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A collection of 18th and 19th centuries men's beaver felt hats
Woman in a Flowered Hat (1889), by Pierre-Auguste Renoir: Straw hat with brim decorated with cloth flowers and ribbons

A hat is a head covering which is worn for various reasons, including protection against weather conditions, ceremonial reasons such as university graduation, religious reasons, safety, or as a fashion accessory.[1] Hats which incorporate mechanical features, such as visors, spikes, flaps, braces or beer holders shade into the broader category of headgear.

In the past, hats were an indicator of social status.[2] In the military, hats may denote nationality, branch of service, rank or regiment.[3] Police typically wear distinctive hats such as peaked caps or brimmed hats, such as those worn by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Some hats have a protective function. As examples, the hard hat protects construction workers' heads from injury by falling objects, a British police Custodian helmet protects the officer's head, a sun hat shades the face and shoulders from the sun, a cowboy hat protects against sun and rain and an ushanka fur hat with fold-down earflaps keeps the head and ears warm. Some hats are worn for ceremonial purposes, such as the mortarboard, which is worn (or carried) during university graduation ceremonies. Some hats are worn by members of a certain profession, such as the Toque worn by chefs, or the mitre worn by Christian bishops. Adherents of certain religions regularly wear hats, such as the turban worn by Sikhs, or the church hat that is worn as a headcovering by Christian women during prayer and worship.[4]


The 27,000-to-30,000-year-old Venus of Willendorf may depict a woman wearing a woven hat.

While there are not many official records of hats before 3,000 BC, they probably were commonplace before that. The 27,000-to-30,000-year-old Venus of Willendorf figurine may depict a woman wearing a woven hat.[5] One of the earliest known confirmed hats was worn by a Bronze Age man (nicknamed Ötzi) whose body (including his hat) was found frozen in a mountain between Austria and Italy, where he had been since around 3250 BC. He was found wearing a bearskin cap with a chin strap, made of several hides stitched together, essentially resembling a Russian fur hat without the flaps.[6][7][8]

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 heads, 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.

Hats as an indicator of social status: a foreman (with horse) wears a hat of greater height than the accompanying inquilino (1821 Chile).

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 Ötzi, the 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.[9]

St. Clement, the patron saint of felt hatmakers, is said to have discovered felt when he filled his sandals with flax fibers to protect his feet, around 800 AD.[10]

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.[11] The hats were usually yellow and were either pointed or square.[12]

Carle Vernet's 1796 painting showing two decadent French "Incredibles" greeting each other, one with what appears to be a top hat, perhaps its first recorded appearance.

In the Middle Ages, hats for women ranged from simple scarves to elaborate hennin,[13] and denoted social status. Structured hats for women similar to those of male courtiers began to be worn in the late 16th century.[14] 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.[15]

Left-to-right: Top-hat, peaked cap, Borsalino, bowler hat (Sweden, early 20th century).

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.[14]

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.[16] This tradition was adopted at other horse racing events, such as the Kentucky Derby in the United States.[17]

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'œil-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.[18]

A hat shop from about 1900 inside the Roscheider Hof Open Air Museum.

Famous hatmakers

One of the most famous London hatters is James Lock & Co. of St James's Street.[19] The shop claims to be the oldest operating hat shop in the world.[20] Another was Sharp & Davis of 6 Fish Street Hill.[21] 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.[22] Philip Treacy OBE is an Irish milliner whose hats have been commissioned by top designers[23] and worn at royal weddings.[24] In North America, the well-known cowboy-hat manufacturer Stetson made the headgear for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Texas Rangers.[25] John Cavanagh was one of the notable American hatters.[26] Italian hat maker Borsalino has covered the heads of Hollywood stars and the world's rich and famous.[27]


The Philippi Collection is a collection of religious headgear assembled by a German entrepreneur, Dieter Philippi, located in Kirkel.[28] The collection features over 500 hats,[29] and is currently the world's largest collection of clerical, ecclesiastical and religious head coverings.[30]


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

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 brim.
Propeller beanie with a visor Beanie (North America) A brimless cap, made from triangular panels of material joined by a button at the crown and seamed together around the sides, with or without a small visor, once popular among school boys. Sometimes includes a propeller.
In New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom and some parts of the United States, "beanie" refers to the knit cap.
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.
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.
Buntal Buntal A traditional straw hat from the Philippines woven from fibers extracted from buri palms.
Chullo Chullo Peruvian or Bolivian hat with ear-flaps made from vicuña, alpaca, llama or sheep's wool.[31]
Cloche hat Cloche hat A bell-shaped ladies' hat that was popular during the Roaring Twenties. (Cloche hat as worn by silent film star Vilma Bánky, 1927)
Cricket cap Cricket cap A type of soft cap traditionally worn by cricket players. (Sid Barnes with his Australian cap)
Sombrero cordobés Cordovan hat 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.[32][33]
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.
Fedora A soft felt hat with a medium brim and lengthwise crease in the crown.
Fez Red felt hat in the shape of a truncated cone, common to Arab-speaking countries.
Fulani hat A conical plant fiber hat covered in leather both at the brim and top, worn by men of the Fulani people in West Africa.
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.
Homburg A semi-formal hat of fur felt, with a single dent running down the centre of the crown, a wide silk grosgrain hatband ribbon, a flat brim shaped in a "pencil curl", and a ribbon-bound trim about the edge of the brim. (Winston Churchill wearing a homburg.)
Keffiyeh 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]. (Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia wearing Keffiyeh)
Kippah A hemispherical cap worn by Jews to fulfill the customary requirement held by halachic authorities that the head be covered at all times. (IDF soldier, Lt. Asael Lubotzky, prays with kippah and tefillin).
Knit cap A knitted hat, worn in winter, usually made from wool or acrylic. In New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom and some parts of the United States, the term "beanie" is applied to this cap, while in Canada it is known as a "tuque".
Kufi A brimless, short, rounded cap worn by Africans and people throughout the African diaspora. (Umaru Yar'Adua, President of Nigeria)
Mitre Distinctive hat worn by bishops in the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Churches and the Anglican Communion. (Pope Benedict XVI)
Montera A crocheted hat worn by bullfighters.
Panama Straw hat made in Ecuador.
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. (Actress Doris Day wearing a pillbox hat in 1960)
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.
Rastacap A tall, round, usually crocheted and brightly colored, cap worn by Rastafarians and others with dreadlocks to tuck their locks away.
Rogatywka An asymmetrical, peaked, four-pointed cap used by various Polish military formations throughout the ages.
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.
Stetson Also known as a "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.[34]
Tam o'Shanter A traditional flat, round Scottish cap usually worn by men (in the British military sometimes abbreviated ToS).
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.
Toque (informally, "chef's hat") A tall, pleated, brimless, cylindrical hat traditionally worn by chefs.
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.
Turban A headdress consisting of a scarf-like single piece of cloth wound around either the head itself or an inner hat.
Ushanka A Russian fur hat with fold-down ear-flaps.
Zucchetto Skullcap worn by clerics, typically in Roman Catholicism.


Hat sizes are determined by measuring the circumference of a person's head about 1 centimetre (25 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.[35]

Hat sizes[citation needed]
size Youth S/M Youth L/XL XXS XS S M L XL XXL XXXL
Age (years) 0 12 1 1+12 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 13+38 17 18+12 18+34 19+14 19+34 20+1820+12 20+5821+14 21+58–22 2212–2278 2314–2358 24–2438 2434–2514 25–26
UK hat size 5 534 6–618 614–638 612–658 634–678 7–718 714–738 712–758 734–778 8–818
US hat size 578 6 618 614 638–612 658–634 678–7 718–714 738–712 758–734 778–8 818–814
French hat size 0 12 1 112 2–212 3–312 4–412 5–512 6–612 7–712 8–812 9–912

US hat size is a measurement of head diameter in inches. It can be computed from a measurement of circumference in centimeters by dividing by 8, because multiplying 2.54 (the number of centimeters per inch) by π (the multiplier to give circumference from diameter) is almost exactly 8.


See also


  1. ^ Pauline Thomas (2007-09-08). "The Wearing of Hats Fashion History". Fashion-era.com. Retrieved 2011-07-02.
  2. ^ "The social meanings of hats". University of Chicago Press. Retrieved 2011-07-02.
  3. ^ "Insignia:The Way You Tell Who's Who in the Military". United States Department of Defense. Archived from the original on 2012-04-14. Retrieved 2011-07-02.
  4. ^ "What are Church Hats?". Southern Living. Archived from the original on 14 May 2021. Retrieved 10 May 2022. Church hats have been a key part of churchgoers' Sunday best for years, and are still an important aspect of dress in some churches today. The practice of covering one's head for church originally came from the Bible—1 Corinthians 11:15, to be precise. The simple head covering has been adapted and expanded to become a stylish part of Southern women's churchgoing attire. At the turn of the century, many Southern ladies wore simple hats to church out of respect, reverence for the service, and continuity with passed-down traditions. The church hat tradition continues today, with hats—sometimes called crowns—in bright colors, bold patterns, and eye-catching styles at Sunday services across the South.
  5. ^ "BBC News | SCI/TECH | World's oldest hat revealed". news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-09-25.
  6. ^ Davis, Nicola (30 August 2016). "It becometh the iceman: clothing study reveals stylish secrets of leather-loving ancient". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 30 August 2016. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  7. ^ Romey, Kristin (18 August 2016). "Here's What the Iceman Was Wearing When He Died 5,300 Years Ago". National Geographic. Archived from the original on 19 August 2016. Retrieved 18 August 2016.
  8. ^ O’Sullivan, Niall J.; Teasdale, Matthew D.; Mattiangeli, Valeria; Maixner, Frank; Pinhasi, Ron; Bradley, Daniel G.; Zink, Albert (18 August 2016). "A whole mitochondria analysis of the Tyrolean Iceman's leather provides insights into the animal sources of Copper Age clothing". Scientific Reports. 6: 31279. Bibcode:2016NatSR...631279O. doi:10.1038/srep31279. ISSN 2045-2322. PMC 4989873. PMID 27537861.
  9. ^ "The Tollund Man – Appearance". The Tollund Man – A face from prehistoric Denmark. 2004. Archived from the original on 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2016-09-30.
  10. ^ "History of Hats". Hatsandcaps.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-07-02.
  11. ^ Waldman, Katy (2013-10-17). "The history of the witch's hat". Slate.com. Retrieved 2014-03-26.
  12. ^ Johnston, Ruth A. (2011). All Things Medieval: An Encyclopedia of the Medieval World. ABC-CLIO. Retrieved 2014-03-26.
  13. ^ Vibbert, Marie, Headdresses of the 14th and 15th Centuries, No. 133, SCA monograph series (August 2006)
  14. ^ a b "Hat history". Hatsuk.com. Archived from the original on 2000-09-14. Retrieved 2012-01-07.
  15. ^ "History of Women's Hats". Vintagefashionguild.org. Retrieved 2012-01-07.
  16. ^ Lauren Turner (2012-06-21). "New dress code a hit at Ascots' Ladies Day". Independent.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2022-05-09. Retrieved 2013-08-29.
  17. ^ "Hats in History: The Kentucky Derby". Hats-plus.com. 2012-04-28. Archived from the original on 2013-08-19. Retrieved 2013-08-29.
  18. ^ "Millinery Madness: Hat Makers With Attitude". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2017-06-30. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  19. ^ See Whitbourn, F.: 'Mr Lock of St James's St Heinemann, 1971.
  20. ^ "Centuries of hats". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2017-12-28. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ "Brussels life". Brusselslife.be. Retrieved 2013-04-15.
  23. ^ "Philip Treacy 'Hatforms' at IMMA Thursday". Raidió Teilifís Éireann. 5 April 2001. Archived from the original on August 17, 2012. Retrieved 11 December 2010.
  24. ^ Philip Treacy: King of Royal wedding hats Archived 2011-08-31 at the Wayback Machine Irish Independent, 2011-04-29
  25. ^ Snyder, Jeffrey B. (1997). Stetson Hats and the John B. Stetson Company 1865–1970. Atglen: Schiffer. p. 57. ISBN 0-7643-0211-6.
  26. ^ "Cavanagh Hats". Bernard Hats. Retrieved 2019-12-06.
  27. ^ Hats and Headwear around the World: A Cultural Encyclopedia, Beverly Chico, ABC-CLIO, 03.10.2013, p. 155.
  28. ^ "Neue Zürcher Zeitung FOLIO". Nzzfolio.ch. 2011-02-08. Retrieved 2012-01-07.
  29. ^ Smoltczyk, Alexander (4 December 2009). "Der Spiegel". Spiegel.de. Retrieved 2012-01-07.
  30. ^ "Philippi Collection". Philippi-collection.blogspot.com. 2011-11-23. Retrieved 2012-01-07.
  31. ^ Klinkenborg, Verlyn (2009-02-03). "Season of the chullo". International Herald Tribune. Archived from the original on January 30, 2009. Retrieved 2011-07-02.
  32. ^ "Malema under fire over slur on Indians". News24. 2011-10-20. Retrieved 2013-06-16.
  33. ^ 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 Archived 2008-01-26 at the Wayback Machine) 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). However, some dictionaries indicate that the word may be considered offensive in all contexts today. For example, Longman Archived 2006-11-27 at the Wayback Machine'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".
  34. ^ Snyder, Jeffrey B. (1997). Stetson Hats and the John B. Stetson Company 1865–1970. Atglen: Schiffer. p. 5. ISBN 0-7643-0211-6.
  35. ^ "Helmet sizes". Enduroworld.com.au. Archived from the original on March 25, 2012.
  36. ^ "Hat, British, 17th century". Metropolitan Museum of Art website.

External links

  • Quotations related to Hat at Wikiquote
  • Media related to Hats at Wikimedia Commons
  • The dictionary definition of hat at Wiktionary