The other day I took a designer friend to lunch at a Xin Jiang restaurant in Shanghai called Xibo. Previously I’d only been there at night for dinner, and never noticed the decor on the wall near the entrance:
The owner explained that the hats were all from Xin Jiang, from various ethnic minorities. I asked if they would be willing to sell any, but they said they were increasingly difficult to find and thus not for sale.
When Westerners think of Chinese hats, they typically envision this sort of hat:
But beyond this prevalent style of hat, pretty much every ethnic minority in China (there are 56 recognized ethnic minorities in Greater China) has its own style(s) of headwear. I haven’t seen that many in Shanghai, but you can always recognize people from Xin Jiang, like this guy.
Usually, people don’t have cards sticking out of their hats, but I guess it was hot that day and it functioned as a sort of visor.
I’ve been so intrigued by these hats of various ethnic minorities that I went searching for somewhere I could actually buy them, and I found quite a few at the Dong Tai Antique Market:
Such objects are a testament to China’s unique sartorial culture and the diverse heritage that China has and is losing, as these hats are typically no longer produced and worn in a country that arguably marginalizes ethnic minorities. These ones are mostly from the more prominent Miao minority, but there are also hats from the Dong minority and others.
Most Chinese people claim they are part of the Han minority, but I think people should be proud to be unique and different, and proud to represent their individual cultural heritage. I think these hats are absolutely stunning and will personally be collecting them, and they are just one example of how truly incredible China’s ethnic minorities are.