Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1903 Akha bu seh
Subjectbu seh village headman
Culture: Akha
Setting: Golden Triangle, late 19th-20thc

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Lewis 1984 p227
"Although the Akha look to the village priest as their primary leader, they also have a headman (bu seh) to meet the requirements of the Thai government.  His main duties are to represent the village to government authorities, and to settle disputes of a political nature.  In some instances the village priest [pi ma] serves also as the political headman.
    "Sometimes the duties of the village priest and the headman complement each other.  For example, on New Year's Day the village priest is usually asked to throw the dominoes for the first round of gambling, but he leaves soon afterwards because liquor will flow and violent disputes may arise.  If trouble develops later, the political headman must arbitrate, for the village priest must not be present when there is potential violence."


* From the hands of the hills 1978 p60
"Akha men are far more subdued in their everyday dress [than Akha women].  They wear baggy trousers and long-sleeved jackets of plain indigo homespun cotton cloth.  The jackets of both men and women have a small open vent below the armpit for ventilation.  On festival days, they wear jackets decorated with silver coins, embroidery, applique, feathers and pompoms.  It is the custom among the Akha for a girl to ask a boy for a piece of his clothing or jewellery after lovemaking, not only as a love token, but as proof of paternity in case she becomes pregnant.  An Akha child must never be born without an acknowledged father.
    "On important occasions, the men wear headdresses consisting of a long tubular piece of cloth, padded and twisted around the head with the end hanging over the shoulder like a queue.  During courting, some men like to decorate these headdresses with flowers and tassels."

* Lewis 1984 p206
 "The Akha man's jacket varies in style and ornamentation, using the same needlework techniques as the woman's.  The Chinese-style pants are free of embellishment.  On occasion some men wear black turbans, which are wound neatly and firmly so that they can be put on like a hat.  Some older men wear red or pink silk turbans for special occasions.  Boys wear similar clothing, except for a close-fitting cap."

* From the hands of the hills 1978 p163
"The headdress of Akha men is much less brilliant than that of the women, for when they bother to cover their heads at all they sport nothing more exciting than a narrow black padded turban, worn like a tonsure.  The trailing end piece is sometimes decorated with feathers and at courting time other decorations may appear: silver ornaments, tassels and fresh flowers.  For many Akha men, the hair is more important than the headdress, for they shave their heads and leave one long top-knot.  Without this, they believe they will go insane.  According to one observer, cutting off this hair is 'equivalent to the death penalty for an Akha man ... for the psychological effect can be enough to drive him out of his mind.'"


* From the hands of the hills 1978 p192 caption
"Silver pipes of Shan origin.  Akha bachelors carry these and tobacco boxes when courting."




* Lewis 1984 p206
"All Akha carry shoulder bags, decorated according to their particular style."

* From the hands of the hills 1978 p60
"Both men and women carry shoulder bags adorned with embroidery, buttons, appliqued bands and circles of chicken feathers.  The woman's bag has more beads and is smaller than the man's."