What are party hats called?

party hat is generally a playful conical hat made with a rolled-up piece of thin cardboard, usually with designs printed on the outside and a long string of elastic acting like a chinstrap, going from one side of the cone’s bottom to another to secure the cone to the person’s head.

Non-conical hats worn to signify an occasion’s informal and festive status include decorated top hats, hats made from balloons, the beer hat, or “beer helmet” (invented in 1983 by Buffalo Bills fan Jeremy Gumbo), and Micky’s Mouse ears. In more extreme cases, partygoers may wear other objects such as lampshades or beer boxes, although the wearing of such objects often meets with social disapproval.


party hat is a pointed and colorfully decorated cardboard hat, worn over someone’s head and usually at birthday parties. It’s also slang for a condom.

In the early 1900s, party hats could refer to fancy headwear for a festivity. By 1969, the musical comedy Dames At Sea listed party hats alongside horns and gift boxes as items one might bring to a party. This appears to be a tradition of children decorating conical hats at birthday parties, though it may be connected to school children being made to wear dunce caps when in trouble.

Party hats, as slang for “condom,” dates back to the 1980s. The idea is that the prophylactic is worn, like a hat, during intercourse, the party. Other, less common slang party hats include erect nipples and police sirens.


Party hats are generally reserved for celebrating birthdays, particularly if the birthday person is a child.

Sometimes, the birthday celebrant wears a crown while other guests wear the cones. Party hats may also come out on New Year’s Eve celebrations—or when someone is otherwise being whimsical or cute.

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