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The Topi Cap: A Nepali Pastime

The Topi Cap: A Nepali Pastime

February 22, 2018

If you’ve ever been to Nepal, you’ve likely seen the traditional hats that almost every elderly man wears. Made from colorful textiles, each seemingly different from the next, the Dhaka Topi is a staple of Nepalese culture. It seems some men hardly ever take off their token topi (by the way, topi literally translates to cap). 

The tradition of wearing a topi is integral to Nepali culture. So much so, that until the late 90’s, men were required by law to wear a topi anytime they entered a government building. The lowest castes were forbidden from wearing topis in the old days. Although this is no longer the case, the cap is still synonymous with a higher social status and often worn on formal occasions.

When the Dhaka textile was developed in Palpa in the 1950’s, this became the go-to textile for any topi bought outside the kingdom of Bhaktapur, where residents continued wearing plain black topis to distinguish themselves from the rest of the population.

Every Dhaka pattern was different and many organizations and government entities had their own signature patterns specially woven.

The term Dhaka was synonymous with the topi cap and men would usually keep a few in-rotation, each with its own story, carrying its own sentimental value. 

Unfortunately, as it goes with many traditions, the weaving of Dhaka has declined over the past 15 years due to knock-off machine woven varieties and a decline in the tradition of wearing topi caps. 

After connecting with the Maharjans- the family responsible for developing the Dhaka textile in Nepal and the first Dhaka workshop in Palpa- we discussed ways of using the classic textile. In addition to a signature accent panel in our bags and small accessories, we decided it would be appropriate to launch our first line of caps (topis), which would feature these Nepalese textiles.

This collection is a collaboration between our hat factory in the USA and our partner dhaka weavers in Nepal.

Each cap is made from natural and traditional textiles, features a vegetable-tanned leather strap and is handmade in the USA. Check out the full collection here.