History of winter hats

From top hats to bowlers, and bonnets to flat caps, the hat has a long history. And while the days of dignified ladies and gents wearing millinery year-round are (sadly) over, during the colder months, woolly headgear is still essential when the mercury drops.

Just ask the Duchess of Cambridge, who sported a very fetching knitted hat, complete with a big fluffy pom-pom, on a royal visit to Sweden last month.

Nowadays, chunky bobble hats are the fashionista’s favourite, but in years gone by more understated styles, like the cloche and beret, were all the rage, while floppy, wide-brimmed hats ruled in the Seventies.

Here, we look back at how winter hat trends have evolved through the decades.

1920s: The cloche hat

Coming in with the fashionably short hairstyles and dropped waistlines of the Roaring Twenties was the cloche, an unfussy, bell-shaped hat that fitted snugly over ladies’ cropped cuts. Like the bonnets of the 1800s and the Edwardian hats of the early 1900s, they could be embellished and adorned to the wearer’s taste. Made from straw and lighter fabrics in the summer, winter cloches were crafted from thick felt.

1930–40s: The trapper hat

The trapper hat took its inspiration from fur-lined Russian ushanka hats and early-20th century leather aviator caps, designed to protect the wearer against the frosty conditions of Siberian winters and high-altitude flights respectively. In the Forties, trendy trapper hats combined elements of both, providing a popular way to keep out the chills.

1940s–50s: The beret

This soft, round, flat-crowned hat originally dates back to 19th century France and Spain, but it did come back into fashion big time a few years ago. From the beatniks to iconic actress Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep, this classic hat has had many fans over the years. Made of wool or felt, it’s a cosy and classic style for winter.

1970s: The floppy hat

Floppy felt hats were popularised in the Seventies by actresses like Faye Dunaway, Brigitte Bardot and Raquel Welch. Similar to fedoras, but less firm and structured and with much wider brims, they offered more protection from bracing winds. The increased availability of synthetic materials during this decade meant milliners could play around with their structure and incorporate a variety of materials, including fake fur, for extra warmth in winter.

1980s: The bobble hat

Hats with pom-poms on them have a history stretching all the way back to Viking times – if an ancient statue discovered in Sweden of the old Norse god Freyr wearing a pointy hat is anything to go by. The word pom-pom itself is derived from the French ‘pompon’, however, and modern bobble hats probably owe more of a debt to the military uniforms of France and Scotland than Scandinavian gods. Bobble-topped woolly hats were hugely popular in the Eighties, and they’ve had a resurgence recently with fluffy pom-poms now bigger than ever.

2000s: The beanie

Beanies took over as the most fashionable headwear after the turn of the millennium, but have you ever stopped to think where the snug-fitting style got its name? There’s actually a bit of debate about that, with some historians believing it’s derived from the ‘beanus’ hats medieval scholars wore, while others think it simply comes from ‘bean’ being slang for head. Whatever the true origin, after skaters started calling knitted brimless hats ‘beanies’ in the 1990s, it stuck, and the style hit the mainstream not long after.

Are you a fan of hats? What’s your favourite style?

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