The History of Hats

The History of Hats

Like stock market prices, fashion fluctuates and changes with the seasons. Hats are the exception! Timeless and iconic, they always offer a unique look and complete an outfit with charm and elegance. Discover the history behind their names, and choose your favourite piece from our selection of hand-crafted styles from Panama.

The Fedora or Borsalino

To this day, the fedora adds a mythical feel to any ensemble. When it first appeared, it was worn exclusively by men. Either with a broad or a medium-sized rim, and three hollow dimples, it was an easy-to-wear accessory that eventually caught on with the ladies. Its peculiar shape made those who wore it look like leaders and adventurers. Doesn’t the bold archeologist, Indiana Jones wears one in his classic action films?

Also called borsalino, after the famous hatter Giuseppe Borsalino, the silhouette became world famous at the beginning of the last century after being recognized at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1900. Since then, it’s popularity never ceased to grow. Formerly reserved for men, it is now an essential fashion accessory present in women's wardrobes.

The Capeline

The capeline is the epitome of femininity. It dates back to the 14th century, when it was reserved for peasant women who wore it to protect themselves from the sun. In the 18th century, it was made of straw and remained a sun hat.

It wasn’t until 1967 that the capeline became synonymous with elegance, especially after the release of the French film “The Young Girls of Rochefort”, in which Françoise Dorléac and Catherine Deneuve looked ravishing in their matching hat-dress combos.

Today an assortment of diameters and materials are available—straw, felt, lace ... — and the piece can be worn from season to season.

The Boater

The sailor’s hat! Yes, at the beginning of the 19th century, the boater was used by sailing enthusia sts when the circulation of sail boats was authorized on the Seine. Very popular in bars, cafes or cabarets, it was also represented in many paintings including Renoir's famous "Luncheon of the Boating Party".

The boater became solicited by athletes, then, by women, like Coco Chanel, for example. Lastly, the great stars of the music scene eventually adopted the look: Maurice Chevalier, in France and Fred Astaire, across the Atlantic.

The Trilby 

In the 1894 theater adaptation of the novel by British writer Georges du Maurier, a poor laundry worker named Trilby wore a rabbit fur felt hat with narrow edges, and a front that tilted down, and folded up again. That’s how the trilby was born!

Also called the English borsalino, it was the first hat worn by jazz musicians. Later its shape was revisited with a fully raised edge and it was renamed the ska hat. In the 1960s, the trilby saw great success with men. It was notably popularized by Peter Sellers, famous Inspector Clouseau in “The Pink Panther”, and by the Blues Brothers.

After making its way across the desert, it returned to centre stage on everyone’s heads, including women.

The Panama

Contrary to what the name might have you believe, this hat is Ecuadorian. It first appeared on the heads of Panama Canal workers in the 1880s to protect themselves from the crushing sun. Called “sombrero of paja toquilla” (straw hat), it was renamed “Panama hat” after American President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Canal building sites in 1906.

The name Panama does not speak to a particular design, but more to the material used to make it, a weave of young palm tree shoots from Ecuador. It comes in all styles: fedora, trilby, capeline...

The bell hat

The history of this hat dates back to the Roaring Twenties, an era marked by the emancipation and liberation of women's fashion standards. The bell hat was usually worn on a head of short or medium-length hair, a look that unapologetically shook the times. For women, the bell hat represented minimalism, a snub to previously worn styles that were too sophisticated and flamboyant.

Today, whether you have short or long hair, this silhouette lends the perfect touch of glamour and vintage-inspired flair.

Author: Pauline Ponchaux
Adapted from French by: Jonelle Larouche