Category Archives: Straw

The French-Vietnamese Leaf Hat

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As previously noted the conical hat – known as the “nón lá” or leaf hat – was in fact widely used in the Vietnam and neighboring regions throughout the 19th century by farmers and soldiers (including bandits) alike.

What is unique about the Vietnamese nón lá is that it has its own origin, based on a legend to the growing of rice in the region. This tells of a giant woman from the sky who protected humanity from a deluge of rain, and she wore a hat made of four round shaped leaves to protect her from the rain – and that inspired farmers to stitch together their own style of helmet. This has evolved over the centuries and various styles have become common in the different parts of Vietnam. Continue reading

Imperial Chinese Army Wicker Hat/Helmet

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We’ve previously covered the origins and evolution of the conical hats of Asia – noting that these were used in China, Japan, Vietnam and even the Philippines. In past articles we’ve also explored how these were used by colonial military forces, including the Hong Kong Police under British rule.

One other important use of these wicker/straw hats/helmets was during the Qing Dynasty in the 19th century and even early 20th century when these were used in its Imperial Army. These were the de facto headdress for the Imperial Chinese Army Infantry until it took on a more western influenced appearance. Continue reading

The Evolution of the Japanese Imperial Army Sun Helmet: Part IV -1939-41

This is a special study of Japanese tropical helmets by Nick Komiya, and is presented in four parts.

1939 March, Design Patent Granted for the Type 98 Sun Helmet Liner System

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On 10th March 1939, the Patent Office Granted Utility Model Number 264722 to a Shotaro Fujioka of Tokyo for his invention of the flexible liner size adjustment system he developed for the Army’s Type 98 Sun Helmet. Fujioka was an employee of the Army’s Main Clothing Depot. The Army had applied for this on 2nd April 1937, just before sending the prototypes out for testing in Taiwan. Similar to a patent, but simpler to obtain, it is the same as the German Gebrauchsmuster system (when items are marked DRGM). Continue reading

The Evolution of the Japanese Imperial Army Sun Helmet: Part III -1930-39

This is a special study of Japanese tropical helmets by Nick Komiya, and is presented in four parts.

1930 May, Launch of the Second Model Sun Helmet Showa 5 Type (昭五式)

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7 years after the introduction of the IJA’s first sun helmet, a revamp of design was signed off by Emperor Hirohito on 14th May 1930. A whole new range of items got launched at the same time like new canteens, back packs, bread bags and the army jacket now got a vertical seam in the back to rationalize production efficiency.

The external appearance of the sun helmet did not change hugely, but instead of having a third vent grommet on each side, a top vent with cover was revived. Continue reading

The Evolution of the Japanese Imperial Army Sun Helmet: Part II – 1921-30

This is a special study of Japanese tropical helmets by Nick Komiya, and is presented in four parts.

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1921 Sun helmet Prototype testing

300 Sun Helmet Prototypes were produced for the test, of which 100 had “felt shells”, 150 had “woven Panama hat shells” and 50 had “Gourd Sponge shells (also tested in helmet covers later in 1934)”. These were benchmarked against the standard army visor cap and also against the captured German Sun Helmet. Continue reading

The Evolution of the Japanese Imperial Army Sun Helmet: Part I – 1887-1921

This is a special study of Japanese tropical helmets by Nick Komiya, and is presented in four parts.

1887-1911 Colonial Predecessors of the Army Sun Helmet

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Initially a trademark of the British and French colonial look, the wearing of pith helmets spread worldwide from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries. However, despite of this worldwide fad, Japan was slow in coming to see any need for such gear. That was because being a late comer to the game of Imperialism, Japan did not hold any tropical colonies.

But even so, the well-travelled Japanese Navy must have felt obliged to match the colonial style dress code when making port calls at tropical colonies of the European empires. Thus the Imperial Japanese Navy introduced a sun helmet already in 1887, nearly 40 years ahead of the army. Continue reading

The Conical Hat of Asia

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As we previously have noted in our study of the Conical Asian Hat of the Hong Kong Police, this unique version of the sun helmet – known as the “rice hat,” “paddy hat,” or even pejoratively as the “coolie hat”  – was one that had been primarily used by civilians. However, in many cases the line between “civilian” and “military” is blurred, especially in times of insurrections and uprisings. In these cases the conical hat, used as much by so-called peasants in the fields, became a headgear of war.

It was also, as the above photo suggests, a form of true military headgear – with the French and British relying on the conical straw hat for use by indigenous troops in South East Asia and China. The above photo shows French Marine Infantry volunteers in French Indo-China circa 1935. Continue reading