What fantastic headgear! Its poignant monochromatism caps an expert ensemble of a “colors-not-occurring-in-nature” striped wrap draping over inches of heavy woolen sweaters. A pure white alpaca accessory starkly contrasts this woman’s sun stained skin and jet-black braids. There’s a symphony of texture unmatched by any other people on earth.

However, with all this great fashion there was one detail that intrigued me most. In fact, it may be the least spectacular of all the common female flare. Hardly is there a lonely braid in the Sacred Valley, as more typically they’re faithfully tied at their ends with a partner. Now, I know that this woman appears to be a non-participant, though I’m sure she has a good reason, so I’m not about to single her out as an outlier of the vast majority of the Andean demographic. One could conclude that the braided hair is truly a fashion statement, likely no diff erent than the century’s old homburg. However, I have my suspicions that tying together braid ends has its roots in function rather than fashion. It would be unfortunate to lop a length off in a broth or sew it as yarn in a stocking hat.

Often such trends become a sign of social status in other cultures. An Andean with tied braid ends might be a woman of responsibility and duty whom others depend on for every day necessities. Perhaps she is a revered figure in the cultural community.

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