Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Dior, Kangol: what do all of these…
Acme Hat Co has been in the business of customizable and private label hats for nearly a decade, but we realize that hats have been a big business for many, many centuries. Today, we’d like to take a closer look at hats and the roles they have played throughout history. The Queen of England, after all, wouldn’t look nearly as regal without her velvet and jewel-encrusted crown, and fashion icon Jackie Kennedy revolutionized women’s fashion with her pillbox hat in the 1960s.
Here are several other famous hats throughout history that carry weight and significance.
Native American Headdress
Native American Headdresses (sometimes called war bonnets) are one of the most honored items in the Native American culture, and many Native Americans believe that the headdresses possess spiritual and protective powers that deferred harm from the wearer.
The eagle feathers that adorned the headdress were acquired through bravery, service to the community, or diplomacy, and they weren’t given willy nilly. A member of the tribe had to do something particularly noteworthy (such as be the first person to make contact in a battle and get out alive and unhurt), so it wasn’t uncommon to get through life and only receive one or two feathers.
It’s important to note that as incredible as these headdresses are, they are a sacred part of the Native American culture, so only those people who earned the right to wear one should ever wear it.
The bicorne was fairly common in the military during the times of Napoleon, but he put his own distinct flair on it. Instead of wearing it the way it was usually worn (corners pointing to the front and back), Napoleon wore his side-to-side so that he would stand out better on the battlefield. Talk about branding! The narrow shape of the bicorne made it easier to carry under your arm when you weren’t wearing it, and the style is still part of some ceremonial garb to this day.
When people think of the pith helmet, they either think of people on safari, soldiers in Vietnam, or postal workers. The helmet was made from the fibrous shola plant, a spongy, white wood (some compare it to Styrofoam) that originated in Southeast Asia. Shola wood can be harvested and pressed into different shapes, making it ideal for both intricate artwork and sturdy headwear.
The helmet was lightweight, breathable, had a wide brim, a high crown, and was covered in fabric. The wide brim kept the sun off the wearer’s face, and a mosquito net could be draped around the brim to keep mosquitos and other insects off of the wearer. The hat is still in use for both military and personal purposes across the world.
Few hats are more iconic than Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hat. Measuring in at a whopping 7 or 8inches tall (depending on the hat he wore), this lofty hat made his already impressive 6’4” frame even more stately. It’s thought that he liked this style of hat because it made him stand out in a crowd, but history shows that perhaps it made him stand out a little more than he should. That said, he was also known to stash his speeches and other important paperwork in his stovetop hat, so in addition to being a fashion statement, it was also very functional.
Though cowboy hats originated in Mexico, they have become a symbol of the Great American West, but where the 10-gallon hat got its name is highly debatable. Even the most well-versed cowboys and historians can’t agree, though there are three generally accepted theories:
- Early movies and literature depicted the 10-gallon hat as a hat that could hold 10 gallons of liquid. This is the most common (and least likely) explanation for how the hat got its name because the weight of that much fluid would definitely destroy any hat.
- The Spanish word galón means “braid,” which, given the height of the ten-gallon hat’s crown, could mean that it’s tall enough for 10 hatbands to sit on top of each other.
- Roughly translated, tan galan in Spanish means “so handsome,” so its name could be in reference to the romanticized idea of cowboys being roguish and good-looking.
As it is, the world may never know.
More commonly thought of as a “princess hat,” hennins are the hats that little girls everywhere know and love. Their tall, cone-shaped profile with draping fabric is as much a part of the damsel in distress persona as her patience in waiting for her Prince Charming. This absurd hat could reach heights up to 32 inches, and it sometimes had veils that dropped all the way to the floor. The hennin started showing up in paintings in the 1400s. While the tall, pointed versions were around, royal women could also choose to wear a truncated hennin or divided hennin depending on their mood.
The Aztec people greatly revered birds – specifically hummingbirds and quetzals – and you can see it in their use of feathers inset into gold in their headdresses. Currently, Montezuma’s alleged headdress is on display in Vienna, and its impressive fan of around 220 brightly colored feathers is stunning to look at, even being several centuries old. The Aztecs had gold and silver in abundance, but they appeared to value feathers more because of spiritual and ceremonial reasons, which is why the depictions of great rulers and warriors often showed them wearing brightly colored, feathered headdresses instead of heavy, metal crowns.
Unfortunately, most headwear is symbolic nowadays, but these hats have definitely shaped history across the world.