Futou (幞头) and Kanmuri (冠) – Black Gauze Caps from Ancient China and Japan

Bibliotheca March 2023 – Hats & Headwear: Bring Me a Hat, the More Obscure the Better

Look at these goofy hats! And also the attractive men wearing them! Picture from NewHanfu.com.

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! This month’s theme for the Bay Area Kei Bibliotheca blog circle is “hats and headwear.” I haven’t watched the X-Files in a SUPER long time, but do you remember that episode where it shows the same scene from both Mulder and Scully’s perspectives, and it shows what each of them are hearing the other say? There’s a bit in Scully’s perspective when Mulder says to her something like “Find me a graveyard, the spookier the better.” This is me, but with obscure clothing from antiquity. 😀

Jenna from Lovelylaceandlies tracked down the episode! It’s Bad Blood, from Season 5! What a hero. ❤

I have been absolutely obsessed with Chinese xianxia dramas lately; I finished The Untamed (aka Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation) in January and then tore through A League of Nobleman (yes, singular; no, I don’t know why; aka Society of Four Leaves) last month, and I’m planning on starting Word of Honor (Faraway Wanderers) this week. If Eternal Faith (Heaven Official’s Blessing) and Winner is King (Stars of Chaos) are ever released from the depths of censorship/production hell, I’ll be dropping the rest of my obligations to watch those, too. (Bad news for my dogs as well as my faithful readers here, but Huā Chéng and Xiè Lián take precedence and I hope you can understand.) 😀 Technically A League of Nobleman might not be xianxia, as it doesn’t feature Taoist immortals, but it does have a lot of magic and alchemy mixed in with what is otherwise a delightful ancient Chinese Sherlock Holmes homage. And also dudes who be wearing some funny hats.

Lan Jue in red, on the right, played by Jing Boran wearing a funny hat

So naturally I had to investigate (just like Zhang Ping!) because I’ve actually seen these types of hats before…

More attractive men in flowy robes and weird hats. I may have a type!
The sequel is actually really good too. It’s got a great role-reversal from the first movie!

…in the 2003 Japanese movie masterpiece Onmyoji! (And its excellent sequel.) So, wait, what? These hats were worn in Japan too? All righty then, let’s dive in.

Hanfu Gallery shows how to wear a futou with no jinzi – originally found through My Hanfu Favorites

Futou (simplified Chinese: 幞头; traditional Chinese: 襆頭/幞頭), also known as Wu Sha Mao (乌纱帽, black gauze cap) were worn starting around the Eastern Jin Dynasty (approximately 317-420 CE). From approximately 614 CE (possibly in the reign of the Emperor Wu), stiffening/shaping layers called jīnzi (巾子) were added to the inside of the futou. According to ancient texts, Emperor Wu created the futou to protect the hair of his generals and soldiers in battles, and it became the default for court officials. By the Song Dynasty (~960-1279 CE) the futou with jīnzi was worn by most males from commoners to Emperors and continued to be popular until the Ming Dynasty (which ended in 1644; approximately when the Edo period began in Japan). (Although there was a resurgence in modern China in an elementary school that used them to help kids understand social distancing!)

Futou with jinzi…
…vs kanmuri!

It was in the Nara and Heian eras in Japan (~710-794, 794-1195) that the Japanese versions (kanmuri [冠] and eboshi [烏帽子]) took off. It took a hundred years or so for the Japanese to check out the futou craze in China and decide they wanted in on that. 😀 Kanmuri were more closely related to futou, and had a stiffener (usually lacquered paper over a wooden form) to give them their distinctive shape. They were flatter than the Chinese version because the Japanese male hairstyle was a topknot folded flat onto the crown of the head whereas the Chinese style pulled all the hair up into a bun on top that was secured with a guan. Kanmuri are still a feature of extremely formal court styles in Japan.

Kanmuri on Minamoto no Hiromasa on the left, eboshi on Abe no Seimei on the right!

Eboshi on the other hand was a tall cap still seen on Shinto priests today (and what Abe no Seimei is wearing in Onmyoji in the picture above), but still made with black silk gauze and meant to be worn over hair that was piled and secured underneath.

How are these sweet hats made? Joshua over at Sengoku Daimyo says of kanmuri, “modern kanmuri generally made-to-order, primarily by four families in Japan. They vary slightly in the slope of the top, the size of the koji and the placement of the ei-tsubo. It is traditionally made by creating a skeleton, or harinuki, of paper on a wooden form. The outside of the hari-nuki is lacquered so as to keep its shape, and then the body of ra silk is layered on top. The entire thing is lacquered stiff.” They could also have hairbands of leather or more stiffened cloth to help the hat keep its shape better or to fit more comfortably.

Ok but seriously go check out this guy’s photoshoot. It’s MIND-BLOWING.

With regards to futou and jinzi, the futou was traditionally a muslin fabric, usually of flax or raimie, but silk was possible for higher ranked wearers. The jinzi could be made of flax, ramie, or silk as well, painted with carbon black, and stiffened with animal glue and paper. They could also have wire or silk threads added to the draping ribbons (aka “feet”) for further poseability. Yes I read an entire academic paper analyzing the components of jinzi found in tombs. You should be used to this by now. 😀

Look I’m just gonna put the first episode here for you ok? I’ll talk to you in 29 episodes. 🙂

I am exceptionally terrible at trivia games/pub quizzes, as they mostly feature pop culture questions that I am utterly unqualified to even guess at. However, even a stopped clock shows the correct time twice a day, and even I have had a moment of glory at a pub quiz. The final round at the event in question was a series of questions themed around the premise: “Is it a hat, or a creature from the Jabberwocky?” My friends, I am not too humble to say that thanks to my friend Mike and me our team absolutely aced that round and enjoyed an unprecedented and glorious victory thanks to our combined knowledge of Lewis Carroll and unusual hats. I hope that this post has laid the groundwork for a comeback trivia night victory of your own! Even if not, please subscribe below to get a notification each week about my latest post, and I look forward to seeing you next week here on Mukashi no Sewing! ❤

Check out what other members of Bibliotheca had to say about this month’s topic!
Jenna from Lovelylaceandlies helps your headwear stay put!
Kelp ranks iconic lolita headwear…sort of!
Josine Maaike shows off some beautiful obscure old lolita headwear!
Crimson Reflections shares trends in headwear…from the 1990s
Cupcakes and Unicorns looks amazing in any hat she wears
Frillsquid has some delightful hot takes
Wear Your Bows wears lots of cute bows!

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