History of Men’s Hats

Hats have traditionally been worn for a variety of purposes, including protection, status, and vanity. A hat is more than just a piece of clothing; it’s a sophisticated fashion accessory that can express one’s personality, social etiquette, and way of life. With the exception of baseball caps and modern hoods, the twenty-first century is a hat-free era. This may be a fleeting fashion, but it has the same social significance as prior age trends in which men wore formal hats all the time.

Hats vs. Wigs

Hatless eras have existed in history before. Hats were supplanted by wigs in the eighteenth century, and coiffeurs surpassed the hatter, but hats for men were mandated again in the nineteenth century, with many key types being remembered with longing. Hats were gradually phased out as a result of post-World War I democratic beliefs, modern infrastructure, and, most crucially, the automobile. Even more so, World War II altered social beliefs, culminating in youth’s inalienable right to look substantially different from earlier generations. However, the fashion pendulum never stops swinging, and there may come a day in the future when heads must once again be covered. The only way to understand why the vogue for wearing or not wearing a hat changes throughout time is to look back at historical and social developments.

Fillets made of metal

The ancient Romans did not wear hats, but they did wear metal fillets over their brows to symbolize their status. Military helmets, which were worn over a leather cap and fastened in place by a chinstrap, were the exception. Before the Roman colonization, northern European tribes used leather hats. The oldest existing man’s hat in history, an eight-section leather cap claimed to be over 2,000 years old, is conserved at the National Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark.


The church commanded that the body be covered with a hooded cloak called bardocucullus when Christianity arrived in Europe. Faces were obscured by various hoods and beards, which were fashionable in England until the Norman conquests of the Saxons in 1066. The French invasion imposed a style of clean-shaven faces and short hair, which was frequently concealed by a coif, a tight-fitting linen cap tied under the chin. The Phrygian cap, a soft, close-fitting, pointed hat inspired by Phoenician design and carried into Europe by Mediterranean traders, was one variation.

Hats Change Over Time

gorgets (a hood and neckpiece) and coif-de-maille evolved from early medieval pointed hoods and capes (a metal chain-mail hood). Doctors and other professionals wear beautifully ornamented spherical skullcaps. The original brimmed hats were made of straw or felt and were worn by field laborers to protect their eyes from the sun and rain. Long hair was frequently kept in place by wearing a soft linen coif tied under the chin underneath a cap. The chapeau a bec, a brimmed hat with a beak form pointing to the front, became fashionable for young men in the late thirteenth century and was always worn over a coif. With its cap, brim, and chinstrap, the chapeau de fer, a departure from the closed metal helmet, later provided shade and protection.

In the fourteenth century, headwear got more unconventional, with modest and humble hoods gaining ever-longer and longer drooping tips. Liripipes were soft, long tubes are worn over a gorget that typically complemented the trendy four- or five-piece costumes of the time. With a long ribbon attached, the tube could be up to two feet long and wrapped around the head in an unlimited variety of ways. The chaperon was the combination of the coif, gorget, and liripipes. Fashionable jongleurs, itinerant musicians, and medieval trend-setters would sometimes add a rondelet, around, stuffed band. Rolling the gorget up over the brow or twisting the liripipe around the head, forming a turban style, provided more variants. A felt bycock hat, a style worn by both men and women, might be added to this difficult arrangement, allowing for even more permutations by splitting or cutting the brims, or by wearing the hat backward. Soft tammy berets draped over brims or worn over coifs seemed to provide an infinite amount of variety. Materials ranged from tough leather and felt to furs and beautiful silk velvets in a rainbow of hues, all of which complimented or contrasted the opulent medieval attire.

Personality and warmth

Warmth was provided by hoods and gorgets far into the fourteenth century, with hat shapes giving personal personality. A houppelande, a rigid collar cupping the head and tucked beneath the liripipe or rondelet at the back of the head, was occasionally worn in place of the soft gorget. Close-fitting lined linen hats without chinstraps supplanted the coif, which was consigned to being worn as a nightcap called Cuffie, cappeline, Banducci, or bending. This was a useful solution for keeping the inside of a hat clean from sweat and grease when worn under pricey velour or plush hats. Because hoods and liripipes could not be removed during greetings, they were raised by two fingers while bowing, a gesture known as “river Enza di coffee.” The Vatican had an impact on social decorum and, by extension, men’s clothes. With its long and flat band, falling down over the right shoulder, draped over the chest, or tucked into the belt, the Becca replaced the liripipe and became a social trait. A guy had to raise his cap with his right hand while holding the streamers of the Becca with his left hand to greet a lady. The Becca’s practical benefit was in securing the hat when it was thrown over a man’s shoulder, a practice that is still practiced on ceremonial robes of the Order of the Garter.

Hat Styles That Are “New”

In the sixteenth century, King Henry VIII produced a transformation in men’s design from a slim, tall medieval profile to a short, stocky style. The style was best complemented by flat, wide berets. They were called “bonetes” because they were worn straight or at an angle with six- or eight-sided stiff brims underneath. Brimmed hats evolved into a variety of extravagant forms, which were dubbed “beavers” after the fur used in felting. Real fur was frequently used to trim these felt hats, which was also utilized for rondelets and under brims.

Swan feather plumes and decorative brooches, gold plaques, and crests added to the look of wealth. The coif was replaced by the caul, a wide-netted snood that could be worn within the house or under the cap. Young men preferred hoods with long points that reached all the way to the ground and could be wrapped around the head. Cushion hats, inflated berets with voluminous rondelets, and high, flat birettas, generally in vivid crimson red, were worn by prosperous merchants, while older men favored high, flat birettas.

Men’s hats evolved into capotains, brims with high crowns, elaborately embellished with gold and silver braids, Vandyke lace, and exotic plumes from the newly discovered Americas during the Elizabethan era. All men over the age of six in England were required by law to wear a hat. This court order was issued in order to promote the hat industry.

Extravagance in the seventeenth century

Hats were increasingly more ornate in the seventeenth century. The new romantic male idol, “the cavalier,” wore wide cocked-up brims with diamond studded ostrich feathers hanging over the edges, a picture immortalized in innumerable artworks. The cavalier’s beaver cap, placed on long, flowing love hair, was the epitome of elegance, a peacock style that required time and luxury to achieve, which may have been one of the reasons why wigs became popular. Wearing a periwig under one’s hat, made of human or horsehair, was a simpler, less time-consuming option that allowed for even more colour and style changes. The tricorn was the ideal new fashionable hat, which, like wigs, was popular until the end of the eighteenth century. Wearing the hat pointing to the front or to the side, and adding different decorations like feather fringes and cockades, gave it a unique look; this is very significant in any military headwear.

Wigs Make a Comeback

Hair and wigs dominated fashion in the eighteenth century, therefore hats were held in the hand and raised in greetings rather than worn. Coiffeurs devised a wide range of wigs, powdered toupees, and center-parted curls with queues and pigtails in the rear. The tricorn hat was still worn, but it was flattened or “pinched” in the front, foreshadowing the two-cornered “bycocked” hat. Beaver fur (castor in French) was still utilised as a raw material for felting, but it was sometimes blended with rabbit fur for cost savings, resulting in “demi-castors.” At the turn of the century, both tricorns and ornate wigs were out of style. The French Revolution, when men abandoned aristocratic ideals in favour of egalitarianism, had an impact on European dress. “De rigueur” were round, small-brimmed, light-colored felt hats with simple bands and buckles worn over natural-colored hair.

Hats are gaining popularity in the West.

Surprisingly, the beginning of the nineteenth century heralded a new era in the Western world for men’s hats, which peaked around the turn of the twentieth century, when no gentleman would ever leave his house without a hat. Sobriety and egalitarianism governed men’s dress, and hats played a key role in quietly marking personal and professional differences, as well as social class distinctions. Top hats, bowlers, derbies, boaters, fedoras, panamas, and fabric caps were all popular in the nineteenth century and lasted far into the twentieth.

Hats with feathers

The first in line was the black silk topper. It evolved from the high felt stovepipe hat and became the post-revolutionary aristocracy’s hat as well as a symbol of conservative capitalism. It had a lot less formal beginning. The topper, also known as “chapeau haut de forme,” was a French design that caused shock and dismay in London in the 1790s, as it was with many other hats throughout history. This new towering black hat “frightened people, made children scream, and dogs growl,” according to the Mayfair Gazette. The London haberdasher who ventured to wear it, John Heatherington, was arrested and accused with “inciting the disturbance of the peace.” Despite this tumultuous start, the high black hat was increasingly favoured by distinguished gentlemen in the West.

The high topper’s design and construction were also novel. The hat was made of stiffened calico that was wrapped with silk plush fabric and rubbed around until it was smooth and lustrous, rather than beaver felt. The famous expression “crazy as a hatter” comes from the usage of mercury to increase the hat’s blackness, which was later discovered to cause mental illness. The “kite-high dandy,” with a height of 7 inches, was the tallest of the crowns, with a height of 7 inches (21cm). The diameter of the flat top changed with time, as did the chimney crown’s “waisted” design. A foldable variant of the hat, called as “chapeau claque” or “chapeau claque,” was invented toward the end of the nineteenth century. A foldable variant of the hat was invented near the end of the nineteenth century and was dubbed “chapeau claque” or “chapeau Gibus” after its French inventor. This clever design could be folded flat, like a concertina, and sprang back into shape with a flick of the fist, making storage a breeze.


The bowler hat, also known as the derby in the United States, was created in 1849 in the midst of Britain’s industrial revolution. It immediately became a traditional wardrobe item and a distinctive sign of Englishness, much like the top hat. It was named after hatters John and William Bowler from Stockport, an industrial city in northern England, and went on to become the world’s first mass-produced hat. The original design was commissioned by a young English aristocrat who needed a new hunting cap. Since 1676, Lock and Company, hatters of St. James’s in London, had been tasked with creating a brown, round-crowned felt hat that was both functional and durable, as well as dashing and modern.

The hat had to be tough and protective because it would be worn while riding. Felt hats were typically made by small companies in South London, which experimented with different means of stiffening felt. By combining a dark treacle-like extract from a parasitic bug common in Southeast Asia with methylated spirit, a material known as shellac was produced. Before being blocked and dried on wooden hat blocks, the felt hoods were physically rolled and battered in the hot and boiling mixture. The method was tedious and filthy, but it was essential for mass manufacture, which allowed the hat to be affordable to the middle class.

The industrial revolution brought significant societal changes and a transition from agriculture to industries to Britain and Western Europe. Factories required not just employees, but also managers, bookkeepers, and accountants, all of whom wore black bowler or “iron hats” while travelling on the newly invented trains. The hat was the ideal fashion and style accessory for social climbers in Victorian Britain, with its sturdy, solid appearance: a stylish, discrete cap that transformed every man into a gentleman. The hat was introduced to the United States by the Earl of Derby, hence its name.

The bowler hat has been in style for almost a century, and its distinctive silhouette has made it the most recognisable hat picture in history. In art, comedy, and literature, the bowler hat was immortalised, and it is being used in advertising today. In his satirical silent films of the early 1920s, Charlie Chaplin made the hat famous, and Laurel and Hardy followed suit a few years later. In his classic drama Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett gave the tramps bowler hats (“He can’t think without his hat,” says one of the characters.) Bowler hats appear in Bertolt Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, and Stanley Kubrick’s anarchist in A Clockwork Orange also wears one. The bowler hats worn by René Magritte’s surrealistic subjects have made his paintings renowned. In a famous bronze statue with a bowler hat named The Man in the Open Air by Ellie Nadelman at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the hat’s image has been immortalised as well. It symbolises the connection between the Old and New Worlds, as well as the movement between tradition and modernity.

Twentieth-Century Capsules

A black bowler hat became connected with financial matters in the early twentieth century, and it was the headwear of German businesspeople under the Weimar Republic (1918-1933), but the Nazi administration dubbed it “Judenstahlhelm,” prohibited it, and used it in anti-Semitic propaganda. Until the 1970s, the bowler was the unmistakable dress of bankers in the City of London, and it is still worn by a few city lawyers today.

The homburg was a German hat that looked like a bowler but had a taller, softly dented crown and was called after the city where it was invented. It is stated that King Edward VII of Britain saw his German cousin Kaiser William wearing a hat and was inspired to initiate the trend in England. This hat was also popular among British leaders such as Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden. The fedora in the United States and the trilby in the United Kingdom are felt hats with dented crowns and brims that are flipped up at the back and down at the front to shade the eyes. Men’s design has evolved from black frock coats to suits and raincoats, and soft felt hats gave it a more relaxed appeal.

After the killing of President McKinley, who had always worn a black top hat, FDR’s fedora helped to transform the image of his presidency. The soft felt trilby was initially a bohemian hat worn by artists and modern thinkers who wished to express themselves against the previous century’s traditional orthodox norms. In the United States throughout the 1930s and 1940s, the hat took on a gangster image that was used by many filmmakers and actors. Newspapermen, crime reporters, and Mafia bosses all wore it, with their dark attitudes hidden beneath the elegant brim.


Around the turn of the twentieth century, the panama hat was the modern man’s summer hat. The hat was made from the finest jipijapas straw, which was flexible enough to be wrapped into a thin tube for storage and transit. Panama hats were handcrafted in Ecuador and delivered over the Panama Canal, which is where the hat got its name. Growing and preparing the straw took time, as did weaving a hat, which may take up to four weeks for a trained artisan. A Montecristi fino-fino panama hat is the finest and most expensive panama hat available. This hat has become a collector’s item in Ecuador, as there aren’t many expert hat weavers left. In many other nations today, cheaper variants and paper panamas are quite popular and commercially mass-produced.


Another fashionable straw hat in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was the boater. Plaited straw was spiral-sewn, stiffened, and hard-blocked into its distinctive shape of a flat crown and rigid flat brim. The boater’s design is inspired by the shape of a sailor’s cap and is appropriate for the debonair, laid-back appearance popular at the turn of the twentieth century.


The Stetson is a really American hat, one that is stylish, protective, and obviously manly; a prairie hat and a cowboy’s most prized item, it conjures silver-screen daring and passion in the Wild West. It all started in Philadelphia in the 1880s, when John Batterson Stetson opened his first hat factory, which would go on to become one of the great American businesses of the twentieth century. John Stetson originally sought fame and money by journeying 750 miles west, felting and creating hats by the campfire for his fellow travellers, having acquired the principles of hat manufacture from his father. He didn’t find riches, but his determination and expertise helped him construct the world’s largest hat empire. A modern Stetson is still made using classic felting and blocking techniques, requiring thirteen separate phases of manufacture, making it the most expensive item of a rancher’s attire. The damaged cowboy hat has given way to a variety of fashionable versions for Texan businesspeople, capped by the iconic “Boss of the Plains,” as worn by J.R. from the popular 1980s television series Dallas.

Caps made of cloth

Cloth caps are traditional flat hats with visors cut and sewed from woollen cloth. The cap’s image was simple and functional, as befitting a workingman’s life. “Cap in hand,” as well as the Russian poet Alexander Blok’s poem, “Caps slanted, fag drooping, everyone appears like a jailbird on the run,” demonstrate the social standing of the cap. The cap, like other caps, has altered its image and is now worn by wealthy gentlemen when hunting grouse or playing golf rather than by manufacturing workers in the early 2000s. Livery hats, military caps, and other forms of sports caps, such as the baseball cap, which has become the worldwide hat of youth culture, were also created by capmakers or cappers.

Finally, the beret has grown from a French Pyrenean shepherd’s hat to the most widely worn military hat in the world, having existed long before the twentieth century. The beret is now a global soldier’s hat as well as the favoured headgear of revolutionary guerrilla groups, with a variety of colours and insignia. Les chasseurs alpines, a French mountain unit, donned dark red berets and offered one to British Field Marshal Montgomery after World War I. During World War II, he donned this beret, known as the “tarte alpine,” while commanding British forces.

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