Headwear: Guan, Jin, Accessories

Men's headwear. Drawings by Goddy Hu.

Men's headwear, many now usually related with Daoist garb. Drawings by Goddy Hu.

The term Guan (冠) traditionally is an umbrella term to encompass all forms of headgear which covers the hair of the wearer (whether partially or entirely), and is also commonly called Shoufu (首服, clothing of the head). Since the head is also a part of the body, the Chinese reasoned that it should deserve the same respect as (if not more than) the body itself by covering it with a piece of clothing.
The earliest Chinese headgear known from historical texts indicate that they were made in leather, in imitation to the shape of animals and birds in their surroundings, and adorned them likewise with feather panaches with ritual rigour. The Guan makes use of a hairpin which goes across a topknot of hair to stabilize itself, and is coupled with a sash tied underneath the chin. By the middle ages (7th Century onwards), the material for construction of Guan slowly shifted towards woven fabric materials, such as black gauze. However, formal ritual headgear for the upper classes retained some degree of leather usage, as seen from artefacts where the piece was made in snakeskin. 
The Jin (巾) is a piece of headgear made from cloth, and is traditionally a turban wrapped around the top of the head or the topknot. By the Middle Ages, there is increasing evidence of Jin becoming more formal-looking as they become more shaped like Guan, using frame constructions and adopting a rigid geometry on top of the head like its Guan counterpart. The primary difference is that Jin do not use a hairpin to stabilize itself, instead relying on the head itself, or a set of drawstrings (sashes) to wrap or tie itself around the head or topknot.
Some adolescent and adult male hairstyles.

Some adolescent and adult male hairstyles.

Traditionally, men prior to adulthood (determined by Guan Li– or coming of age ceremony) wear their hair in two knots: To the front and back. Women prior to adulthood (determined by Ji Li) wear their hair similarly, but to the left and right.

After coming of age, both male and females wear their hair up, tying them in either a simple single knot for men, or hairstyles with the hair ends still falling naturally to the back for women prior to marriage. Married women’s hairstyles have the ends of their hair tucked within the hairstyle itself. Women of all ages adorn their hair with hairpins (single-pronged 簪 Zhan, or double-pronged 釵 Chai, but these terms are used somewhat interchangeably in later ages), or with bandanas around their hair or forehead, and are also called Jin (巾).
A Han-style wedding in Yunnan, 2008.

A Han-style wedding in Yunnan, 2008. All men are wearing some form of Jin matching the style and formality of their clothes. All women are wearing hairstyles befitting of their statuses.

In the context of cut and styled hair of the 21st century, Hanfu restorationists have argued whether or not the idea of Shoufu should be brought back as well. Proponents for the idea argued that without the Guan, the notion of Han Chinese clothing, especially as “a superior nation of clothing and headgear (衣冠上國 Yiguan Shangguo), would be incomplete. Those against the idea argue that with most men having short hair today, wearing the Guan would simply be inviable.

In practice, full head-sized Jin became the defacto headwear for modern men in Hanfu, as they could wear the caps with relative convenience and ease without a topknot, while heightening their facial profiles much like a Guan. Almost all Guan produced today include the chin sash to stabilize itself, and some have even went as far as to replacing the sash with an elastic to reinforce the effect. Wearing Hanfu without Shoufu is deemed improper traditionally, and is considered aesthetically awkward or informal today, but generally accepted. Some younger men and women with longer hair prefer to have the ends of their hair fall loose behind them, partially due to influences of the martial art heroes (武俠 wuxia) aesthetic in novels and TV media, preferring the image of the free spirit to that of a conservative, restraintive scholar; this is still considered improper, but is accepted in casual situations.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Nathan
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 14:19:48

    Looking for information on mens asian top knots including how to’s l and top knot accessors.


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