indicated position and status. Then, sometime in the beginning of the 20th century, Western headgear found its way into the Tibetan Plateau via British India and over the Himalayas on the back of yaks, to end up on the markets of Lhasa, Shigatse and Chamdo. They came not only from Europe, but also from North America, in the form of the Cowboy hats, a great favorite in Eastern Tibet. They were called ‘summer hats’ and were worn at that time with lightweight woolen chubas, the more stylish made from imported fabric.
Fedoras were favored in Lhasa, while Boss of the Plain hats, the original design to cowboy hats, made its way to Amdo, where it became a favorite among women. From the 80’s Tibetans were importing hats again, and American cowboy and Australian Outback hats were the favorite.
Norlha began making hats four years ago, using yak khullu felt as a main medium. We are also reviving older hat forms, among which is the conical and the Amdo fur bordered hat, without the fur. In time, we look to perfecting the art of hat making combining high level techniques from the West with designs from our rich cultural past.