Whoever goes to Colombia should buy a vueltiao hat made from arrowcane. It is the symbol of the Coast and the working hands of artisans.

Lukas Zeitz



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The Sombrero Vueltiao

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  • Where?: Córdoba y Sucre.
  • Region: Caribbean.
  • Material: Arrowcane.
Vueltiao hat /Photograph: Mario Carvajal/

Vueltiao hat /Photograph: Mario Carvajal/

The sombrero vueltiao is well-known internationally as a symbol of Colombia, a handicraft par excellence, and a true work of art. The term could be translated roughly as “turned hat”.

This icon of Colombian culture, which comes from the hot savannas of Córdoba y Sucre near the Atlantic Coast, was originally a rustic peasant clothing item. It is now one of Colombia’s national symbols.

The Origin of the sombrero vueltiao

The hat has its origins in the Zenú Indian culture and is made from the fibers of a palm tree called caña flecha that grows at the edges of the rivers and swamps of the Atlantic coast. This natural fiber is transformed into black and white fibers that are braided by a traditional Zenú technique that dates back more than one thousand years. The different braids represent elements of their theory of the origin and evolution of the universe. Indeed, the sombrero vueltiao is not just a hat, but a true book where you can find representations of animals, plants, and activities like hunting and fishing. Sometimes, haciendas and religious scenes are represented.

The vueltiao hat is a true testament to different plants and animals. It is also a narrative of different life activities, like hunting, fishing, the hacienda and religion



The sombrero vueltiao was designed as a handicraft more than three hundred years ago. At the beginning it was only white, as the artisans had not discovered a painting technique. Nowadays, fibers dyed black have been integrated, giving the hat a touch of elegance.

Categories of vueltiao hats

The finest hats have 19, 21, 23, and even 27 circles of braided strip. These numbers lend themselves to confusion: many people believe the numbers refer to the number strips of the hat. Actually, the numbers refer to the number of pairs of fiber that are braided. Generally speaking, the higher the number, the finer the hat.

Vueltiao hat /Photograph: Mario Carvajal/

Vueltiao hat /Photograph: Mario Carvajal/

Nevertheless, the finest and costliest sombrero vueltiao is Number 21. Although Number 23 and Number 27 hats are produced and could be considered finer due to their greater number of pairs of fiber, their braids in are made in part from thread. Number 21 contains no thread and can be folded small enough to be carried in a pocket or a small bag. It quickly recovers its shape and size when taken out, a true indicator of its quality.

The vueltiao hat has evolved into what it is today over the course of more than 300 years of steady work by Colombian artisans

Surely vueltiao 29 and other models are soon to come. We do not know the limits of the imagination of the Colombian artists who manufacture this symbolic item. Only time will tell. But we do know that Colombian hats will remain unequalled.

If you like sombreros vueltiaos, you may be interested in:


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