Worldfocus producer Ivette Feliciano explores the background behind a fashion staple in Bolivia: The bowler hat.
In April, I went with a team from Worldfocus to Bolivia. We did a number of pieces on the culture and politics of the country.
While there, we became fascinated with the way many of the indigenous women in the country dressed. These women are called “cholitas” — traditionally-dressed Aymara indigenous women, many of whom occupy the lowest socioeconomic rung in Bolivian society. We saw countless women hurrying about the busy streets in the country’s capital, La Paz, decked out in fringed shawls and traditional multi-layered skirts called polleras.
We became particularly intrigued with the item that completes these outfits: A small felt bowler hat that sits balanced on top of one’s head.
You might not guess it, but these hats — considered by many to be the unofficial national symbol of Bolivia — have their roots in (of all places) Europe. The bowler hat, also known as a derby hat, was designed and created by hat makers in London in the 1800s. They were designed to provide gamekeepers with a hat that would remain atop their heads as they rode horses under low branches. It’s been popular in Bolivia since the 1920s. For more about the history and meaning of the bowler, watch our video from Bolivia.
– Ivette Feliciano
For more Worldfocus coverage of Bolivia, visit our extended coverage page: On the Ground in Bolivia.