Gokkal is a peaked hat worn by members of a nongak (farmers’ music) troupe. It is made of folded paper and adorned with paper flowers.
Gokkal, a type of hat worn by monks or members of a nongak troupe during performances, originated from jeolpung, an official hat (gwanmo) worn in the Goguryeo Kingdom. The word gokkal, which means “triangle, ” is the Korean equivalent of the word byeon (Kor. 변, Chin. 弁) in Chinese, meaning “cap.” A compound word comprised of got, meaning a “pointed angle, ” and gal meaning “headgear, ” gokkal hence refers to a “pointed official’s hat.” Originally, the traditional paper hat was decorated with real flowers, but later the flowers were made with other materials.
Following is a description of how a gokkal is made. A piece of hemp cloth is folded into an equilateral triangle and folded again to make a smaller triangle. Leaving the base, the two other sides of the triangle are glued together and the rear part is slightly turned up. The result is an official’s hat made of cloth. To make gokkal for a nongak performance, a thick piece of cardboard is folded into a triangle shape and big paper flowers of red, blue, and yellow are attached to it. The flowers are attached in three spots: the top of the hat and the middle of the left and right sides. Sometimes flowers are also added to the middle of the front and back for a total of five flowers. The flowers are cut out of sheets of white paper or colored paper. They are typically colored white, blue, red, and yellow, but in some cases purple or bold pink paper flowers are also used.
In view of the theory that the gokkal worn by nongak troupes originated in byeon, an official hat of the ancient Korean people, it appears that such peaked hats have long been an element of Korean clothing. This hat varies by region according to whether flowers are attached or not, the colors of the flowers, and where the flowers are attached. The colorfully decorated gokkal highlight the nongak musicians’ costume and serve to enhance the mood and visual spectacle of the performance.