Conical hats (Non la - Leaf hats) are considered one of the “specialties” of Vietnam. We can easily catch sight of the conical hats everywhere. Every region of the country has their own ways to change conical hats to suit in different weather conditions and natural conditions of each place, but generally, all the creativity creates a conical hat based on a traditional craft way with many uses and different meanings.
Vietnam is a tropical country where it is rainy or sunny all year. Vietnamese people created a conical hat made from leaves and bamboo to help farmers work in the fields. Not only do people use conical hats in productive labour but they also use them to honour women’s beauty. In Vietnam, traditional clothes is "ao dai" (long dress), and a conical hat is used as an important accessory. Especially, if "ao dai" symbolizes the graceful and modest beauty of a woman, a conical hat brings a woman charming and discreet beauty.
Vietnam has many conical hats making villages such as Chuong village in Hanoi, Phu Gia or Go Gang in Binh Dinh, Quang Nap in Thai Binh province, Can Tho, etc. Especially, conical hat making was founded and has developed in Hue for hundreds of years with a lot of famous villages like Ho Tay, Da Le, Phu Cam, Doc So, Trieu Tay, Kim Long, and so on. Looking at those conical hats, not many people know that it is not easy to make them. What we need includes leaves, threads, and conical frames. Although the kind of leaves to make a conical hat is simple, it's hard to look for it which grows in mountainous areas. The kind of leaves used to make a conical hat is called "Bo Qui Diep" (leaves of palm trees). Sewing thread is often silk thread (Hue people usually use the thread named “doac”). People use young leaves and dry them (not too dried). Hat frames made by skilful craftsmen have 16 hat brims.
Referring to conical hats, people will think about the poem hats of Vietnam. A poem conical hat was born in Tay Ho by chance. In about 1959 -1960, Mr Bui Quang Bac - a craftsman who made conical hats and loved poems in the village - had an idea about making a conical hat with lines of poetry between two leaf layers. Moreover, people put pictures of Huong river, Ngu mountain near the poem in those layers of leaf. Over a long time, poem hats are proprietary products of Ho Tay Village. Then, when girls of Ho Tay village married to boys in another countryside, they brought their traditional craft - the conical hat and poem hat making to spread widely throughout the country. We can see farmers in the countryside wear conical hats; people in the city wear them; foreign tourists wear them. Everybody from the elderly, young women to children can wear a conical hat - a unique beauty of Vietnam.
First Lady Hillary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea wear conical hats when accompanying her husband, President Bill Clinton, in his visit to Hanoi in 11/2000 (Photo:giaoduc.et)