The Sombrero Vueltiao
We would like to introduce you to the Sombrero Vueltiao – a fabulous hand woven hat from Colombia. Steeped with a rich history of weaving and braiding, we fell in love with the design of their national symbol, the vueltiao. The checker board patterns and rings of light and dark that turn around the brim and the top of the hat are each unique; a story woven by the artists.
The origins of the Sombrero Vueltiao come from the Zenú tribe in the Sinú river region of Córdoba. Originally, the indigenous or pre-hispanic Zenú used the hats for protection from the strong sun while harvesting corn in the fields. Currently, this traditional hat is woven from caña flecha, the wild cane grass or arrow grass typically grown in parts of Colombia, Brazil and Peru.
It takes several weeks to make one hat, from harvest to dying the reeds and to the actual weaving/braiding. Originally the men were known to have been the weavers, and you will find this is true today, however there are many artisan women in Colombia who are now masterfully weaving with caña flecha . The Vueltiao comes from the word “vuelta” meaning laps or turns that refers to the number of bands woven into the crown or “olma”. The weavers incorporate “pintas” or “faces” in the crown of the sombrero. These patterns represent the artists’ “signature”, or may be symbols in nature or might even commemorate certain music, stories or dances. The hats were typically woven with bands in dark brown and natural caña flecha, but now can be found with accents of bright colors.
Today you will find it traditionally worn by the Cumbia and Vallenato dancers and musicians during festivals. In 1984 the Sombrero Vueltiao was declared a national symbol of Colombia. And for those of you who are old enough to remember, in 2004 the Colombian delegation wore the traditional Sombrero Vueltiao during the opening ceremony of the Olympics.
The Different Types of Vueltiao’s
The quality of the hat is determined by the number of pairs of fibers braided together to make the hat, and its “flexibility”. The more flexible the hat is, the higher quality it is.
The Quinciano is the most commercially available Sombrero Vueltiao and also the least expensive. These hats, made in just three days, are loosely woven together, and use only 15 pairs of caña flecha strips to make the weave.
The Diecinueve, uses 19 pairs of caña flecha strips,producing a finer braid that results in a softer and finer sombrero. It can take up to one week to produce a Diecinueve.
The Veintiuno takes 21 pairs of caña flecha strands per weave and is much finer than the Quinciano and the Diecinueve. These hats are usually custom-made to order and take 10 to 15 days to produce by hand
The Veintitres is made of 23 pairs of caña flecha strips. The Veintitres, like the Veintiuno, is very fine and notably softer and lighter than the above. It takes from 12 to 20 days to make this sombrero by hand.
The Veintisiete is the finest sombrero available and these are the hats we have! They use 27 pairs of caña flecha strips. Our hats can be rolled up and packed without being damaged, just unroll and re-shape. The weave is very dense, and is soft to the touch. The Veintisiete is the most expensive Sombrero Vueltiao and can take up to a month to produce by hand.
Our take on the Sombrero Vueltiao from Colombia
Historically the men of Colombia wear the Sombrero Vueltiao, however we think they look good on anyone! That’s why we knew instantly that we had to share these pieces with you. And what’s important to us is; they are made from natural and sustainably grown fibers and dyes, and most significantly, they are handmade (with the exception that now they are machine-finished at the end to stitch the braiding together along the brim). They are super light-weight and can be rolled up easily to pack along on your travels.
Off to a music festival, going on a BFF’s getaway or fly-fishing on the Bighorn, don’t forget your Sombrero Vueltiao. While there is no substitute for sunscreen, a wide brimmed hat is a great addition to complete your look and will keep you protected from the sun. And, you may just turn a few heads!