Since the dawn of time people have been wearing, I wouldn’t say hats, but head coverings. Reaching back as early as primitive man, animal skins have been used to protect the head against the elements and to protect against falling objects or head injuries, these could be considered the earliest forms of men’s hats.
As time progresses, changes and alterations are made to everything in order to keep them up to date or improve the concept, the humble men’s hat is no different to this. As times pass the best snapback hats has taken on many roles, for example protective Roman helmets made of Bronze, these weren’t only used for protective purposes but also to emphasise rank and importance as well as define the differences between legions, there were over 30 different types of helmet used during Roman rule, each helmet was made to fit a purpose from heavy infantry to foot soldier.
It was during the 14th and 15th century that we started wearing hats as an accessory, men more so than women, men’s hats became an important fashion accessory and since those times the trend has just continued to grow. Hats were made from various materials, such as leather, felt, silk, velvet and taffeta.
Tricorne hats of the 17th and 18th century, three cornered hats which were worn as part of naval and military dress, these hats had their advantages, worn usually with one point facing forwards and the others over the shoulders, the Tricorne hat would effectively become guttering for the head, by keeping rain off the face. Tricorne hats were also worn by civilians, over a period of time they became quite flamboyant in appearance, with the introduction of lace trimmings and feathers, as depicted in paintings of Charles the 2nd.
The Tricorne became redundant just before the French Revolution, at which time, hats became popular, the Tricorne is still worn today by the lord mayor of London, it is also worn by the Chelsea pensioners.
It wasn’t until the 18th century that women’s hats became fashionable like men’s, until this period it was only the well to do middle or upper class women who wore hats, and these were not unlike those worn by men.
It is mainly in the last couple of hundred years that the diversity of hats that we know today has been prevalent. Men’s hats have seen the comings and goings of the Top Hat, the Bowler, the Trilby, Boater, Fedora and Panama to name a few.
The trilby and fedora especially even nowadays seem to drift in and out of fashion, hat fashion seems to be somewhat dictated by celebrities, for example in the past few years the beanie hat became popular after David Beckham wore one in a promotion, the fedora increased in popularity with the release of the Indiana Jones films but also more recently when the Fedora started being worn by pop stars, this fashion also extended to women.
There is no set fashion to men’s hats these days; it all seems to boil down to personal preference and seasonal wear. Hats today for both men and women are accessories, usually worn to complete an outfit, style or look. Winter men’s hats include the deerstalker, originally worn for hunting in harsh conditions, warmth being the main aim, trapper hats (much similar to the deerstalker), trooper and some variations of military style hats.
Summer head wear includes baseball caps (popular all year round, but not providing so much insulation and warmth as many alternatives), straw hats, bucket hats similar to those worn nowadays by fishing fanatics, which completely cover the head with a wide yet floppy brim which keeps sun out of the eyes, or the most simple style is the sun visor.