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?
Many often associate berets - raspberry or not - with the French... or French mimes, at least. A beret is at the foundation of several other hat styles, but it's essentially a simple soft piece of cloth worn around the crown of a man or woman's head.
During the Middle Ages, most made berets with felt because it was cheap, available, and weather-resistant. By the early modern period, berets, known as felt hats, were a staple of the peasant classes. The French coined the term "beret" during the 19th century, and the headwear continued to represent peasants and peasant uprisings.
During the early 20th century, black berets became fashionable for women in Europe and the United States, but by mid-century, the berets became common in military uniforms.
According to some historians, berets like the green ones worn by the aptly named Green Berets, were to boost morale and create solidarity, while simultaneously distinguishing each unit. Berets' combined rebellious and militant associations may explain why political groups like the Black Panthers have worn them. However, there were always fun aspects of a beret, too, which is why they're poised to make a comeback.
By the end of the 19th century, top hats were a symbol of wealth, prestige, and the upper class. But, according to lore, they weren't always worn this way. When English hatmaker John Hetherington wore the first top hat in 1797, he allegedly started a riot, and authorities later arrested him for "having appeared on the Public Highway wearing upon his head a tall structure having a shining luster and calculated to frighten timid people."
Top hats, or toppers, consisted of beaver felt and silk; they had simple designs. The use of luxury goods, including silk and animal fur, on top hats led to their increased price - and, as they spread through Europe, they grew in height as well.
Top hats reached the pinnacle of their appeal during the Victorian Era in England, but by the turn of the 20th century, had associations with the formality of the time. Top hats became the headwear of choice for stuffy, serious events - such as operas, funerals, and weddings - losing their everyday appeal.
Some still wear top hats today, usually at official events, ceremonial affairs, or events of tradition, such as Ascot. It's unlikely they will experience a widespread return to the male wardrobe, especially since they have associations with "moneymen" and snobbery.
Top hats also stand atop the heads of Uncle Sam, Mr. Peanut, and the Cat in the Hat - and are a classic piece in Monopoly, too - so they technically remain part of modern fashion.
There are different theories about who invented the bowler hat. Traditionally, William Bowler, a mid-19th-century hatmaker, has credit for the cap, as William Coke commissioned the headwear. Bowler's task was to create a hat for Coke's gamekeepers at his estate - one which was sturdy and less likely to fly off of their heads.
Other sources, such as History of Hats, indicate Edward Coke, "a British soldier and politician and the younger brother of the 2nd Earl of Leicester," designed the hat and had it made.
The hat consisted of hard felt with a supposed melon-shaped crown. The brim wasn't as large as a cavalier hat, as it was much lower than a top hat, making it an everyday option for men. Businessmen in England began wearing bowler hats during the early to mid 20th century - the accessory was usually black, but could also come in gray or brown. Over the years, the bowler hat has had nicknames like bob hat and the derby, the latter mainly used in the United States.
Sun-bonnets, straw-bonnets, silk-bonnets, wool-bonnets, baby-bonnet - the word "bonnet" comes with a lot of headgear baggage, but the basics of the bonnet are consistent. A bonnet is a head-covering extending down over the sides of the face, fastened with a strap under the chin. There's usually a front brim, and - depending on your social status - the bonnet could serve as a practical or decorative accessory.
Peasants often wore bonnets made of wool, while wealthier women wore bonnets made of silk. Wool-bonnets could last longer and resist the weather. During the 19th century, the bonnets' front brim extended out further, so they'd appear unidentifiable from the side and block sunlight. Some bonnets also developed a back trim to keep the sun off of the neck.
Cottage bonnets were small; Russian bonnets had embroidery and brimmed with lace or feather; and baby bonnets were great for young boys and girls. With all of these bonnet variations, one type may eventually come back into style.