A pillbox hat is a small hat, usually worn by women, with a flat crown, straight, upright sides, and no brim. It is named after the small cylindrical or hexagonal cases that pills used to be sold in.
History and description
Historically, the precursor to the pillbox hat was military headgear. During the late Roman Empire, the pilleus pannonius or "Pannonian cap" – headgear similar to the modern pillbox hat – was worn by Roman soldiers. A similar hat was popular with the Flemish in the Middle Ages. In some countries, especially those of the Commonwealth of Nations, a pillbox-like forage cap, often with a chin strap, can still be seen on ceremonial occasions. The Royal Military College of Canada dress uniform includes such a hat, and similar caps were standard issue for the Victorian era British Army. Another cap called a kilmarnock is a modern version of the traditional headdress worn by members of virtually all Gurkha regiments.
The modern woman's pillbox hat was invented by milliners in the 1930s, and gained popularity due to its elegant simplicity. Pillbox hats were made out of wool, velvet, organdy, mink, lynx or fox fur, and leopard skin, among many other materials. They were generally designed in solid colors and were unaccesorized, but could include a veil.
Jacqueline Kennedy, First Lady of the United States from 1961 to 1963, was well known for her "signature pillbox hats", designed for her by Halston, and was wearing a pink one to match her outfit on the day of her husband President John F. Kennedy's assassination in Dallas, Texas. The popularity of the hat declined after that.
In popular culture
- Pillbox hats are satirically mentioned in the song "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" by Bob Dylan. The song first appeared on his 1966 album Blonde on Blonde.
- Pillbox hats are also mentioned in the song "Long Time" by Cake on the 2011 album Showroom of Compassion.
A military precursor to the pillbox hat shown on a stained glass window in the Royal Military College of Canada
One of Jackie Kennedy's pillbox hats in the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum
- "Pillbox Hats" on The Fashion Encyclopedia website
- Wilson History & Research Center, 10th Princess Mary's Own Gurkha Rifles Pillbox Cap. Retrieved 2010-08-18.
- Spurlin, William J. 'I'd Rather Be the Princess Than the Queen' in Kear, Adrian and Steinberg, Deborah Lynn (eds.) Mourning Diana: Nation, Culture and the Performance of Grief. London: Routledge, 1999. p.158
- Media related to Pillbox hats at Wikimedia Commons