Follow my Existential Exile. . .

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

love that hat girl!

For the readers that are not aware, the hat my header is wearing is called a "nón lá" in Vietnamese. It is worn primarily by older women, though you may find some men wearing one while working in a farm. I do not know the history of the hat accept that its style, like most cultural paraphenalia in Vietnam, is inspired from Chinese culture. According to my students, normal people do not wear the nón lá, lol. In other words, the younger generation does not find the nón lá fashionable. But, it has a very practical purpose. It keeps your face cool during the hot sunny afternoons, and it will keep you dry when it rains. I enjoy seeing the ladies in their nón lá hats. It keeps Vietnam authentically Vietnam. In no other country in the world, can you walk through a metropolitan city and see "cityfolk" wearing a nón lá. 

And, about it being fashionable. . . well I'm sure there are many modern examples of Western designers taking cues from the shape of the hat. But I will tell you this story: One day on my way to work I am sitting on my motorbike waiting for the light to turn green. I had just left my apartment and turned right after crossing over the bridge, connecting Binh Thanh to District 1, but still a bit far from what I consider "downtown". I look to my right and spot a young women wearing her nón lá. There are many crazy things happening on the street that can grab your attention, but the way this lady wore her nón lá was particularly funny. Dressed in a typical over-all pajama-like outfit, the lady walks confidently down the street in bright fushia. Atop her head is a nón lá, not plain and covered in plastic like the market sellers, no, she rocks a colorfully embroidered nón lá, like the one a tourist would get in Mui Ne (like the one hanging on my wall, you can see it if you skype me). Let me also mention the color of her pajama-jammy-jam matches the embroidered flowers on her conical crown. Hey, you know what they say, if you're gonna do it, do it with pride!

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