Trekking in Nepal

Sherpa Clothing

The traditional form of dress for the Sherpa reflects their heritage of their Tibetan ancestors from centuries past and their resourcefulness in their unique setting. Their most common native resource for clothing material is the bounteous wool produced from yaks. These strong animals are crucial to the industry and economy of the Sherpa people, and the fact that they produce such long fur each season is extremely fortuitous. The fur is harvested each year, and spun into a resilient yarn. There are also plants around the villages that, when boiled with the yarn, create rich colors, but the color black is most common. To obtain other materials such as cotton the Sherpas venture to the low lands, such as the Terai and to Tibet to trade.

The standard traditional clothing for men is the “chuba,” a long robe made of yak wool that is worn down to the knees, as well as a pair of “kanam” (wool pants) underneath. The women would wear a similar robe called a “yengi.” These clothes have been replaced with many more western styles and synthetic materials. Interestingly, the cowboy hat and boots are favorites. The Sherpa people are also renowned for the sturdy and colorful wool rugs that they weave in the Tibetan tradition. They are very popular as souvenirs, but by custom the rugs are given as gifts to newlyweds.

Shoes called “kaza” were traditionally fashioned from yak hide. A section the size of a plate is cut out of the hide and sewn to fit the feet. The inside is padded and insulated with dried grass to make it softer. Then from above the ankle to below the knees it is made of cotton and laced at to top. Grass is the only insulation a Sherpa needs, so they don’t wear socks underneath. It's warm enough for them, considering that they’re fine going barefoot other times.

A very special item of clothing and mark of honor is the “kata,” which is a silken length of cloth (like a scarf) draped over a person’s shoulders. To express great esteem and appreciation the Sherpa people grant these with great honor. Just like with the Hawaiian ie’, a guest with many admirers may be flooded with katas.

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