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Hats Conquer Havana

Hats Conquer Havana

by Ricardo Alberto Pérez

Both Cubans and foreigners have difficulty imagining Cuba without having a good hat because our climate, especially the burning rays of the sun, practically makes it a must. Besides this practical requirement, hats have also had their moments of splendor and have taken part of making definite fashion statements here on our Island.

The trick for designers is how to make an item of clothing that is strictly necessary into an element that will contribute to a personal image. As usual, the fashion industry has a myriad of answers to offer.

Those of us in Cuba who are familiar with people who live in the countryside know that the hats they use are revered articles of clothing. I have even heard say that any self-respecting farmer absolutely had to own two hats: a straw hat for the daily chores and another one to attend festivities, take part in social activities or to visit the city.

That straw hat is very significant for Cubans. It is practically a national symbol, partly due to the fact that it was always worn by our freedom fighters, the Mambises, during the wars of independence, and partly because the process of making it is extremely authentic and natural. Recently something very interesting has happened to our country straw hat: it has undergone an urbanization process that takes it outside of its customary setting in order to open up new possibilities.

Whenever we look at old family photos or have the chance to peruse historical photographs, we are impressed to see how pervasive the custom of wearing hats was in the past. Hats were also synonymous with some styles of Cuban music such as the Son or traditional Trova.

Recently, there has been a veritable explosion in the manufacture and sale of hats, both in Havana and in other cities throughout the Island. It seems that a lot more people are returning to the custom of wearing a hat.

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In this phenomenon of commercialization, several things draw our attention. First, we can see how these hats can be bought at a greater number of places: arts and crafts fairs, Artex shops, even boutiques. In the second place, we are struck by the infinite variety of styles and materials used in their manufacture. Hats come in a rainbow of colors. And in the third place, the creators of these hats have been displaying an incredible intensity in their creative processes.

In the Cuban context, hats can sometimes even express a feeling, a kind of militancy reflected by the signs or symbols featured on it. Hats can also be decorated with a wide variety of accessories such as ribbons or feathers. And hats can provide the finishing touches for both men and women on our beaches.

Depending upon a person’s style and the type of image they wish to project, hats can give you a wide variety of possibilities. I have noticed the trend in men’s hats to combine them with plaid shirts and jeans. There also seem to be also some parallels between hats and short, well-groomed beards. Women prefer broad-brimmed sunhats with shapes and colors that set up an attractive combination with the rest of their outfits.

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Of course everyone has their point of view about headgear but all things considered, hats have become a permanent feature in current Cuban fashions. The right hat can certainly complete anyone’s look, both for men and women.

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