Have you ever heard that expression - "If you want to get ahead and get noticed, then get a hat?". Well maybe not so much these days, but if you think about it, it makes complete sense. It is the first thing you would notice on someone if they were approaching.
Obviously hats came about for practical reasons - keeping you warm and protecting your head. The Vikings may not have been so successful if they hadn't protected their heads... the helmet to the left is the accurate Viking helmet not to be mistaken for the horned helmet that came from writers hundreds of years later. Hats throughout the ages have been status symbols. You would have known a person’s status by the type of hat they wore. If they were rich or poor and what they did for a living - whether they were in the navy, the police, the army… think of Napoleon and his hat. He was a man that was considered to be very short but who had a very large impressive hat.
(NOT TRUE by the way, that he was short. He was said to be 5’2 in French inches. Which were shorter than English inches. So if you did the conversion, he was actually 5’7 which in those days was well above average. So the term Napoleon complex which characterizes overly aggressive behavior in people of short stature - is completely fictional. It’s just Napoleon's Imperial guardsmen were chosen for their tall height, and so Napoleon was viewed as being short! Ironically, it was Nelson, Napoleon's famous adversary, who was the short one at 5’4)
Napoleon’s signature was a ‘bicorne’ hat, which in 2014 sold for $2.4 million. While the bicorne was common among military men, Napoleon donned his in a distinctive style, wearing it sideways to make himself stand out and be easily identified. There are not that many historical people who can be identified by a single item. Churchill was famous for his cigars, and Napoleon was famous for his hats.
Hats were soon not only a uniform but also a fashion statement formed through etiquette and formality. In the 1900s, the Edwardian era, it was once a disgraceful act to venture out of the house without a hat or even gloves. It did not matter if you were poor or rich, old or a child, whatever the status, a person wore a hat, it was only beggars who went without. Feathers were dyed and used to form flamboyant hats. Rich individuals paid lots of money for their hats - the more extravagant the better. Beautiful birds were being wiped out all due to the need to have the most amazing design for a hat. Fortunately though in age that was more progressive, the use of rare bird feathers was soon banned, with only farmed feathers allowed to be used from specific birds.
During the Great War of 1914-18, fashion again was influenced by uniform. Hats were worn to show what job you were doing, and by the 20s, hats were everywhere socially as well as in the work force. However, by the time of the Second World War (1939-45), hats became less practical as it was just another thing you had to remember when rushing to the air raid shelter. So practicality won out with homemade knitted hats and berets. Fast hats were formed as women tied headscarves into quick turban. From the 60s onwards, hats lost their popularity (unless you went to a private school where you had to wear ‘boaters’), however they were always worn for grand occasions - like christenings, weddings and funerals.
Today we see more and more hat wearing across the globe in everyday wear. In the U.S, baseball hats are extremely popular, along with cowboy hats and/or sun hats. In Australia and South Africa, the bush hat helps to shield you from the flies. In colder climates, 'beanies' keep you warm … and of course the hat is still a very important and necessary accessory for those special occasions like attending a wedding in England, or the horse racing at Ascot…
Here’s a list of some of the types of hats we wear/did wear around the world…
Akubra/Bush hat: An Australian brand of bush hat, whose wide-brimmed styles are a distinctive part of Australian culture, especially in rural areas
Bonnie Hat: A soft, wide-brimmed cotton hat commonly used by military forces. Also known as a bush hat and similar to a bucket hat.
Ascot cap: A hard style of hat, usually worn by men, dating back to the 1900s. Sometimes associated with farmers.
Ascot Hat: From the early 1900s when the horse races had become a confirmed fashion fixture with much focus on headwear. Hats were obligatory dress at all formal occassions. As the fashion for hat wearing faded, the tradition at Ascot continued.
Balaclava: Headgear, usually made from fabric such as cotton and/or polyester, that covers the whole head, exposing only the face or part of it. Sometimes only the eyes or eyes and mouth are visible. Also known as a ski mask.
Bearskin: The tall, furry hat of the Brigade of Guards' full-dress uniform, originally designed to protect them against sword-cuts, etc. Commonly seen at Buckingham Palace in London, England. Sometimes mistakenly identified as a busby.
Boater: A flat-brimmed and flat-topped straw hat formerly worn by seamen. Schools, especially public schools in the UK, might include a boater as part of their (summer) uniform. Now mostly worn at summer regattas or formal garden parties, often with a ribbon in club, college or school colors.
Bonnet: Headgear for both sexes coming from the middle ages to the present. Popular term in Scotland but now only referred to for little bonnets for babies.
Bowler Hat/Derby: A hard felt hat with a rounded crown created in 1850 by Lock's of St James's, the hatters to Thomas Coke, 2nd Earl of Leicester, for his servants. More commonly known as a Derby in the United States.
Baseball cap: A type of soft, light cotton cap with a rounded crown and a stiff, frontward-projecting bill.
Beanie: A brimless cap, with or without a small visor, once popular among school boys. Sometimes includes a propeller.
Barretina: A floppy fabric pull-on hat, usually worn with its top flopped down. In red, it is now used as a symbol of Catalan identity. Now more communal known as a ‘Beanie’ in the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand.
Beret: A soft round cap, usually of woollen felt, with a bulging flat crown and tight-fitting brimless headband. Worn by both men and women and traditionally associated with France, Basque people, and the military. Often part of [European?] schoolgirls' uniform during the 1920s, '30s and '40s.
Bucket Hat: A soft cotton hat with a wide, downwards-sloping brim.
Chef’s Hat/Toque: tall, pleated, brimless, cylindrical hat traditionally worn by chefs.
cricket cap: A type of soft cap traditionally worn by cricket players.
Cloche Hat: A bell-shaped ladies' hat that was popular during the Roaring Twenties.
Custodian Helmet: A helmet traditionally worn by British police constables while on foot patrol.
Fedora: A soft felt hat with a medium brim and lengthwise crease in the crown.
Flat cap: A soft, round wool or tweed men's cap with a small bill in front.
Fez: Red felt hat in the shape of a truncated cone, common to Arab-speaking countries.
Gatsby: A soft brimmed hat popular in New York after the turn of the century made from eight quarter panels. Also known as a newsboy cap.
Half Hat: Millinery design that covers only half the head – particularly popular in the 1950s.
Hard Hat; A rounded rigid helmet with a small brim predominantly used in workplace environments, such as construction sites, to protect the head from injury by falling objects, debris and bad weather.
Kepi: A French military hat with a flat, circular top and visor.
Yarmulka: A close-fitting skullcap worn by religious Jews
Mortarboard: Flat, square hat. Usually has a button centered on top. A tassel is attached to the button and draped over one side. Worn as part of academic dress. Traditionally, when worn during graduation ceremonies, the new graduates switch the tassel from one side to the other at the conclusion of the ceremony.
Panama: Straw hat made in Ecuador.
Party Hat: A conical hat, similar to the Dunce cap, often worn at birthday parties and New Year's Eve celebrations. It is frequently emblazoned with bright patterns or messages.
Peaked: A military style cap with a flat sloping crown, band and peak (also called a visor). It is used by many militaries of the world as well as law enforcement, as well as some people in service professions who wear uniforms.
Picture Hat: Also known as a Gainsborough hat and garden hat, this is an elaborate women's design with a wide brim.
Pillbox hat: A small hat with straight, upright sides, a flat crown, and no brim.
Planter’s Hat: A lightweight straw hat, with a wide brim, a round crown and narrow round dent on the outside of the top of the crown. Worn by Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind, and Paul Bettany in Master and Commander.
Sailor Hat: A flat-crowned, brimmed straw hat inspired by nineteenth century sailors' headgear.
Santa Hat: A floppy pointed red hat trimmed in white fur traditionally associated with Christmas.
Sombrero: A Mexican hat with a conical crown and a very wide, saucer-shaped brim, highly embroidered made of plush felt.
Songkok: A cap widely worn in Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, the southern Philippines and southern Thailand, mostly among Muslim males. May be related to the taqiyah.
Stetson/Cowboy Hat : A high-crowned, wide-brimmed hat, with a sweatband on the inside, and a decorative hat band on the outside. Customized by creasing the crown and rolling the brim
Sun Hat: A hat which shades the face and shoulders from the sun.
Taqiyah: A round fabric cap worn by Muslim men.
Tom o shanter: A Scottish wool hat originally worn by men.
Top Hat: A tall, flat-crowned, cylindrical hat worn by men in the 19th and early 20th centuries, now worn only with morning dress or evening dress. Cartoon characters Uncle Sam and Mr. Monopoly are often depicted wearing such hats. Once made from felted beaver fur.
Trilby: A soft felt men's hat with a deeply indented crown and a narrow brim often upturned at the back.
Trucker Hat: Similar to a baseball cap, usually with a foam brim and front section and a breathable mesh back section
Turban: A headdress consisting of a scarf-like single piece of cloth wound around either the head itself or an inner hat.
Tyrolean: A felt hat with a corded band and feather ornament, originating from the Alps.
Ushanka: A Russian fur hat with fold-down ear-flaps.