Season of the Chullo” said, “If there’s a political statement in the chullo, it’s a little hard to decipher. Perhaps it signals indigenousness, international-ness. But what it mostly says is, I don’t care how I look as long as I’m warm.” The chullo may not be the most flattering hat in the world but it does keep me warm.
It keeps me warm but once I move inside, I’m too hot and I’m dying to take it off. This leads to another problem: the after-effects of wearing the chullo. I don’t know the what the literal Quechua translation of chullo is, but I’ll venture to say it means “that which promotes hat hair.” Keep that trendy chullo on for just fifteen minutes and your hair will smashed on one side and pointing straight up on the other and you’ll have no choice but to wear it for the remainder of the day.
I love watching a proud indigenous man wearing his chullo while strolling through Cusco. I want a piece of his certainty, his simplicity, his heritage. I also want others to note my savoir-faire and my been there done that-ness. Since I’ve worked with Andean weavers I know the difference between an authentic chullo and one made for tourists. This knowledge brings a simple equation: the more authentic the chullo, the scratchier it is, as higher end chullos use alpaca wool and the lower end uses sheep wool or synthetic materials.
Basically, it needs to be very cold out for the chullo to make sense. It’s a great hat for cold climes but it doesn’t translate well to warmer weather. Klinkenborg comments in the same New York Times article, “Perhaps the anti-stylishness of the chullo — its simple functionality — is its politics. The fact is that really cold weather eclipses style.”