Interesting Hat Facts

  • Suppliers of men’s hats are called hatters while milliners are people who supply women’s hats.
  • Saint Catherine of Alexandria is the patron saint of milliners in France. She is celebrated on 25th November.
  • The process of manufacturing felt used to involve the use of toxic mercury, hence the term “mad as a hatter”.
  • The pleats in a chef’s toque, or hat, supposedly were originally incorporated to indicate the number of ways a chef knew how to cook an egg.
  • The phrase “A Feather in your Cap” comes from the 17th Century, and may be related to the custom of sticking feathers in a soldier’s cap to indicate the numbers of enemy slain.
  • The straw hat was first produced in America in 1798 by a 12-year-old girl in Rhode Island.
  • The Panama hat, made from the Jijippa plant, has never been made in Panama. It’s made in Ecuador. The name came about because they were quite popular during the construction of the Panama Canal.
  • A ten gallon hat does not hold ten gallons (unless you have an exceptionally large head). The gallon in “ten gallon hat” derives from the Spanish “el galón” meaning braid. So a ten-gallon hat is a hat with a braiding around the brim. A ten-gallon hat holds 3/4 gallon or 3 quarts.
  • Hats maintain their shape despite being crushed or rolled up because when the material was first made it was steamed and shaped while moist before allowing it to dry on a wooden hat block, trapping the shape inside the material.
  • There are three types of felt used in hat making: beaver, fur, and wool.
  • You can determine your USA hat size by measuring the circumference of your head, then dividing by pi, and rounding off to the nearest one-eighth of an inch.

Some Types of Hats

Beret: a soft round felt cap with a flat crown that is used by many military and police units, including American Special Forces and British Commandos.
Bicorne: a broad-brimmed hat with the two halves of the brim turned up and pinned to form a vertical semi-circular shape when viewed from the front. Worn by American and European military and naval officers in the 18th and 19th centuries. Favoured by Napoleon Bonaparte.
Bowler: a hard felt hat with a rounded crown named after the hatmakers who originally made it. Also known as a derby hat and Melone. Famously worn by Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, Sir Winston Churchill, and Laurel and Hardy. Also Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles in the 1972 film ‘Cabaret’.
Cocked Hat: a variation of the Bicorne except that the pointed ends face forward and back instead of to the sides. Formerly worn by a variety of civilian, military, and naval forces up until the start of World War II.
Cowboy Hat: informal name, along with ten-gallon hat (although it actually can’t hold more than a gallon of anything), for the Stetson, named for its inventor John B Stetson, it has a tall crown and very wide brim. This helps guard against the sun. Made of hard felt, it can also function as a bowl for drinking water.
Deerstalker: The Deerstalker is worn by hunters, but it is also often used by people in rural areas. Famously associated with fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. It is typically checkered patterned, lending the wearer a degree of camouflage, and has two brims, forward and back, that provide protection from the sun. Adjustable side flaps protect the ears in cold weather or can be tied up when not in use.
Fedora: typically made of soft felt with a short brim and a lengthwise crease through the crown, which is pinched in front. Also known as a trilby. Some well-known names who have worn a fedora include Dick Tracy, Dixon Hill, Frank Sinatra, James Bond, the Blues Brothers, Freddy Krueger, Indiana Jones, and Michael Jackson.
Fez: named after its town of origin in Morocco and is always coloured red, dyed using the berries of the Turkish kizziljiek plant. Famously worn by gentle giant British comedian, Tommy Cooper.
Flat Cap: has a long list of aliases, including cheese-cutter, golf cap, scone bunnet, ivy cap, Windsor cap, and bunnet. The bunnet has survived and thrived in Scottish culture since the 14th century, where its first recorded usage was found. Much more than a piece of headgear, the bunnet was, for a long time, a signifier of social status. It has also been an integral part of Scottish infantry uniform. Its wide application in Scottish civil and military society has prolonged its presence atop the heads of working men, armed forces personnel, and fashionistas alike.

The Hennin: (from the Dutch: Henninck or “cock”) was a headdress in the shape of a cone, steeple, or truncated cone worn in the late Middle Ages by European women of the nobility. With many characters or stories in pop culture, the Hennin is the element used to identify princesses of any kind, as well as that of courtesans or any important woman of royalty.

Typically, the hennin was 30 to 45 cm high but might be as much as 80 cm. It was generally accompanied by a veil (cointoise) that usually emerged from the top of the cone and was allowed to fall onto the woman’s shoulders or even to the ground, or was pulled forward over the hennin, often reaching over the woman’s face. The Hennin was worn tilted backward at an angle. Nowadays, the hennin forms part of the depiction of the stereotypical fairy-tale princess.

Homburg: similar to a Fedora, except that the Homburg has no pinches in the crease and a sharply-turned-up brim edge the whole way round. Famously worn by German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Earl and politician Anthony Eden and of course Winston Churchill. Even in the fictional realm, the always dapper Hercule Poirot never leaves the house without a Homburg hat.
Karakul: named for the breed of sheep its wool is made of. Apparently, each hat requires the skin of one whole Karakul lamb to produce – and the best quality wool is obtained from an unborn sheep foetus cut out from its mother just before birth. Nicknamed the pie hat in the Soviet Union, favoured by Leonid Brezhnev and other members of the Politburo.
Pork Pie Hat: Also known as the English pastry hat, the pork pie got its name from its telescoped crown which features a slight lip around the upper edge of the crown and therefore looks similar to a traditional English meat pie. Normally featuring a snap brim, pork pies flourished among college students in the 1930s and were also popularised by Hollywood stars like Fred Astaire and Cary Grant. Often culturally associated with jazz and blues players.
Sombrero: a Mexican hat made of either straw or felt made to protect wearers from the sun with its medium-sized crown and extremely wide brim. The word likely derives from the Spanish word Sombra, meaning “shade” or “shadow.” The English word “sombrero” is a loan word from Spanish, where the term is used to refer to any hat with a brim. Many Spanish speakers refer to what we call a sombrero as a “Mexican hat”
Top Hat: In 1814, a French magician named Louis Comte became the first conjurer on record to pull a rabbit out of a Top Hat. The Top Hat was for almost a century, the class-defining gentleman’s accessory. By 1902, the Top Hat was nearing the end of its century-long primacy, soon to be replaced by the more compact Homburg. The Top Hat settled into the status it has today – that of a costume prop, a graceful anachronism worn with white tie, tails and gloves on only the rarest of formal ceremonies. The top hat is a piece of history now, but for a while (back in the 1930s and 1940s), Europeans got the false impression that it was making a comeback in America. They’d been watching Fred Astaire movies and assumed that all American men were dressing the way he did. Astaire wore top hats in a dozen or more films (notably Top Hat, in 1935).
Ushanka: a Russian fur cap with adjustable ear-covering flaps that can be tied up to the crown of the cap, or fastened at the chin to protect the ears, jaw, and lower chin from the cold. An alternative is to bend the flaps back and tie them behind the head, which is called “ski-style” — this offers less protection from the elements, but much better visibility, essential for high-speed skiing. The literal translation of Ushanka is “ear-flaps-hat”.

Six Things You May Not Know About Hats

1. Think of every ‘french maid’ costume you’ve ever seen. There’s always a little lacy hat on her head – called a ‘mob cap’, and it symbolises a woman’s willingness to beat you to death, or just institute a system that leads to you being tried in an afternoon and beheaded. The mob cap got its name because the lower-class women, who worked in kitchens, factories, as maids and nurses, and generally anywhere it was important not to get their hair in their work, wore white caps with a bit of a frill on them. When they went out into the streets to riot as a mob, they wore their caps as well.

2. Lewis Carroll’s ‘Mad Hatter’ had a grounding in fact. Mercury was commonly used in the production of felt for hats and could be inhaled in poorly ventilated workshops, leading to neurological disorders for unfortunate hatters.

3. For 30 years Gertrude Shilling wore her son David’s millinery creations to high society events including horse races at Ascot. These elaborate ensembles included a giant giraffe head, an oversized teacup, a television set, and an oversize football in honour of the World Cup.

4. The late style savant and fashion editor Isabella Blow is credited with kick-starting the career of milliner Philip Treacy OBE when she let him set up a studio in her flat after his graduation from the Royal College of Art. Treacy was described by Vogue magazine as ‘perhaps the greatest living milliner’.

5. The deerstalker hat was part of the Victorian gentleman’s hunting ensemble, and as such was unlikely to have been worn in the city. This could be why Sherlock Holmes doesn’t actually wear a deerstalker in any of the works by Arthur Conan Doyle. It was an addition by his illustrator for one of Holmes’ out-of-town mysteries.

6. In Paris, following a maritime skirmish in 1778, many women of fashion commemorated what they saw as a French victory against the British with the Coiffure à la Belle Poule – an elaborate hairstyle containing a huge replica of the ship itself.