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For other uses, see Hat (disambiguation).
A collection of 18th and 19th century men's beaver felt hats

A hat is a head covering. It can be worn for protection against the elements, ceremonial reasons, religious reasons, safety, or as a fashion accessory.[1] In the past, hats were an indicator of social status.[2] In the military, they may denote nationality, branch of service, rank and/or regiment.[3] Some hats have a protective function. As examples, the hard hat protects construction workers' heads from injury by falling objects, a sun hat shades the face and shoulders from the sun, and a Ushanka fur hat with fold-down ear-flaps keeps the head warm. Some hats are worn for ceremonial purposes, such as the mortarboard, which is worn during graduation ceremonies. Some hats are worn by members of a certain profession, such as the Toque worn by chefs. Some hats have a religious functions, such as the turban worn by Sikhs.

Woman in a Flowered Hat, Renoir: Straw hat with brim decorated with cloth flowers and ribbons


While there are not many official records of hats before 3,000 BC, they probably were commonplace before that, One of the earliest known hats is that worn by a bronze age man (nicknamed Ötzi) whose body (including his hat) was found frozen in a mountain between Austria and Italy. He is thought to have lived in around 3,300 BC. His hat was a bearskin cap with a chin strap, made of several hides stitched together, essentially resembling a Russian fur hat without the flaps.

One of the first pictorial depictions of a hat appears in a tomb painting from Thebes, Egypt, which shows a man wearing a conical straw hat, dated to around 3200 BC. Hats were commonly worn in ancient Egypt. Many upper class Egyptians shaved their head, then covered it in a headdress intended to help them keep cool. Ancient Mesopotamians often wore conical hats, or ones shaped somewhat like an inverted vase.

Other early hats include the Pileus, a simple skull like cap; the Phrygian cap, worn by freed slaves in Greece and Rome (which became iconic in America during the Revolutionary War and the French Revolution, as a symbol of the struggle for liberty against the Monarchy); and the Greek petasos, the first known hat with a brim. Women wore veils, kerchiefs, hoods, caps and wimples.

Like Otzi, Tollund Man was preserved to the present day with a hat on, probably having died around 400 BC in a Danish bog, which mummified him. He wore a pointed cap made of sheepskin and wool, fastened under the chin by a hide thong.

St. Clement, the patron saint of felt hatmakers, is said to have discovered wool felt when he filled his sandals with flax fibers to protect his feet, around 800 AD.[4]

In the Middle Ages, hats were a marker of social status and used to single out certain groups. The 1215 Fourth Council of the Lateran required that all Jews identify themselves by wearing the Judenhat (“Jewish hat”), marking them as targets for anti-Semitism.[5] The hats were usually yellow, and were either pointed or square.[6]

In the Middle Ages, hats for women ranged from simple scarves to elaborate hennin,[7] and denoted social status. Structured hats for women similar to those of male courtiers began to be worn in the late 16th century.[8] The term ‘milliner’ comes from the Italian city of Milan, where the best quality hats were made in the 18th century. Millinery was traditionally a woman’s occupation, with the milliner not only creating hats and bonnets but also choosing lace, trimmings and accessories to complete an outfit.[9]

A variety of men's hats for sale in Amsterdam.
A hat shop from about 1900 inside the Roscheider Hof Open Air Museum

In the first half of the 19th century, women wore bonnets that gradually became larger, decorated with ribbons, flowers, feathers, and gauze trims. By the end of the century, many other styles were introduced, among them hats with wide brims and flat crowns, the flower pot and the toque. By the middle of the 1920s, when women began to cut their hair short, they chose hats that hugged the head like a helmet.[8]

The tradition of wearing hats to horse racing events began at the Royal Ascot in Britain, which maintains a strict dress code. All guests in the Royal Enclosure must wear hats.[10] This tradition was adopted at other horse racing events, such as the Kentucky Derby in the United States.[11]

Extravagant hats were popular in the 1980s, and in the early 21st century, flamboyant hats made a comeback, with a new wave of competitive young milliners designing creations that include turban caps, trompe-l'oeil-effect felt hats and tall headpieces made of human hair. Some new hat collections have been described as "wearable sculpture." Many pop stars, among them Lady Gaga, have commissioned hats as publicity stunts.[12]

Famous hatmakers[edit]

One of the most famous London hatters is James Lock & Co of St James's Street.[13] Another was Sharp & Davis of 6 Fish Street Hill.[14] In the late 20th-century museums credited London-based David Shilling with reinventing hats worldwide. Notable Belgian hat designers are Elvis Pompilio and Fabienne Delvigne (Royal warrant of appointment holder), whose hats are worn by European royals.[15] Philip Treacy OBE is an award-winning Irish milliner whose hats have been commissioned by top designers[16] and worn at royal weddings.[17] In North America, the well-known cowboy-hat manufacturer Stetson made the headgear for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Texas Rangers.[18]

Hat collections[edit]

The Philippi Collection is a collection of religious headgear assembled by a German entrepreneur, Dieter Philippi, located in Kirkel.[19] The collection features over 500 hats,[20] and is currently the world’s largest collection of clerical, ecclesiastical and religious head coverings.[21]

Hat styles[edit]

Women's picture hats from 1911.
Ancient Greek statue of a lady with blue and gilt garment, a fan and a sun hat, from Tanagra, circa 325–300 BC.
Hermes wearing a petasos hat. (Ancient Greek Attic red-figure krater, circa 380–370 BC.)
Hats as an indicator of social status: a foreman (with horse) wears a hat of greater height than the accompanying inquilino (19th-century Chile).
Paris millinery shop, 1822.
Hat fashions have sometimes been the subject of ridicule. This 1908 cartoon by Ion Theodorescu-Sion, which first appeared in a Romanian publication, satirised the popularity of mushroom hats
New York City, 1918: A large crowd of people, almost all wearing hats.
Family-owned hat factory in Montevarchi, Italy, date unknown.
Millinery department of Bourne & Hollingsworth, in London's Oxford Street in 1942. Unlike most other clothing, hats were not strictly rationed in wartime Britain and there was an explosion of adventurous millinery styles.

This is a short list of some common and iconic examples of hats. There is a longer version at List of hat styles.

Further information: List of headgear
Image Name Description
Ascot cap Ascot cap A hard men's cap, similar to the flat cap, but distinguished by its hardness and rounded shape.
Balmoral bonnet Balmoral bonnet Traditional Scottish bonnet or cap worn with Scottish Highland dress.
Baseball cap Baseball cap A type of soft, light cotton cap with a rounded crown and a stiff, frontward-projecting bill.
Beanie Beanie A brimless cap, with or without a small visor, once popular among school boys. Sometimes includes a propeller.
Note: In New Zealand, Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, "beanie" also or otherwise refers to the tuque.
Bearskin 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.
Beret 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 Basque people, France, and the military. Often part of [European?] schoolgirls' uniform during the 1920s, '30s and '40s.
Bicorne Bicorne A broad-brimmed felt hat with brim folded up and pinned front and back to create a long-horned shape. Also known as a cocked hat. Worn by European military officers in the 1790s and, as illustrated, commonly associated with Napoleon.
Bowler / Derby Bowler / 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.
Chullo Chullo Peruvian or Bolivian hat with ear-flaps made from vicuña, alpaca, llama or sheep's wool.[22]
Cloche hat Cloche hat A bell-shaped ladies' hat that was popular during the Roaring Twenties.
Cricket cap Cricket cap A type of soft cap traditionally worn by cricket players.
Sombrero cordobés Sombrero Cordobés A traditional flat-brimmed and flat-topped hat originating from Córdoba, Spain, associated with flamenco dancing and music and popularized by characters such as Zorro.
Conical hat Conical Asian hat A conical straw hat associated with East and Southeast Asia. Sometimes known as a "coolie hat", although the term "coolie" may be interpreted as derogatory.[23][24]
Coonskin cap Coonskin cap A hat, fashioned from the skin and fur of a raccoon, that became associated with Canadian and American frontiersmen of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Custodian helmet Custodian helmet A helmet traditionally worn by British police constables while on foot patrol.
Deerstalker Deerstalker A warm, close-fitting tweed cap, with brims front and behind and ear-flaps that can be tied together either over the crown or under the chin. Originally designed for use while hunting in the climate of Scotland. Worn by –and so closely associated with – the character Sherlock Holmes.
Hatt.jpg Fedora A soft felt hat with a medium brim and lengthwise crease in the crown.
Fes.jpg Fez Red felt hat in the shape of a truncated cone, common to Arab-speaking countries.
Prince Sultan.jpg Ghutrah Three piece ensemble consisting of a Thagiyah skull cap, Gutrah scarf, and Ogal black band. Gutrahs are plain white or checkered, denoting ethnic or national identities.[citation needed].
Schutzhelm.jpg 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.
IDF soldier kippah put on tefillin-small.jpg Kippah A hemispherical cap worn by Jews to fulfill the customary requirement held by halachic authorities that the head be covered at all times.
Umaru Yar'Adua VOA.jpg Kufi A brimless, short, rounded cap worn by Africans and people throughout the African diaspora.
Visita di Papa Benedetto XVI a Genova - 2008-05-18 - Primo piano di Benedetto XVI.jpg Mitre Distinctive hat worn by bishops in the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion.
Enrique ponce.jpg Montera A crocheted hat worn by bullfighters.
PanamaHatHarryTruman.jpg Panama Straw hat made in Ecuador.
Bust Attis CdM.jpg Phrygian Cap A soft conical cap pulled forward. In sculpture, paintings and caricatures it represents freedom and the pursuit of liberty. The popular cartoon characters The Smurfs wear white Phrygian caps.
Actress Doris Day wearing a pillbox hat in 1960 Pillbox hat A small hat with straight, upright sides, a flat crown, and no brim.
PithHelmetTruman.jpg Pith Helmet A lightweight rigid cloth-covered helmet made of cork or pith, with brims front and back. Worn by Europeans in tropical colonies in the 1800s.
Rasta Man Barbados.jpg Rastacap A tall, round, usually crocheted and brightly colored, cap worn by Rastafarians and others with dreadlocks to tuck their locks away.
Santa Hat.jpg Santa Hat A floppy pointed red hat trimmed in white fur traditionally associated with Christmas.
Harry S Truman sombrero.jpg Sombrero A Mexican hat with a conical crown and a very wide, saucer-shaped brim, highly embroidered made of plush felt.
Tophat.jpg Top hat Also known as a beaver hat, a magician's hat, or, in the case of the tallest examples, a stovepipe 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.
Chef Hat.JPG Toque (informally, "chef's hat") A tall, pleated, brimless, cylindrical hat traditionally worn by chefs.
Peter the Great Reenactor.jpg Tricorne A soft hat with a low crown and broad brim, pinned up on either side of the head and at the back, producing a triangular shape. Worn by Europeans in the 18th century. Larger, taller, and heavily ornamented brims were present in France and the Papal States.
Yellowhat.jpg Tuque In Canada, a knitted hat, worn in winter, usually made from wool or acrylic. Also known as a ski cap, knit hat, knit cap, sock cap, stocking cap, toboggan, watch cap, or goobalini. In New Zealand, Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, the term "beanie" is applied to this cap.
Sikh wearing turban.jpg Turban A headdress consisting of a scarf-like single piece of cloth wound around either the head itself or an inner hat.
Grayushanka.jpg Ushanka A Russian fur hat with fold-down ear-flaps.
Cardinal zucchetto 2003 modified 2008-15-08.jpg Zucchetto Skullcap worn by clerics typically in Roman Catholicism.

Hat size[edit]

Hat sizes are determined by measuring the circumference of a person's head about 1 centimetre (12 in) above the ears. Inches or centimeters may be used depending on the manufacturer. Felt hats can be stretched for a custom fit. Some hats, like hard hats and baseball caps, are adjustable. Cheaper hats come in "standard sizes", such as small, medium, large, extra large: the mapping of measured size to the various "standard sizes" varies from maker to maker and style to style, as can be seen by studying various catalogues, such as Hammacher-Schlemmer.[25]

Traditional hat size is worked out by adding the fore and aft and side to side measurements (in inches) then dividing by two. In the UK, an equivalent hat size is an eighth of an inch smaller than in the US.

Hat sizes
size Youth S/M Youth L/XL XXS XS S M L XL XXL XXXL
Age (years) 0 ½ 1 2
Circumference in cm 34 43 47 48 49 50 51 - 52 53 - 54 55 - 56 57 - 58 59 - 60 61 - 62 63 - 64 65 - 66
Circumference in inches 13⅜ 17 18½ 18¾ 19¼ 19¾ 20 - 20½ 20 - 21¼ 21 - 22 22 - 22½⅞ 23 - 23½⅝ 24 - 24⅜ 24¾ - 25¼ 25 - 26
UK hat size 5 6 6 6 - 6¼⅜ 6 - 6½⅝ 6 - 6¾⅞ 7 - 7⅛ 7 - 7¼⅜ 7 - 7½ 7 - 7¾⅞ 8 - 8⅛
US hat size 5⅞ 6 6⅛ 6 - 6½ 6⅝- 6¾ 6 - 7 7 - 7¼ 7 - 7½ 7 - 7¾ 7 - 8 8 - 8¼
French hat size 0 ½ 1 2 - 2½ 3 - 3½ 4 - 4½ 5 - 5½ 6 - 6½ 7 - 7½ 8 - 8½ 9 - 9½


  1. ^ Pauline Thomas (2007-09-08). "The Wearing of Hats Fashion History". Retrieved 2011-07-02. 
  2. ^ "The social meanings of hats". Retrieved 2011-07-02. 
  3. ^ "Insignia:The Way You Tell Who's Who in the Military". Retrieved 2011-07-02. 
  4. ^ "History of Hats". Retrieved 2011-07-02. 
  5. ^ Waldman, Katy (2013-10-17). "The history of the witch's hat". Retrieved 2014-03-26. 
  6. ^ Johnston, Ruth A. (2011). All Things Medieval: An Encyclopedia of the Medieval World. ABC-CLIO. Retrieved 2014-03-26. 
  7. ^ Vibbert, Marie, Headdresses of the 14th and 15th Centuries, No. 133, SCA monograph series (August 2006)
  8. ^ a b "Hat history". Retrieved 2012-01-07. 
  9. ^ "History of Women's Hats". Retrieved 2012-01-07. 
  10. ^ Lauren Turner (2012-06-21). "New dress code a hit at Ascots' Ladies Day". Retrieved 2013-08-29. 
  11. ^ "Hats in History: The Kentucky Derby". 2012-04-28. Retrieved 2013-08-29. 
  12. ^ Millinery Madness: Hat Makers With Attitude
  13. ^ See Whitbourn, F.: 'Mr Lock of St James's St Heinemann, 1971.
  14. ^ For an account of the Sharp family's hat-making business, see Knapman, D. - 'Conversation Sharp - The Biography of a London Gentleman, Richard Sharp (1759–1835), in Letters, Prose and Verse'. [Private Publication, 2004]. British Library.
  15. ^ "Brussels life". Retrieved 2013-04-15. 
  16. ^ "Philip Treacy 'Hatforms' at IMMA Thursday". Raidió Teilifís Éireann. 5 April 2001. Retrieved 11 December 2010. [dead link]
  17. ^ Philip Treacy: King of Royal wedding hats Irish Independent, 2011-04-29
  18. ^ Snyder, Jeffrey B. (1997). Stetson Hats and the John B. Stetson Company 1865–1970. Atglen: Schiffer. p. 57. ISBN 0-7643-0211-6. 
  19. ^ "Neue Züricher Zeitung FOLIO". 2011-02-08. Retrieved 2012-01-07. 
  20. ^ "Der Spiegel". Retrieved 2012-01-07. 
  21. ^ "Philippi Collection". 2011-11-23. Retrieved 2012-01-07. 
  22. ^ Klinkenborg, Verlyn (2009-02-03). "Season of the chullo". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2011-07-02. [dead link]
  23. ^ Location Settings (2011-10-20). "Malema under fire over slur on Indians". News24. Retrieved 2013-06-16. 
  24. ^ Most current dictionaries do not record any offensive meaning ("an unskilled laborer or porter usually in or from India hired for low or subsistence wages" Merriam-Webster) or make a distinction between an offensive meaning in referring to "a person from the Indian subcontinent or of Indian descent" and an at least originally inoffensive, old-fashioned meaning, for example "dated an unskilled native labourer in India, China, and some other Asian countries" (Compact Oxford English Dictionary[dead link]). However, some dictionaries indicate that the word may be considered offensive in all contexts today. For example, Longman's 1995 edition had "old-fashioned an unskilled worker who is paid very low wages, especially in parts of Asia", but the current version adds "taboo old-fashioned a very offensive word ... Do not use this word".
  25. ^ "Helmet sizes". 

External links[edit]