Sherpa Chapeau: Traditional Headwear of Nepal’s Everest Region

Sherpa Chapeau: Traditional Headwear of Nepal’s Everest Region

 If being invited to a wedding is an honor, than being invited to a traditional Sherpa wedding in Nepal is something akin to winning a Nobel Prize. We drank, laughed, and danced; but not before I took notice of some oddly unique caps floating atop the Sherpa clans noggins. Some are signs of social status, others of tradition, but all were just as interesting as the men who adorned them. This series highlights the headwear of Nepal’s Sherpa men. They come from the Everest Region, maybe you’ve heard of the place? Its home to all 8,848 meters (29,29 ft) of Mt. Everest. These were the original mountain people who worked as guides and porters to early Everest expeditions. Its cool, right? Well their traditional dress is even cooler. In fact, they have some of the finest chapeaus in all of Nepal, and dare I say, the world.

  This is travel photography at its purest – finding a once in a lifetime opportunity and wishing that it came with a lighting crew. It was, and it didn’t. What I did have, as always, was my 50mm lens. It was mid day, these weddings usually run from 7am-7pm, so to eliminate harsh shadows I searched the area for soft light and found some looming alongside a shack that was being used as the bar. If a picture is worth 1000 words than a picture of a man with gold tooth but no smile and a hat made out of Yeti fur (or so he claimed) has to be worth that plus a little more for style. And style was the name of the game at this wedding. Sherpa’s are proud of their heritage so when a family member is getting married its time to dust off the finest chuwa and break out a chapeau. But which to choose?


A The typical ‘uniform’ of a modern trekking guide in the Everest region sporting a Palpali Topi. Topi  translates simply to ‘cap’ and this style is worn throughout the country.



A Bhadgaule Topi like this was once a requirement for entrance into government offices and virtually every man in Nepal wore one. Over the last 50 years this style has been largely replaced by the more colorful ‘Palpali Topi’ pictured above.



Tradition from head to toe. The felt cowboy style hat is something which may have been adopted from early British mountaineers


It wasn’t a Nepali cap, but he was a Nepali, and he was wearing the cap. So here we have the newest traditional Nepali cap.



He kept telling me it was a ‘Yeti cap’. While that wasn’t true, this fur hat is actually a sign of wealth and a high social status.

In the featured photo is the man of the hour. His hat, the Makpi Shay, is ever present on the head of a Sherpa groom.


  1. kandi · March 25, 2015

    Just beautiful, Vinny! I love following your journey. Keep crushing it!

  2. Erica · March 25, 2015

    Great post Vinny you really polished this one up nicely. Beautiful shots and impressive writing.

  3. Cindy · March 27, 2015

    Great pictures Vinny. Where is your chapeau?

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