Tag Archives: French Indochina

The French-Vietnamese Leaf Hat


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

The Conical Hat of Asia


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