So there you are, on any given Taco Tuesday, margarita in hand, and you wonder how the sombrero you're wearing is unique from the cowboy hats several of the bar patrons have on. What differentiates the two styles? More specifically, why is the sombrebro more unique to Mexican culture? The story behind the sombrero may help you to understand the true design behind this cultural signpost.
They say the devil is in the details, and in this case, the benefit is in the brim. Cowboys who originated the cowboy hat may have used sombrero to describe any wide-brimmed hat, but the true design behind the sombrero was meant to incorporate an even wider brim. Which is, after all, where the sombrero gets its name. "Sombrero," derived from the Spanish "sombra" is translated literally as "shader," since the extra-wide, curved brim found on these hats is known to shade the face of its wearer. This became particularly helpful for workers in Mexico who needed to shade themselves from the hot sun when working outside. The added curve keeps the brim in place.
Made from woven straw, which is often embellished through patterns, the sombrero features a chin strap that helps the wearer keep their hat in place. This chin strap is often where wealthier sombrero wearers took liberties: gold or silver was woven into the strap braid or silver conches sewn on. Some believe that fancier sombreros originated in Guadalajara, Mexico.
However which way you've encountered sombreros outside of Mexico in pop culture, whether its through the Mexican hat dance or a Mariachi player, now you know the true purpose and origin of these hats. And besides, chances are, you know at least one famous sombrero wearer: Speedy Gonzales, anyone?