Every once in a while someone complains that I don’t have enough hat posts around here, which is the sad truth, so I’m glad that plep has provided me with the opportunity to share with you the National Museum of African Art‘s “Hats Off!” page.

Modifying or adorning the body is a means through which African peoples express their collective and individual pride, ideals, aesthetics and identity. Many African cultures throughout the continent have long considered the head the center of one’s being—a source of individual and collective identity, power, intelligence and ability. Adorning the head as part of everyday attire or as a statement, therefore, is especially significant.

You can find more hats by going to The Diversity of African Art and clicking on Costume Accessories and then picking Hats out of the first drop-down menu. And I like the fact that they give local names, e.g. “Cap (shüötu),” though I wish they’d indicate the actual language.


  1. aldiboronti says

    While we’re on the topic, nothing to do with African hats, but it did make me smile.
    History of the Top Hat
    – The perpetrator was a haberdasher name John Hetherington, who designed it, made it and was the first person to wear it into the street. According to a contemporary newspaper account, passersby panicked at the sight. Several women fainted, children screamed, dogs yelped, and an errand boy’s arm was broken when he was trampled by the mob. Hetherington was hauled into court for wearing “a tall structure having a shining luster calculated to frighten timid people.” –

  2. Great link — thanks!

  3. Hey, LH, I wandered over from Word Origins on a poster’s recommendation. I had no idea the “hat” part of your name was literal. But your post made me think of this guy. He’s local, and shot a lot of the images for the book in my town. I remember seeing them at the Baltimore Museum of Art before the book came out and loving them. Obviously, the individual pride in one’s hat was something that managed to survive a forced Atlantic crossing and unimaginable deprivations. Somehow it gives me a little more faith in humanity to know that.

  4. Great link!
    There was a black Baptist church in the same block as the Catholic church I attended while growing up. As I child I was very impressed with the hats of the women attending the Baptist church. Their fabulous hats put the Catholic women’s black mantillas to shame. As a child it never occurred to me that the passion for great hats traced back to Africa. What an amazing testament to the strength and deep humanity of those who came here in chains and still maintained their cultural roots.

  5. Meant to say thanks for a great African link, lh!

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