• Maggie Koller

All about hats.

By Maggie Koller and Maddison Pryor

From Flapper Louise Brook’s Cloche hat to Frank Sinatra’s Fedora and Jackie Kennedy’s Pillbox hat, popular culture has been able to show us a glimpse of the hat trends from the 20th Century. Indeed the Fedora has become a modern classic and is popular with both men and women today. However in the past the hat was a common, if not necessary aspect of a man or woman’s wardrobe. Whether on the street, at a club or high tea, hats were an essential part of being well dressed. Yet with the ever changing trends of fashion and social norms, where have hats ended up in contemporary life? Do they still hold the same significance they have had in the past?

Flapper Louise Brooks. Source: Wikipedia 2020

Throughout the centuries and in a global context head coverings were not only protective, but symbolic of status and authority; as well as being religious garments for some groups. The Native Americans, for instance adopted a cultural tradition of adorning their highly respected male leaders with feathered headdresses. High ranking Native American women from present day Canada and Alaska wore elaborate embroidered headdresses (see below), whilst military organisations also utilised hats such as berets and field caps, to represent different levels of command. In keeping with their belief systems, religions such as Islam and Judaism further encouraged the use of the Hijab and Kippah amongst their followers.

Native American Headdresses. New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo taken January 2019.

During the Edwardian period, in early 20th century Western society, large ornate hats went hand in hand with style. It was a time when all but the very destitute wore hats, when women were obliged to dress modestly with gloves and a hat before venturing outside the home. Feathers would be dyed in workshops and grand arrangements would be displayed on the heads of the wealthy. The hat was an emblem of civilised society. Following the World War One however hat wearing returned to it’s roots of practicality and protection. Flappers would wear sleek head hugging Cloches (See Louise Brooks pictured above) and the Fedora became popular from the mid 1920’s onwards and was initially associated with Prohibition and Gangsters.

Frank Sinatra wearing his signature Fedora, popularising the look.

Source: 12/12/2015

Fast forward, as we look at our current era a social shift is evident. In day to day life, hats are no longer a social obligation. Yet their popularity in the world of fashion has not been estinguished. In fact, although the ethically questionable days of stuffed birds and plucked feathers atop our heads have ended, hats have remained a staple of both everyday gear and occasional wear. The diversity of their appearance, make and material has also been allowed to adapt to contemporary lifestyles.

So how and why do we wear hats today? Well, the reasons are more timeless than at first expected. Obviously hats serve a purpose of protection from both very cold weather or extremely hot weather. For whatever event or season hats serve to “polish” an outfit, either through colour co-ordination, texture or shape. Hat wearing was once upon the time expected. Paradoxically the opposite now can hold true. In the words of award-winning Irish haute couture hat-designer Phillip Treacy, “Hats are no longer symbols of conformity but highly individual acts of rebellion.”

High fashion has taken hat wearing to the level of abstract art, form miniature ferris wheels to dark castles and stingrays, the industry has well surpassed the level of grandeur seen in past centuries. Off the runway, formal hats are a common sight in Australia at the races where elaborate headwear is the must have accessory. In everyday wear there is a wide array of less intricate more affordable hats hat can be worn throughout the day-to-day to assert individuality, give an outfit character and very importantly offer protection from the elements.

Floppy hats are perfect with a maxi Summer dress or A-line dress. They came to prominence in the 1970’s and even today are ideal for a carefree bohemian vibe. In milder weather they provide playfulness to an Autumnal trench coat.

A newsboy cap is the “grown up” stylish alternative to baseball caps which can sometimes look juvenile. Newsboy caps are the “cherry on top” for a t-shirt, plaid blazer and denim jeans. Any unisex clothing whether jeans, shorts, denim jackets or blazers suit a newsboy cap. They even work under bicycle helmets for those cyclists out there, as there is stiffener only in the hat brim, not the top of the cap or crown!

The bucket hat especially has gained popularity in the last couple of years as a versatile accessory which can feature in smart-casual or urban outfits. This divisive hat which people seem love or hate is a popular choice for celebrities at the moment. We're massive fans too! With their modest brim they are an all-rounder hat. Made from fabrics such as tweed and corduroy they can feature in Autumn/ Fall and Winter outfits. In Summer a canvas/ cotton bucket hat offers just enough sun protection.

For dresses. midi and a-line skirts and any ladylike attire a stiff extra large brimmed sun hat is the go to accessory. Even suits in bold colours and feminine cuts look fabulous topped with a large wide brim hat. Moreover for the ultimate in sun protection an extra large brim sun hat can’t be beaten. Wear singlet tops, spaghetti strap dresses and and still avoid dreaded sunburn.

Although it is doubtful that society will return to the days of obligatory feathered hats, the accessory has taken various forms throughout history according to societal shifts. The hat will continue to transform itself and develop as a fashion staple. Indeed with our hotter Summers, not just in Australia but globally, climate change will require accessories which protect us from the elements just as they help us look and feel fabulous too!

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