The Comeback of the Hat

by Miranda Hilderbrand

It goes without saying that the hat is definitely making a comeback in fashion and society. Despite several decades of being “out of sight, out of mind”, hats are refusing to stay hidden. More and more heads are being smartly adorned, which is inspiring more and more designers to serve this fabulous demand.

While I have worked in fashion for several years, I am very much a Haberdasher-in-Training. Something I find fascinating is the mystique of hats — they are shrouded in mystery, and I discover every hat has a secret that our public is yearning to understand. Each hat has its own place history, its own significance in past and present society, its own clever story, and its own affect on its owner-to-be.

Hats have been a significant part of society for thousands of years, as far back as ancient Greece and Rome. Hats had practical uses and were also used purely for adornment. One of the earliest pictorial proofs we have is of a man wearing a conical straw hat found on a Thebes tomb.

Hats continued to thrive through the ages, their most prevalent time being between the 19th and early half of the 20th centuries. They were markers of status, occupation, and social affiliation. Members of all social classes owned hats, including the lowest strata. During the Great Depression, many men in America didn’t have a nickel in their pocket: however, every man had a hat on his head.

It is no secret that hats vanished almost entirely from wardrobes in the latter half of the 20th century. Though there is no clear single event, there are several well-known theories as to the suspension of hat-wearing. One belief is that men, after six years of being in uniform in World War II, had hadenough of hats. There is also the reasoning that the hippie culture viewed hats as conformity in a time of revolution. The most common cause for the hat hiatus is attributed to none other than JFK having appeared hatless at his inauguration. However, this is not true: he did in fact wear a silk top hat to the occasion, but removed it for his speech. So there!

Hats as fashion lost their place in modern society, and became something that was not very common to see in public. They began to seem antiquated to the younger generations. It was almost as if hats were viewed as a utility much like an umbrella, rather than something to wear as a personal style statement. It was beginning to look as though the intriguing stories and histories would be lost, and there was a dwindling need for haberdasheries around the country. Something had to change.

It was around 2007 that the hat made a dramatic comeback. The rise of AMC’s Mad Men, which focuses on a 1960s New York ad agency, featured many of its characters wearing very dapper and classic hats, including the timeless fedora. More and more men and women began embracing this classic tradition and the die was cast.

In 2010 women’s hats were on the rise in America. Many fashion experts and stylists, myself included, accredit this to Kate Middleton (now the Duchess of Cambridge). She brings an air of sophistication back to hat-wearing, proving hats can be added to any wardrobe in any setting.

I recently read an article that describes the modern hat as “a blurring and transforming of traditional class barriers”. Today’s urban dwellers are putting their own spin on the industry and showing the world that hats embrace style and individuality. It is clear that the hat has transcended the barriers of time and is rebuilding its status as timeless, endearing, and always a classic.

Your Haberdasher, Miranda H