The Caribbean's Niftiest Straw Hat

In the tropics, hats are a necessary accessory, keeping the sun off our faces, shielding our eyes, and protecting dyed strands (not that I’d know anything about that). But did you know that in one Caribbean country, a particular type of straw hat also functions as a wallet?

In Martinique, the traditional topper is called a Bakoua (back-oo-wah). Its made from the leaves of the Bakoua tree, which are dried and then plaited into a single straw braid. Once braided, the straw is woven and sewn into a wide-brimmed hat with a conical crown, the height of which is designed to encourage airflow and to keep the wearer’s head cool.

IMG_4645But the fishermen who commonly wear the hats found another use for the space above their heads, safely secreting the day’s cash receipts beneath the hat’s towering peak. Crafty, n’est-ce-pas?!

If you’re searching for a sombrero-like sun hat of your own you can buy a genuine bakoua in the fruit and vegetable market in the capital, Fort De France. As I toured the fragrant and colorful stalls last summer I was truly tempted – until I found out the price. At 35 euros, if I’d bought one I’d have had no cash left to put under it!

IMG_4597The good news: I’ve been saving my pennies and I’m heading back to Martinique next month. So keep an eye on my twitter feed. There’s a bakoua in my future!