Industry  -  Switzerland

In the same way as in other European countries, the straw industry in Switzerland was originally based on the manufacturing of hats. By the late 1500s, straw hats were being made. Two hundred years later, the manufacturing of straw hats, plaits and accessories (decorations) became a large and very important export industry for the Swiss economy. It is important to realise that the main part of this industry was based in the making of straw products, which were made into hats; the making of actual, finished hats formed only a small part of the whole industry. In the middle of the1800s, the Swiss straw industry employed about 50,000–60,000 people. By that time, there was an increasing exchange and inter-activity between the different countries, Belgium, France, Italy, England and Switzerland that were producing straw hat materials and straw hats. This is the reason why you find similar plaits in all these countries, even though the methods of making may be vary slightly.


Despite its size, this industry was only found within certain Swiss regions. They were:

Aargau - Freiamt - Fricktal

Freiburg – particularly Gruyere and Sensebezirk


Obwalden – in the area of Sarnen

Tessin – Onsernonetal

Zurich – Rafzerfeld

Hubert Boschung, october 1999