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The Non La Vietnamese Conical Hat

If you’ve ever traveled to Vietnam, you might have wondered why Vietnamese people wear conical hats. These classic symbols of Vietnam are still worn throughout the country, though it is more common to see them in the countryside than in the cities. The name of these Vietnamese hats is the non la. Réhahn’s conical hat Fine Art photos honor this important part of Vietnam’s cultural heritage.

Vietnam’s conical hat is more than just a recognizable symbol of the country. They are built to withstand rain and sun and the skills to make them are passed down from generation to generation. The Vietnamese non la hat is iconic … unforgettable … irreplaceable. They are handmade and worn through all seasons … a faithful friend throughout one’s life.

In Saigon and Hanoi, the younger generations are wearing them less and less, so the tradition is fading. However, in Hoi An, non la hats are still a vibrant part of the culture. Follow along to learn why people wear pointed hats in Vietnam and to learn a little about the history of the non la conical hat.

conical hat making tradition handicraft photo by rehahn in hoi an vietnam
A woman weaves a non la conical hat in Hoi An, Vietnam

A Short History of the Vietnamese Conical Hat

Have you ever wondered about the origins of the non la hat in Vietnam? An ancient Vietnamese legend tells a story about a long and difficult typhoon season. It rained and rained for weeks, causing damage throughout the country.

Just when the people began to despair a giant graceful woman descended from the sky. Her enormous conical hat protected the Vietnamese people from the storm. She pushed aside the clouds and the rain and even taught the people how to grow certain crops like rice.

One day the goddess disappeared so the people of Vietnam built a temple in her honor. They began to craft hats in the same fashion as their protector. Her hat, made from large leaves, was woven together with bamboo reeds, in the same fashion as many non la hats today.

The conical hat has been worn for thousands of years and is still a classical symbol of Vietnam.

Conical hats make an ideal accessory for agricultural work in Vietnam


Why Are Vietnamese Hats Pointed?

The form of the Vietnamese non la hat is practical above all. The pointed shape of the conical hat works like a slide for raindrops, allowing them to glide down the wide brim and away from the face. It also effectively protects the wearer from the intense sun.

Anyone who has ever worn a Vietnamese conical hat knows that the light materials and the detail of the woven reeds keep the head cool and protected no matter the weather.

“Time Trace” shows a man wearing a well-worn Vietnamese non la hat in Hoi An


How to Make a Non La Conical Hat in Vietnam

Different people wear different versions of the conical hat, depending on rank, age and materials. They can be made out of palm leaves, tree bark, bamboo or reeds.

In Hoi An, and other towns in Vietnam, you can witness artisans weaving the non la hats out of leaves or reeds around a bamboo frame. The making of Vietnam’s conical hats are often done within families. Generations from grandmothers to granddaughters gather together to weave the conical hats creating a legacy that spans history.

It is easy to understand why their methods are important to celebrate and preserve. Plus they are simply beautiful to regard.

Ao Dai with conical hat in Vietnam
The poetic beauty of a young woman wearing a conical hat in Vietnam can be seen in “Tradition II”


Where to Buy Vietnam’s Conical Hats

Every handcrafted non la hat is filled with the memories of days, years and even decades. They represent the crafter who made them and the beauty of Vietnam’s heritage. They make great souvenirs to take home from Vietnam.

You can find them in any market or souvenir shop in Vietnam’s towns and cities. Or you can take some time to find a non la workshop so that you can see for yourself the delicate nature of making a non la conical hat.

Fine Art photographs of the beautiful non la conical hat also make great gifts and souvenirs of Vietnam. If you’d like to see more artwork featuring Vietnam’s iconic conical hat click here to view Réhahn’s non la portfolio.