The History of Hats

Dorothy Parker once quipped, “It’s a small apartment, I’ve barely enough room to lay my hat and a few friends.” Trends often change, but home is where the hat is. Ever fashionable, hats and their wearers have evolved over time. From frivolous to dignified, fanciful to practical, hats are an indispensable element of any wardrobe. Here are a few of history’s more popular hats:

Top Hats
Ever classy, the tall and flat top hat is a distinguished hat that lends a formal air to anyone who wears it. The top hat gained popularity in the early to mid-1800’s among businessmen and working-class men alike. Nowadays top hats are usually worn only on very formal occasions, or by fringe fashionistas – male and female alike – such as those who embrace the “Steampunk” aesthetic.

The fedora eclipsed the top hat in popularity from the mid-1850s onward, due to its easy wearability and debonair lines. What was at first a women’s fashion was quickly embraced by city-dwelling men everywhere, and the fedora was hugely popular up until the 1960s. There has been a surge in the number of young urbanites sporting fedoras in recent years. The sky’s the limit as to what you can add to this fanciful hat, and it’s fun to embellish your own fedora with feathers, buttons, bits of lace and miscellaneous bling.

Bowler Hat
The Bowler Hat is also known as the Derby Hat, or the Coke Hat after the man who first commissioned it in 1849, Edward Coke. A hard, round hat made of stiff felt, the Bowler was one of the most popular hats in the Old West. It’s still the hat of choice for equestrian sports.

Cowboy Hat
The cowboy hat used to simply be the perfect no-nonsense hat for the outdoorsman, such as the rodeo rider or rancher, who wanted to “git ‘er done.” The first Stetson cowboy hat was manufactured in 1865, and it’s been popular ever since. With a high crown and often a breathable woven straw exterior, the cowboy hat is a roomy, breezy and comfortable option that frames the face and provides lots of shade at the same time. These days even young “disco cowboys” and “disco cowgirls” can be found sporting cowboy hats at hot nightclubs around the country, usually coupled with some kind of reflective sunglasses and tight, tight pants.

The beret used to be the purview of continental Europeans, particularly the French and the Northern Spanish, but nowadays it’s a truly international fashion. You can even see reggae-lovers and Rastafarians sporting red, yellow, black and green crocheted berets atop their natty dreadlocks.

Pillbox Hat
Jackie Kennedy popularized this modern classic in the 1960s. With its clean lines that attest to its origins as a military hat, the pillbox – with or without a dainty veil – is the hat of choice for sophisticated women everywhere.

Not just for Halloween anymore, Novelty Hats hats abound year-round. Every type of hat has been exaggerated, striped, colored, feathered, spotted, made glow-in-the-dark and more. The most popular novelty hats include oversize sombreros, 5-gallon cowboy hats, and shiny or glittered top hats. Novelty hats are the perfect accessory to top off a party outfit. And no matter
which hat you choose, don’t forget the sage advice of Frank Sinatra: “Cock your hat. Angles are attitudes.”

Author: Maegen

My name is Maegen and I work in the Customer Service department for Frankel's Costumes. Most of my knowledge for costumes comes from anything ranging from movies, video games and cartoons to period studies and literature. Oh, and I am a nerd.

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