Person laughing while wearing a rice hat

What You Need to Know About Rice Hats: History, Styles, and Purpose

Person laughing while wearing a rice hat

Image source: Pixabay

Rice hats, also known as conical straw hats or rice farmer hats, have been used throughout Asian countries for over 3,000 years. They can be traced back to Vietnam. East and Southeast Asia regions that have an abundance of rice fields, such as China, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, and The Philippines, have worn rice hats for centuries. 

Other than shielding field workers from harsh weather conditions, there are cultural significance to these hats. This article will explore why rice hats are worn, the different variations among regions, and their origins.

Origins of the rice hat

Overhead view of a plush, green rice field

Image source: Pixabay

Rice hats are a cultural staple primarily found in East and Southeast Asian countries. It first appeared in Vietnam. As legend has it, over 3,000 years ago – during Vietnam’s monsoon season – a giant woman from the sky created a makeshift hat out of four, large palm leaves stitched together with bamboo sticks. She protected the villagers from the floods and taught them how to grow rice from the rain soaked fields. 

Now there’s a Vietnamese temple to honor the Rain-Shielding Goddess. To mimic the goddess’s handmade hat, locals created rice hats from natural ingredients like straw and palm leaf. Now these hats are abundant in several Asian countries. 

Uses of the rice hat

Woman wearing a rice hat in the sun

Image source: Pixabay

The primary use of a rice hat is sun, rain, and heat protection for boating people, construction workers, farmers, and laborers. The shape of the hat allows rain to slide off rather than hitting one’s face. The wide brim also minimizes the impact of harsh weather. 

Given their size, they can also be used as fans and baskets for transporting large items. When the weather is especially sweltering, the straw hats can be immersed in the water and be used for cooling hot heads. 

Rice farm hat styles

Multiple straw rice hats scattered on the ground

Image source: Pixabay

Rice hats are traditionally made from natural materials, such as straw, coconut leaves, bamboo stalks, Moe tree bark, or palm leaves. They’re durable and distinctively shaped with the pointed top. Some include a chin strap made from silk or another fabric. In some geographic areas, rice hats have special meanings and are used for more than protection from the weather. 


Person standing outside wearing a decorative conical hat

Image source: Pixabay

Vietnamese rice hats, also known as Non la (meaning “leaf hat”), may be assembled with a round flat top or round conical top, depending on the specific region. Aside from practical use, the hats may be used as home or restaurant decorations. In some villages, hats are constructed with different materials depending on if they’re used for work or leisure activities. 

Regions also play a factor in the use of local materials. For instance, North Vietnam may rely on white palm leaves, which are abundant along the mountainous areas. In the central region, you might find poem conical hats. They’re more artistic with bright colors and with photos or poems tucked in between the layers of leaves. 


Person standing in a rice field with a rice hat

Image source: Pixabay

Throughout Taiwan and mainland China, their version of the rice farmer hat may be called several different names. Like other Asian countries, Chinese rice hats share the same characteristics. Straw is still a common material for construction, but it can vary depending on what’s locally available. Chinese hats may have a wider brim, an inner headband, chinstrap, and decorative elements like tassels and colorful bands. 


Overhead view of a Filipino salakot

Image source: Flickr

In the Philippines, rice hats are called salakots. This style has a pointed dome with a knob or spike at the top. Other than the dome shape, there’s also a headband and chinstrap. They can be made from bamboo, pandan leaves, buri straw, or nipa leaves. 

Since they were used during colonial times, they’re often passed down through generations. In the early 1500s, aristocats often wore hats with gems and metals, while workers wore plain versions. 

South Korea

Side view of a bamboo rice hat

Image source: Shutterstock

Known as a satgat hat in South Korea, their rice hats also protect against the rain and sun. They’re cone-shaped, wide brimmed hats primarily made from reeds or bamboo strips. However, they’re bigger and resemble umbrellas. Historically, satgats were worn by men in the Joseon Dynasty. 


Row of hanging Japanese sugegasa hats

Image source: Flickr

Rice hats are called sugegasa, or conical sedge hats, in Japan. A sugegasa hat is typically made from straw and constructed in a woven pattern to allow for airflow during hot days. Hats in the Shikano region are made from sedge, a local grasslike plant. It’s not uncommon for different Japanese regions to create their own style. Other than to be used by merchants or farmers, some Japanese performers wear them during theatrical acts.


Two individuals working in a rice field wearing rice hats

Image source: Pixabay

Throughout Asia, there are several variations of the rice hat. While primarily used for practical reasons, regions have started to create more fashionable versions by using different fabrics and adornments. They’ve also gained popularity as souvenirs to tourists visiting the areas. 

A rice hat can be a symbol of labor and hard work. However, they’re also significant in Asian traditions and cultures as they can be worn during ceremonies, performances, and festivals. Head to to browse rice hat styles. 






One response to “What You Need to Know About Rice Hats: History, Styles, and Purpose”

  1. A WordPress Commenter Avatar

    Hi, this is a comment.
    To get started with moderating, editing, and deleting comments, please visit the Comments screen in the dashboard.
    Commenter avatars come from Gravatar.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *