27 Mar

World Cultures: Azorean Hoods

By Thomas Jang

Commonly worn until the 1930’s, the Azorean hood was worn by women of the Azores Islands, an autonomous region of Portugal located 1,600 km (1,000 miles) in the Mid-Atlantic. Called “capote e capelo” in Portuguese, the Azorean hood is a garment tradition that was passed down between generations of mothers and daughters. Its surroundings, including the presence of a whaling industry and subtropical climate, contributed to its varying designs. 

Theories as to the origins of the hood suggest cultural syncretism. Flemish settlers brought their dyeing techniques, using woad, or Isatis tinctoria, a yellow-flowered plant part of the Cabbage family, to dye garments in a rich blue hue. In addition, the Flemish settlers engaged in whale hunting, a practice that used whale bones to shape and support the hood. Other theories of the Azorean hood’s origins suggest Portuguese settlers combined designs worn in medieval Portugal, such as sleeveless cloaks and loose hoods. 













The hoods also came in different designs. Some enveloped the wearer’s upper body, extending around their arms and torso. Others were wedge-shaped and rested on the wearers’ shoulders. 

Religion may have also played another important role in its design. To this day, Catholicism is practiced by 91.6% of Portuguese in the Azores. Portuguese and Flemish settlers to the Azores Islands starting in the 14th and 15th centuries were also joined by settlers from the UK, France, and the Republic of Genoa (1099-1797). 

From its founding in 1432, the archipelago saw high rates of immigration. However, gradual population density and a shortage of economic opportunities compelled people to immigrate to North America between the late 1800’s and mid-1900’s. Today, only 240,000 people reside there. The archipelago’s far distance away from mainland Portugal allowed it to gain autonomous status in 1976 while retaining its majority Roman Catholic influence.