OK... So we've covered a wide range of hats in previous blogs, specifically wide brimmed, multi-cornered and small brimmed varieties... now lets take a look at the history of hats with visors (brims) only, commonly referred to as
Peaked Hats - Like a baseball cap or a 'military style' hat
By the early 1800s, the battlefields of Europe saw the Shako hat replace the pointy Bicorne. A Shako is a tall, cylindrical cap with a visor and is made of felt and leather. Origins of the hat can be traced to Hungarian uniforms of the 1700s, which included a hat called a “csákó”. Variations of the Shako were worn by many European countries' military until the early 1900s, although mostly as part of a dress uniform in its later years.
A toned-down and more casual descendant of the Shako is the Kepi hat. The kepi is a hat or cap with a flat circular top and originally a square visor or duck bill. The name has French (kepi), and German (Käppi) origins. Although used by many European countries, a fairly tall stiff version of the Kepi has been used by the French army since the early 1800s, and today the hat is commonly associated with the famous French Foreign Legion. The Kepi is made with lightweight cloth suited for the hot climates of northern Africa and by the late 1800s they sported a more rounded visor, along with an optional neck shade.
Both sides of the US Civil war wore wool Kepi hats, or the similar but taller and more floppy Forage caps. Officers typically wore tall kepi hats while enlisted men wore flatter/floppier versions. Traditional Kepis were worn by the French and Germans during WWII, and the hat is still worn today in France as well as other countries, typically as part of a military dress uniform, and by police/security organizations. Soft Kepi hats, also known as Field caps or Patrol caps are worn today by the US and other military, as well as by the general public.
Bonnets were worn by women of all ages in the early 1800s. The shape and especially the size of Bonnets varied greatly, as does it’s decoration of ribbons and flowers. A typical bonnet tightly covers the back, sides and top of the head, and has a floppy brim that starts narrowly on the sides and is usually quite large at the front of the hat. By the early 1900s hats were moving towards a more unisex trend, so the Bonnet fell out of favour and was being replaced by wide brim style hats.
The British Flat Cap and it’s many variations were a common site in the mid 1800s, although it’s origins go as far back as the 1300s… The Flat cap is round with a small, stiff brim. Traditionally, a working-class hat, the Flat cap is also known as a driver, a cabby, a golf cap, or an ivy cap amongst others. US taxi drivers added snaps to the brim/body of the hat to store their receipts, and this snapped-down version is what we commonly see today. Fans of the Flat cap have no boundaries, having been worn in the 1960/70s by race car driver Jackie Stewart, and golfer Ben Hogan, as well as more recently by AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson. Many styles of this ageless hat exist today due to variations in size, floppiness and materials used.
While arguably not a true “hat”, the lightweight Pith helmet is worth mentioning due to it’s sun protective characteristics. Since it’s initial military use by the British in the mid/late 1800s, the Pith helmet has been commonly worn by military, police as well as civilians in areas with very hot climates like India, Africa / Middle East, southeast Asia and the Caribbean. Originally made from plant tissues called pith or sometimes with cork, covered by cloth, modern Pith helmet variations are made from pressed fibre or plastic. While made famous by the British, most European countries, as well as the USA have had their own variation of the Pith helmet over the last century. Pith helmets or modern ‘safari’ hat variations are still worn today in Vietnam and by vacationers to Africa, as well as by the military in England, Canada and the USA (USMC) on special circumstances.
Another hat worn by both the military and civilians over the years is the Peaked cap. The Peaked cap has a loose fabric crown with a firm short visor, or ‘peak’. Originating in the early 1800s in northern Europe and typically worn by working class men, the Peaked cap quickly obtained officer status in the Prussian and Russian armies. Actually, the Peaked cap has been worn by Germans, Austrians, and Britons of all classes throughout the 1800s. Similar in style/design to the Peaked cap, the Greek Fisherman cap has also been around since the late 1800s. The US army adopted the Peaked cap during the Mexican-American war in mid 1800s. Peaked caps continue to be worn today by British and US Navy officers, as well as other armies, navies, air forces and police forces around the world. The Greek Fisherman was made famous by John Lennon in the 1960s, and this hat remains popular with the general public today.
We would be remiss to not at least mention the unique double billed (front and back) Deerstalker hat that was made famous by the fictional character Sherlock Holmes. The hat was in fact a common warm hunting hat worn in England in the mid 1800s.
Last, but certainly not least is... the Baseball cap, which I assume requires no introduction, and little description. That said, there are a few styles currently in use. Some Baseball caps are form fitting with a heavily curved visor that fits the shape of the head and face, while another popular version has an oversized crown and sports a flat duck bill visor. The Baseball hat was created in the mid 1800s and featured a visor to protect the player’s eyes from the sun. Baseball hat structure has firmed-up over the years, from it’s soft and floppy origins. Originally made from straw and/or wool, Baseball hats are now made out of a variety of materials…
In the early 1900s, and revived again in the 1970s/80s, a flat topped ‘pillbox’ version of the Baseball hat, similar to a Kepi was popular. The Baseball cap probably became the most commonly worn hat by Americans in the 1970s and it retains that position today. While some Baseball caps are sized exactly for your head (with some elasticity), others utilize plastic snaps or Velcro straps to adjust the size. Trucker hats are basically baseball hats with mesh material covering the back three-quarters of the hat, helping to keep your head cool.
There are also a variety of “peaked” outdoor adventure sun hats on the market today, coming in a variety of shapes and sizes, made from an assortment of materials.
Our Urban Canairie hat is an example... Combining elements of a Kepi or pillbox baseball hat with strategically located mesh from a trucker hat. Urban Canairie hats are great for all outdoor activities, from hiking and canoeing, to sight-seeing and walking your dog!
In summary… The search for cool sun protection has brought us a wide variety of hats over the years, and while I believe that hats have evolved over time towards increased functionality and lightweight comfort, 'stylish' hats from generations ago also remain popular.
So - Before you go out and mimic your favourite music artist or show support for your favourite sports teams, remember that today, just about anything goes (except Bicornes I suggest). There is now a wide range of options to choose from, including panama hats, cowboy hats, fedoras, flat caps, Greek fisherman hats, kepis, pork pies, outdoor adventure hats as well as baseball caps.
I hope you've enjoyed this review of the History of Hats... Final Disclaimer: I’m sure I have omitted a number of hat styles from these blogs. I have taken a mostly "Western" view, and my focus has been on hats that provide sun protection, have made a big impact and/or are still around today… There were/are just too many to list them all!