Eye-Popping Headgear and Where it's Worn

  • Northern Thailand

    The Akha people live in the hills of Northern Thailand, as well as in China and Myanmar, and have some of the most colorful traditional dress of any indigenous tribe. Akha tribe members often don traditional headdresses during special ceremonies – headdresses covered in silver coins, studs and beads.

    Photo courtesy of iStock/Thinkstock

  • San Francisco, California

    If you want to see the most outrageous headgear of them all, snag tickets to a performance of Beach Blanket Babylon in San Francisco's Club Fugazi. The nation's longest running musical revue is famous for the gigantic hats worn by performers – you might even see someone carrying Manhattan on their head.

    Photo courtesy of Ted Drake

  • Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, NM

    Albuquerque, New Mexico

    Many American Indian tribes wear ceremonial headdresses, the most recognizable being the feathered warbonnets worn by several tribes of the Great Plains. These intricate garments – typically worn by chiefs and warriors --  are highly symbolic, signifying honor or acts of bravery. You can see a hole range of such headgear at the annual Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque.

    Photo courtesy of Derek Mathews

  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

    You'd be hard-pressed to find a piece of headgear larger than those worn by samba dancers during Rio de Janeiro's Carnival celebrations. During this festive time of year, bigger is better (at least when it comes to headdresses), and you're sure to see loads of garishly colored feathers and plenty of glitter.

    Photo courtesy of iStock/Thinkstock

  • Kerala, India

    In Kerala, India's southernmost state, visitors can watch a kathakali performance. During this traditional South Indian dance-drama, performers – almost exclusively men and boys – act out scenes from Hindu mythology while wearing intricate headpieces and elaborate face paint. One of the most recognizable styles is Pachcha, where the performer wears green face makeup and a circular head piece.

    Photo courtesy of Appaiah

  • Venice, Italy

    Where Rio throws an over-the-top dance party for Carnival, Venice feels more like a sophisticated masquerade ball, especially with everyone wearing distinctive Venetian masks and elaborate hats to match. If you want to see them for yourself, you'll have to visit Venice at the end of February and beginning of March.

    Photo courtesy of Stefan Insam

  • London, England

    One of London's most iconic sights is the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, and those same guards happen to wear some very eye-popping hats. These caps, called bearskin hats, are tall, black and fuzzy – originally meant to make soldiers look taller – and are today only worn by foot guards.

    Photo courtesy of iStock/Thinkstock

  • Bali, Indonesia

    If there's one thing Bali's as famous for as its beaches, its the traditional dances performed on the island. During many of them, dancers wear topeng, colorful traditional masks and headdresses used to depict the gods or heroes out of legend. Some of the island's best dance performances can be seen in and around Ubud.

    Photo courtesy of Fabio Pistillo

  • Maasai in Tanzania

    Different members of the Maasai tribes of Africa wear different headgear. Men often don lion mane or ostrich plume headdresses, while women wear intricately woven beaded caps to complement their colorful and elaborate beaded collars. Different colors of beads carry different meanings for the Maasai.

    Photo courtesy of William Warby

  • Cuzco, Peru

    The colonial city of Cuzco, Peru (also spelled Cusco) is famous for its brightly colored garments – a blend of indigenous and Spanish styles. In the Andes Mountains, you can typically identify where a woman comes from based on her hat, and you'll see many different styles in Cuzco.

    Photo courtesy of Tinou Bao

  • Mongolia

    Visiting Mongolia sometimes feels like stepping back in time to a place where the way of life hasn't really changed much for centuries. In the Mongolian countryside, you'll still see people in traditional dress, and even in the capital, it's possible to do so during the annual Naadam festival. Watch out for different types of headwear, including these colorful caps worn by Mongolian men.

    Photo courtesy of iStock/Thinkstock

  • Louisville, Kentucky

    Some people come to Louisville to see the races. Others come for the hats. During the annual Kentucky Derby, women (and sometimes men too) show up for the Greatest Two Minutes in Sports wearing headgear fit for a royal wedding. Wide brims, feathers, flowers and gauze combine to form something equal parts Southern tradition and outrageous spectacle.

    Photo courtesy of Kat Kellner