The Dorothy Methvin McClatchey Collection

Headdress 1994.34.237.jpg


1994.34.236, 1994.34.237
20th Century

The Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia lies at the juncture of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos. Much of the population that inhabits this hilly area is organized into small tribal groups, including the Akha of Thailand. Akha women wear elaborate headdresses as part of their daily attire and on special occasions. Akha women's headdresses can be divided into three styles based primarily on shape: (1) U Lo-Akha are pointed; (2) Loimi-Akha have a flat, trapezoidal piece at the back; and (3) Phami-Akha are helmet-shaped. Although there are some slight variations in the types of items used for decoration, all headdresses are typically adorned with silver coins and colored beads. Silver is highly valued by the Akha and it is worn in abundance to visually display a family's wealth. Since currency is easily devalued in this region, Akha families convert their wealth into silver which can then be used as bride price and in a variety of other exchanges. Some styles also incorporate silver buttons, hollow silver balls, dyed feathers, pompons and gibbon fur (i.e., Hylobates sp., Nomascus sp., Symphalangus sp.). This Loimi-Akha style headdress is decorated with multi-colored glass beads, feathers, silver balls, buttons and coins. Akha girls and boys wear less elaborate caps than their mothers. An Akha girl's cap is represented in the bottom image.