A hat has always been definitely more than a mere piece of clothing. It is a fashion accessory that can inclose on the wearer’s personality, status, and lifestyle. Today, a hat is a statement garment that instantly makes any look more interesting. It’s a quick and simple addition to your outfit. However, looking back at history hats had a greater impact, they represented authority and power. In fact, hats became used as status symbols within the social hierarchy and as revolutionary pieces to drop the class systems.
Keep reading to learn more about the history of hats and its evolution through time.
The Origin of Hats
People have been wearing hats since ancient times. It’s unknown when and where hats originated, but experts speculate it traces back to Ancient Egypt. One of the tomb paintings in Thebes, Egypt, showed a man wearing a conical straw hat dating back to 3200 BC. At that time, hats were used for protective reasons: to protect the head from elements such as sun, wind, and rain.
Additionally, in ancient Greece and Rome, when a slave was freed, he was awarded the Phrygian cap, which was since identified as the ‘liberty hat’. Other kinds of hats have also often been used to represent priests and other clergies, while crowns signified royalty.
Symbol of Wealth and Status
It didn’t take long before hats became symbolic instead of an accessory of mere protection. In the Middle Ages, hats were a symbol of a person’s wealth and social status and they were used to target certain groups. In 1215, Jewish people were required to identify themselves with specific hats.
A simple hat can show nobility, and be representative of an opinion or a change in opinion. Different hats can also signify different orders within the social hierarchy.
The Rise of Milliners
Over time, people have turned the idea of using a hat as mere protection and turned it into an ever-evolving fashion accessory. At that time, Milan was the centre of the hat-making industry. Back in the 1700s, the first Milliners (term used to define a person that creates hats), were merchants who imported straw from Milan to produce hats. Women’s hat fashions developed rapidly from this point on.
At first, the hats were an icon of wealth for women. While hats were a symbol of modesty (the hair was covered by veils and kerchieves) in the Mediaeval periods, when the Millinery profession was born, headgear became more of a fashion statement. The first hat styles were the ‘Shepherdess hat’ and ‘bonnets’. Over the years, these hats gradually became larger with distinct trimmings and decorations (ribbons, flowers, feathers, etc). By the end of the 19th century, various styles were created for women.
The hat of the 19th century has a large brim that framed the woman’s face to protect her profile from lecherous men. It then became fashionable for a women’s silhouette to resemble an S shape, milliners had to design very wide-brimmed hats. The brim was often so large that caused the woman to lose their balance. Hats saw many changes and progressed with fashion trends.
At the end of the 20th century, the gender of hats became almost uniform. Various styles were born and were not associated with any gender. Both men and women could pull off any style, and headgear became symbolic of a wearer’s style and personality. Most hats today are worn casually as fashion accessories, but there are still few high-profile social events where attendees are required to wear hats.
Throughout history, hats have served functional purposes and fulfilled practical needs from protection to status symbols and revolutionary pieces. They have also evolved in terms of materials, styles and the occasions in which to wear them. Today hats are made from a wide variety of materials depending on the quality of the hat and its purpose.
To find out more about the different hat components, styles and materials, continue reading our technical guide.