History is full of interesting people, events, and ideas - part of what makes each period unique is its fashion. No matter where you are in the world, sartorial choices have woven firmly into the culture at any given time. Hats are a particularly interesting accessory - often carrying more aesthetic value than practicality - and the history of each is fascinating. What kinds of hats did people wear throughout history, and why?
From the ancient world to relatively recent times, there were strange fashion trends when it comes to headgear, but it's probably time to bring back a few of the most outstanding sartorial offerings. Historic headpieces vary in size, practicality, and appeal, of course - but here are some of the most noteworthy historical hats to have ever appeared atop historic heads.
Older trends tend to make a comeback in the fashion world eventually- some more gracefully than others. When it comes to historical headpieces, which hats should make a comeback?
Cloche hats, designed in 1908 in France by Caroline Reboux, became popular after World War I. The cloche, which means "bell" in French, comprised felt and had a personalized fit for a woman's head. Sometimes a cloche would need a hatpin to secure it, but often it was so tight a fastener was unnecessary. Thus, pins were useful for ornamentation.
Cloches dipped down over the forehead to the eyebrows, over the eyes, creating an elegant look, which contrasted the elaborate, large hats of earlier eras. The cloche fashion trend reached its height in the 1920s, but they continued to work well into the 1930s. They declined during the 1940s and 1950s, but became trendy again during the 1960s.
There remains a certain appeal to the cloche hat - its sophistication, as well as its ability to let wearers avoid eye contact and have an excuse for unkempt hair - a comeback wouldn't be a bad thing.
A flat cap may evoke images of a boy selling newspapers on the street corner in the 19th century, or it may conjure up associations with golfers. Either way, the flat cap has existed for a while and has taken different forms.
The flat cap - a small, round headpiece with a short extension in the front - got its start in England as early as the 15th century. The flat cap consisted of tweed or wool - and, to promote the wool industry, English Parliament made a law requiring all boys and men, except nobles, above the age of six to wear them. The legislation only stood until the late 16th century, but by then the flat cap had become part of working-class garb.
Englishmen and Irishmen en masse wore flat caps, and - when they crossed over to the United States as immigrants - they took them along. In the US, flat caps became known as "newsboy hats" or "cabbie hats," but weren't exclusive to lower-class men.
Once Hollywood included flat caps in movies like The Great Gatsby and Bonnie and Clyde, the hats went more mainstream. They've not wholly disappeared, and, as recently as the 1990s, became part of hip-hop fashion worldwide. The flat cap comes and goes, but always manages to stay somewhat trendy.
The Stetson cowboy hat is, in its basic structure, a wide-brimmed, high-crowned hat made to resist sun, wind, and rain. John B. Stetson, a hatter in New Jersey in the 1830s, made the first Stetson. Stetson had a diagnosis of tuberculosis, so he moved west for his health.
As he ventured into the frontier, he fashioned his hat out of beaver pelt, and it became multi-purpose. It held a pocket of cool air over the head; it could hold water for a man or his horse; and it shaded one's face from the elements.
According to legend, people didn't take his hat seriously at first, but by the 1860s, his health had improved - thus, he moved back east to start a small hat company. He founded the Stetson Hat Company in Philadelphia in 1865 and began selling his hats, promoting them as durable, protective, and life-long investments.
Stetons, AKA "ten-gallon hats," became the hat for cowboys, lawmen, cavalry troops, and showmen like William "Buffalo Bill" Cody in the Wild West. Through the end of the 19th century, different styles of the hat emerged - the Boss of the West (Steton's nickname, incidentally), the Columbia, and the Railroad were all variations of the original Stetson.
By the 1950s, many relegated Stetson hats to the West, but the headgear also had a close association with masculinity and toughness.
Stetsons are still popular on rodeo circuits, and country musicians continue to wear these hats in movies and on television. A widespread resurgence outside the Southwest United States, however, doesn't seem likely. Accordingly, wearing one isn't a bad idea if you have a hot head or a thirsty horse.
Panama hats, made in South American countries like Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela, have such a name because they were available in Panama during the 19th century. The hat itself is Ecuadorian, based on the jipijapa made in the eponymous town; people wore the hats before Spanish contact with the region in the 16th century.
Panama hats encompassed straw woven together in a lightweight, yet strong and breathable headpiece capable of deflecting sunlight. When noteworthy Americans like Teddy Roosevelt and Humphrey Bogart, as well as Brits like King Edward VII wore Panama hats during the early 20th century, the hats became increasingly well-known and appealing.
Photography and print media helped the trend along, offering images of fashionable males for all to aspire to become. They were popular among world travelers, elite athletes, and other high-class men.
Panama hats aren't as popular as they once were, but this doesn't mean they won't experience a resurgence. There are numerous cheaper imitation products on the market, but a real hat connoisseur knows only a true Panama hat evokes prestige and importance.