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Hats have been around for centuries, but even those who wear hats may not know much about their genesis. Here are some interesting facts about hats throughout time:
- The first reference to a hat appeared in a cave painting at Lussac-les-Chateaux in France. It was dated 15,000 BC.
- The fedora was originally worn by women and was a symbol of female empowerment and resistance to gender roles. Today, it is worn by both sexes.
- The fedora was named after Princess Fédora Romanoff from Victorien Sardou’s play “Fédora.” The play was written for actress Sarah Bernhardt. As part of her costume, she wore a soft-brimmed hat with a center-crease, a modified version of today’s fedora.
- The trilby hat was named after the character Trilby O’Ferrall, the heroine in a novel by George du Maurier. An actress who played Trilby popularized the hat, which became a fashion staple for men throughout the 20th century.
- Panama hats were originally made in Ecuador, not Panama. Since the hats were shipped to many parts of the world by way of the Panama Canal, they became known by that name rather than where they originated.
- A person who makes women’s hats is known as a milliner, while a person who makes hats for men is known as a hatter. The difference stems from the fact that up to the 20th century, the two professions required distinct materials and techniques. Clothing during those times varied greatly based on gender.
- The phrase “mad as a hatter” originated from the fact that many hatters suffered mercury poisoning as a result of their occupation. The process of making felt, known as felting, required using mercury to stabilize the wool. While we now know that mercury is toxic and can damage the nervous system with prolonged exposure, this was not known at the time.
- Contrary to popular belief, Vikings did not wear horned helmets. This notion was popularized by Scandinavian artists in the 1800s who added the horned helmets in depictions of Viking raids. While horned helmets have been found, the headgear predates the Vikings.
- Urban legend holds that Fargo, North Dakota outlawed dancing while wearing a hat, or even wearing a hat at the same venue as a dance. If you plan to dance the night away in Fargo, stay on the safe side, and leave your hat at home.
- According to Kentucky lore, state laws were passed that prohibited a man from buying a 10-gallon hat (a large, broad-brimmed hat) if his wife was not present to help him select a model. While the validity of that law is arguable, there is a regulation in Owensboro, Kentucky that says a woman cannot buy a hat without her husband’s permission. So, when in Kentucky, don’t go hat shopping without your spouse.
- The colors of hard hats have specific meanings. White hard hats are worn by engineers or supervisors, blue by technical advisers, green by safety inspectors, yellow by laborers, and orange or pink hard hats are used by a visitor or a new worker.
The next time you don a hat, you will know that there’s much more to it than meets the eye.