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Korean Scholar's Hat (gat)

Artwork for the Head

In the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910) the hat indicated the social position of its bearer. Every man wore a hat with the exception of people outside the hierarchical class society. The gat was worn by upper class scholars (yangban), in the 19th century also by the middle class.

The wide brim of the gat indicates its social function. Showing one's hear was regarded as unrefined. The customary long hair of the Joseon period was tied together to a knot on top of the head. The hair knot was covered by a hair net and an inner hat. The gat served as an outer cover.

The gat is produced in three steps. As the process is very complex each step is handled by a different expert. The brim of the gat forms a basic frame of paper thin bamboo strips arranged like the spokes of a wheel. This basic construction is interwoven with hair-thin bamboo threads. The finished brim is tinted with ink to give the black gat (also called heukrip) its characteristical colour and is shaped with a hot iron.

The top of the cupped hat crown made from horse hair is covered with thin silk and flattened. In the last step the brim and crown of the gat are glued together. Two ribbons on the sides of the gat are tied together under the chin. The gat from our Museum is increased in value by the amber beads in the decorative ribbon and indicates its bearer as a senior official.

Today, a gat is worn only in combination with the traditional Korean costume (hanbok). There are still manufactories in South Korea where the gat is produced in the traditional way; it is part of Korea's intangible cultural heritage.