Andean men wear a distinctive traditional garb. Little worn during the day outside of festivals and rural, a knitted or crocheted, colorful cap with ear flaps, their head gear remains important. Called “chullo” in Spanish, “ch’ullu” in Quechua and “lluch’u” in Aymara, it is traditionally woven from the wool of alpacas and other camelids, although today it is often made from synthetic fibers because of their durability and bright colors.
Chullos are originally from the Andean high plateau–the altiplano–including neighborhoods close to Cuzco. There, people use it to protect themselves from the cold and inclement weather of the high grasslands. It cloaks the amazing highland heads that with much creativity have changed the world over generations.
In each region of Cuzco, and especially in the high altitudes, there is a different design of traditional chullo and one that differs according to ones social position. The chullos vary in the variety of colors, as well as in their use–from daily to ceremonial–at the same time they identify who occupies a public position, who is un-married, and where he is from.
The chullo is also a fundamental part of the costumes for the traditional dances of Cuzco. Those chullos used for dance are characterized by the kind of crocheting, including the particular stitch, as well as the images from life and the colors that come from each place’s traditions.
The traditional chullo is crocheted by hand and is something people still learn to do in rural Cuzco.
In the cities, like Cuzco, commercially made chullos are widely available, not just for tourists, but for locals as well. The local character is lost when these are used, other than a general sense of Peruvianness. But they are still used to keep heads warm and functioning at night in the face of the sharp cold of mountain winters.
The chullo, a piece of many colors and feelings that
when the head is raised fills with joy
all the kids who run playing in the frigid streets.
Another piece of the heart of dancers who with pleasure wear it
to show traditional pride.
It stands in splendor before all the world
Chullo, decorated with sequins and beads, chrocheted with care and people’s need
to stop the intimidating Andean cold’s thirst
and emerge in the world’s main avenues exclaiming “I am a chullo Cusqueño”.
The chullo is s symbol of our land. But it has gone into the world and finds ever new places. It is surprising to see how many men around the world now wear our chullos and in how many fashion shows they appear. Our chullo has become a global style.