History of Sombrero Hats

Old Sombrero Hat

Sombrero as a word has a twofold meaning depending on where it is used. In English speaking countries, sombrero is called a hat with a pointed crown, very wide brim with a upturned edge that is wide enough to cast a shadow over head , neck and shoulders of the person who wears it, and a strap with which hat is held in place. That kind of sombrero is characteristic for Mexico and Philippines. In Spanish speaking countries, ”sombrero” is a word for any hat with a brim. We will talk here about the first kind. That kind of sombrero is one of Mexican national and cultural symbols. Word “sombrero” comes from Spanish “sombra” which means “shade” or “shadow” which explains main purpose of a Mexican sombrero hat - protection from sun and other natural elements. In Spanish speaking countries outside of Mexico, that kind of sombrero is called “sombrero mexicano” or a “sombrero mejicano” while in Mexico that sombrero is called “sombrero charro”. Sombreros can reflect social and economic status of a wearer. Cheaper sombreros made for peasants are made of straw while more expensive ones are made out of felt. Both can be made in many different colors, designs, decorations and patterns.

Old Mexican Sombrero Hat

In climates that are mainly hot and sunny, occurs a need for a hat with wide brim that would protect the wearer. Sombrero is that kind of a hat. First such hats appeared in Mongolia and were worn by horse riders in 13th century. There are different ideas about how sombreros originated in Mexico and who made it. Some think that they are invented by mestizo workers, Latino people of European and Native American descent that were working in Southern United States and in Mexico. Other think that sombrero was invented by horse riders who came from Jalisco capital, Guadalajara, and who made it part of their uniform. And there are those who think that early cowboys from Texas took the Spanish sombrero as a practical solution for the problem of strong sun. Mexican sombrero is a hat worn by mariachi, folk musicians who wear outfits with embroidery, beading and gold threads and have wide sombreros that are decorated in similar way; and charros, traditional horseman from Mexico. It is also a part of a “sombrero dance” - jarabe tapatio. Folk song that accompanies the dance tells about a love story between poor charro peasant and a girl he loves and his attempts woo her. In an attempt to win her sympathies he tosses his sombrero on the ground, the most valuable possession that he has, as a gift and a sigh of his seriousness. When she accepts his advances she starts a dance on the brim of the sombrero.

Philippines also have history of using sombreros which came there through Mexican influence by Manila Galleon Trade that was occurring between Manila (now Philippines) and Acapulco, New Spain (now Mexico) from 1565 to 1815.

Zenu Indian tribes of Colombia have their own version of sombrero that is made of softer materials and can be folded and put away without fear that it will lose its shape when it is used again.