Saturday, May 18, 2013

Cowboy Hats

On a field trip with my UC program, I was able to visit a traditional straw hat studio/workshop that makes hats for Chilean cowboys, or Huasos!  It is a small business with one main hat-maker and a few assistants.  The owner showed us the process, from soaking and braiding the straw to sewing and forming the hats.

The straw braiding is tedious work, and sometimes they get it pre-bradided.  The strands range from 3-piece braids to 12-piece braids!  The more strands in the braid, the finer the work.  Sometimes they need up to 50 meters of braided strands to make a hat!

Then, they sew the strands in concentric circles with a sewing machine to form the hat.  Some hats are left with their natural straw color, and some are dyed with either synthetic dyes for bright colors or natural dyes for earthy tones.

The Huasco styles range from the traditional wide-brimmed rigid rims to an Indiana Jones inspired hat! The very fine, flexible and most special hats were priced at $90,000 Chilean pesos - about $200 USD.

Indiana Jones!

The coolest part about the visit was seeing that traditional forms of artisanship still thrive in their respective localities.  On the way to and from the workshop, we saw men on the side of the road or in the fields wearing the hats - a mark of rural Chilean culture that still lives strong.


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