Gentlemen have been covering their heads since, well, since the first gentleman figured out he could keep his head warm and look sharp doing so.
The modern hat comes from a long tradition of using headwear not only to protect one’s head form the elements, but also to communicate status and rank. Various professions used a distinctive hat to show their occupation. Various hats were worn by clergy, soldiers, scholars, tradesmen and nobility throughout ancient times and the medieval era. The modern gentleman’s hat springs out of these traditions, specifically the use of felt hats in the military and the clergy.
Richard Hooker wearing the Canterbury cap of British Clergy
Sailors from Elizabethan times are known to have adopted the Monmouth cap as their hat. They were mentioned by Shakespeare in his play Henry V, Act 4, Scene 7,
“the Welshmen did good service in garden where leeks did grow, wearing leeks in their Monmouth caps; which your Majesty know to this hour is an honourable badge of the service”.
Original 16th Century Monmouth Cap from Wales sans Leek
The hats for men in the 20th century evolved from their predecessors in the 18th and 19th century. I will detail more on the specific histories of the various styles of hats we now call ‘formal’ men’s hats in their own separate posts. Here is a short list of some of the more stylish men’s hats still worn, in no particular order:
- the Fedora
- the Top Hat
- the Bowler
- the Boater
- the Panama
- the Ascot Cap
- the Beret
- the Deerstalker
- the Fez
- the Flat Cap
- the Homburg
- the Glengarry
- the Porkpie
- the Tam o’Shanter
- the Trilby
According to wikipedia, “A hat consists of four main parts:
Crown – The portion of a hat covering the top of the head
Peak (British English), visor (American English), or bill, a stiff projection at the front, to shade or shield the eyes from sun and rain
Brim, an optional projection of stiff material from the bottom of the hat’s crown horizontally all around the circumference of the hat
Puggaree (British) or sweatband or hatband (American), a ribbon or band that runs around the bottom of the torso of the hat. The sweatband may be adjustable with a cord or rope at the top and is on the inside of the hat touching the skin while the hatband and puggaree are around the outside.
There is also an excellent introduction to hat terminology in the Fedora Lounge forum threads – An Intro to Hat Terminology.
And I would be remiss if I ended the post without including some excellent examples of stylish men wearing their hats, so here you are:
Frank Sinatra Wearing a Short Brimmed Fedora
Cary Grant in a Bowler
Fred Astaire in a Straw Boater
Benedict Cumberbatch Doffing His Top Hat
Ryan Gosling in a Wide Brimmed Fedora
Edward, Prince of Wales in a Flat Cap
Edward, the Prince of Wales, Sporting His Homburg