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Mexican sombreros.

Sombrero in English refers to a type of wide-brimmed hat originating in Mexico.

It usually has a somewhat high pointed crown, an extra-wide brim (broad enough to cast a shadow over the head, neck and shoulders of the wearer, and slightly upturned at the edge), and a chin string to hold it in place. Cowboys generalized the word to mean just about any wide broad-brimmed hat.[1]

In Mexico, peasant sombreros are usually made of straw, while wealthier people wear sombreros made of felt. They come in many designs with different colorings, woven patterns, and decorations. They are rarely seen in modern urban settings, except as part of folkloric outfits worn in certain festivities. The Mexican sombrero has become a national and cultural symbol, and is often used in traditional Mexican celebrations, especially by communities outside Mexico.


Origin of the word

Sombreros de charro.

In Spanish, the word sombrero means any hat with a brim, such as the traditional sombrero cordobés from Cordoba, Spain. It derives from the Spanish word sombra, meaning "shade" or "shadow"; thus a literal English translation would be "shade maker". Spanish speakers outside Mexico refer to what English speakers call a sombrero as a sombrero mexicano ("Mexican hat"). In Mexico, it is known as sombrero charro, since "sombrero" is the actual word for any hat with a brim.


Sombreros, like the cowboy hats invented later, were designed in response to the demands of the physical environment. The concept of a broad-brimmed hat worn by a rider on horseback can be seen as far back as the Mongolian horsemen of the 13th century.[2] In hot, sunny climates hats evolved to have wide brims.[3] The wide brim provided shade. The Spanish developed a flat-topped sombrero, which they brought to Mexico. It was modified by the vaquero into the round-crowned Mexican sombrero and poblano.[4]

Cultural influence

Apache Chief with sombrero

Many early Texan cowboys adopted the Spanish sombrero with its flat crown, and a wide flat brim. Also called the Poblano, these hats came from Spain.

The Mexican variation of the sombrero added an even wider brim and a high, conical crown. These are the hats worn by mariachi musicians and charros. They are too large, heavy, and unwieldy for ranch work. Both types of sombreros usually include a barboquejo or chin strap.[1]

In the American West, the sombrero had a high conical or cylindrical crown with a saucer-shaped brim, highly embroidered and made of plush felt.[5]

Sombreros are also present in Philippine history, due to the Mexican influence brought about by the Manila Galleon Trade. The term has been assimilated into the Tagalog language in the form of "sumbrero" and now refers to any hat - from actual Sombreros to baseball caps.[6]

The galaxy M104 is called the Sombrero Galaxy due to its appearance.

See also

Spanish cordobés style hats.


  1. ^ a b Slatta , Richard W. The cowboy encyclopedia (1996) pg 192 ISBN 0-393-31473-1
  2. ^ Bender, Texan Bix. (1994) Hats & the cowboys who wear them. pg 10 ISBN 1-58685-191-8
  3. ^ Young Inventors at Work! Learning Science by Doing love cookies all of u Science By Edwin J. C. Sobey (1999) pg 95 ISBN 0-673-57735-X
  4. ^ Bender, Texan Bix. (1994) Hats & the cowboys who wear them. pg 11 ISBN 1-58685-191-8
  5. ^ Carlson, Paul Howard, The Cowboy Way: An Exploration of History And Culture. Pg 102 (2006) ISBN 0-89672-583-9
  6. ^ "Hat is Sumbrero in Tagalog". Retrieved 2009-05-22.