Bowlers in Bolivia and Peru
March 7, 2008 9:30 PM   Subscribe

There are two different stories about how bowler hats came to Bolivia and Peru.

I'm looking for some original sources for the stories that bowler hats are "worn by Quechua and Aymara women in Peru and Bolivia since the 1920's when supposedly a shipment of bowler hats was sent from Europe to Bolivia via Peru for use by Europeans who were working on the construction of the railroad. The hats were found to be too small and were distributed to locals." -OR- It is a result of an over-order and an enterprising salesman who supposedly convinced them that the wearing of the hats would increase their fertility.
posted by tellurian to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (2 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
"In the aftermath of a 1781 pan-Andean rebellion against Spanish rule, colonial officials forbade the use of indigenous dress, hoping to suppress any identification with an autonomous Indian culture."


Lesley Gill, "Proper Women" and City Pleasures: Gender, Class, and Contested Meanings in La Paz," American Ethnologist, Vol. 20, No. 1. (Feb., 1993), pp. 72-88.

This topic is way more complex than most of the internet (ie. Wikipedia) would have us believe.

I have a PDF of this article, which is full of citations (many which are in Spanish) to resources which discuss this topic. I can email it to you if you want.
posted by pluckysparrow at 8:54 AM on March 8, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you for the PDF, pluckysparrow, it was an interesting read and yeah, 'way more complex' indeed. This caught my eye:
"Although detailed historical information on changes in dress throughout the 19th century is not available, we do know that during the early 20th century urban Ayrnara women wore the so-called Panama hats, which were actually produced in Ecuador. These hats were subsequently replaced by the contemporary derbies sometime after World War II. The most fashionable brand—Borsaline—was produced in Italy, and even after the firm closed its Italian factory, it opened one in La Paz exclusively for the Bolivian market (Caiiavesi de Sahonero 1987)."
I guess without a bill of lading this is going to remain a mystery.
posted by tellurian at 7:30 PM on March 12, 2008

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