While seasonal trends may come and go, hats never truly go out of style. Dating as far back as 3,000 B.C., hats have made their mark in nearly every culture, industry and era because of their incredible range of style and function. Some designs have proved to be timeless and even iconic. Styles such as fedoras, sun hats, baseball caps and berets always seem to have a place in modern couture and streetwear, while others are cycled in and out of the spotlight.
Whether you prefer to make a statement or play it low-key, there's a hat for every occasion. The key is choosing the appropriate headwear that elevates your ensemble and provides adequate protection for your skin from damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays. This guide will demonstrate the differences between types of hats and hat materials, so you never have to second guess your style.
The Different Types of Hats
The word "hat" is immediately associated with whatever styles are currently on-trend. However, there are more than 100 types of hats in the world. While many of them may not be applicable for specific events, lifestyles and personal affiliations, you're still left with plenty of options to choose from. Being well-versed in headwear designs comes down to knowing the differences and purpose behind each style.
Many hats were created with specific purposes in mind. Functional headpieces, like cowboy hats and helmets, are used to protect the wearer from the elements and work hazards. Others are strictly worn for ceremonies, like mortarboards and academic caps. Fortunately, in the world of fashion, you're only limited by your ability to adapt these styles to match your aesthetic and express yourself to the world.
From classic styles to bold designs, consider this guide your official education in millinery.
Not to be confused with the necktie, an ascot cap, also called a "Cuffley" or "Lippincott" cap, is a hard men's hat that has a similar shape to a newsboy cap. Unlike the soft flexibility of a newsboy, ascots are made from a single panel of wool or felt that maintains its round crown shape. Rather than stitching together multiple cuts of fabric to create the hat, ascots are seamless and made from just one cut of fabric.
Ascots are typically worn in the winter, though straw ascots make for a great summer accessory.
Easily the most recognizable and common headwear, baseball caps are a universally loved wardrobe staple. Many types of caps fall under this category, including snapback, cycling and trucker hats. Originally worn by baseball players starting in the 1860s, a baseball cap is a soft hat that features a rounded crown and a stiff medium size bill in the front.
Many caps are accompanied by a logo in the front and often have an adjuster in the back that allows the wearer to fit the hat to their head size.
Usually adorned in the fall and winter months, a beanie is a fitted wool or cotton brimless hat. It's constructed from triangular panels of knitted fabric joined together at the top of the crown and are often topped with a button embellishment. While most beanies are made from cloth or felt fabrics, they can also be made from leather or silk.
While the basic pattern and shape of the beanie remain the same, it's gone through its share of variations. Long stocking hats, whoopie caps and toques are all different types of caps that fall under the overarching "beanie" genre.
Seen atop the heads of artists and military personnel alike, the beret has a classic Parisian silhouette that's maintained its popularity since its mass production in the 1800s. They're easily identifiable by their soft, round structure and flat crown, with a bit of extra material to achieve that desired pouf.
Because of their flexible shape, berets can be styled in a few different ways. As a military accessory, they're often worn tilted to the side when paired with a uniform. However, painters and poets have also tailored their berets by laying them flat across the head, tilted to one side and pushed to the back of the head. Berets can be found in a range of colors and materials, including wool, leather and suede.
A boater hat is known by many names, including skimmer, basher, canotier, cady and gondolier. While it's a well-loved, simple style that reflects the quintessential essence of Venetian gondoliers, few fashionistas actually wear it. Boater hats are semi-formal summer hats made from a stiff sennit or straw-like material that became popular in the late 19th century and early 20th century. It's characterized by a flat brown and brim and is often embellished with a ribbon around the base of the crown.
Boonie hats were common during the Vietnam War, and are often depicted in movies and television shows by soldiers stationed in tropical climates. A boonie hat is made from a soft fabric, like cotton or polyester, and features a wide brim and flat crown.
Military-grade boonie hats typically have loops sewn into the crown to hold foliage for additional camouflage and a strap to keep the hat secure in place. Bucket hats are a variation of boonie hats, with softer brims that face down.
The bowler hat was first associated with the British working class in the 19th century. However, in the 20th century, they became more popular with businessmen and bankers. In fact, it wasn't until the 1970s that the bowler faded from mainstream fashion trends. Bowlers are hard, round felt hats with narrow brims. A bowler hat is also referred to as a derby or bob hat. Don't confuse it with a woman's derby hat, which is a formal decorative hat.
A Breton is a women's hat that first appeared in the 19th century, with a design that derived from agricultural workers in western France. The round, sometimes domed, crown and the thick, upturned brim is usually made from a malleable material, like straw or felt. While the style is seen less today, it was previously worn by high-profile personalities, such as Jean Shrimpton and Princess Margaret. It was an especially fashionable piece to wear during summer activities.
First created by milliner Caroline Reboux in 1908, cloches were a 1920s staple. The fitted, bell-shaped cap became so popular that couture designers like Edward Molyneux and Jeanne Lanvin opened their own production shops solely to manufacture them. These hats had so much influence that they inspired the cropped hairstyles that also defined the decade.
A cloche hat is meant to lay low on the forehead so the brim lands just above the eyes. Although cloches are typically made of felt, summer styles are often made of straw or a similar material. Designed as a versatile headpiece, cloches can be worn as-is or embellished with beads, lace or ribbon for formal occasions.
For those who love to make a statement, fascinators are designed to make the wearer stand out. Queen Marie Antoinette used ostrich feathers to decorate her headpieces, leading the way for outrageous ornamentals to become a symbol of aristocracy and status. Today, fascinators are donned by royals and celebrities at special events and weddings. They can be as simple as headbands with bows and embellishments and as glamorous as large sun hats with enormous brims.
Love them or hate them, fedoras have held their status as one of the most popular hats in history since their original production in the late 1800s. They were adopted as a symbol of the Women's Rights Movement and soon after were sported by Edward VIII, the Prince of Wales in the 1920s.
The iconic shape has been used to inspire new styles, like the homburg, but the original design of the fedora has a soft brim and indented crown that's often pinched in the front. Other variations feature teardrop and diamond-shaped crowns and center dents. The fedora is an undeniable classic in men's and women's fashion.
Made popular in Europe and the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century by newsboys, flat caps are recognizable by their rounded caps and small, stiff front brims. The hat originated in the British Isles and was often made of wool, tweed or cotton with an inner lining for warmth. Newsboy caps offer the same design with a rounded top and button.
Although the style fell out of popularity in the 1930s, flat caps have soared in popularity, especially in women's fashion in the 2000s. Today, the style is still worn by trendsetters like Prince William, David Beckham and Richard Blackwood.
Though homburgs have a similar design to the fedora, distinctive features make this headpiece stand out. A homburg is characterized by a crease that runs down the center of the crown and a flat brim that's shaped into a pencil curl. Homburg hats are typically fashioned with a wide silk grosgrain ribbon around the crown and a ribbon-bound trim along the brim.
Donned by the esteemed likes of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and Hanako, Princess Hitachi, the pillbox hat saw its height of popularity in the 1960s. The modern pillbox hat was invented in the 1930s by milliners, but the unique shape can be traced back to the Roman Empire and Middle Ages. A pillbox is a small hat with a flat, straight crown, upright sides and no brim. Its namesake is the small cases that pills used to be sold in.
The simple design was the epitome of elegance in the '60s, so additional adornments were unnecessary. However, sometimes a veil was paired with the pillbox for weddings or funerals. Pillbox hats were often made out of velvet, wool, mink and other furs.
Don't let the name fool you — pork pie hats were supremely popular during the Great Depression, and even became the signature look for silent film actor Buster Keaton. British and American women wore the original pork pie hat in the late 19th century. The design featured a small circular hat with a narrow, turn-up brim and low domed crown with a slight crease. It was usually fashioned with a ribbon, bow or feather, and made from materials like straw, cotton and felt.
Also known as the "floppy hat," sun hats aren't just a summer must-have, they provide maximum protection when your skin needs it the most. Sun hats are characterized by their large brims that shade the face and shoulders, casting flattering shadows to highlight the angles of your face. Typically made of straw or pressed fibers, the sun hat is usually reserved for holidays and outdoor lounging.
Note that not just any large hat is considered a sun hat. As a general rule, the brim of a sun hat is at least 4 inches in width for maximum shade.
Not to be confused with the fedora, the trilby hat was a favorite of wealthy British men at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. While a fedora features wide, flat brims, trilby hats have short edges that are turned upwards in the back. They're also styled differently than fedoras, worn further back on the head instead of forward to shade the eyes.
Trilby hats were traditionally made from rabbit hair but eventually transformed into tweed, wool and cotton caps. The trilby slowly faded from modern fashion in the 60s and 70s when men's fashion turned towards current hairstyles instead of headwear. Trilbies gained some popularity back in the 80s as a nod to retro fashion, but these days, you likely won't find one unless you're looking.
Although visors are often associated with sports, these stylish and convenient hats will instantly elevate any casual look. A visor is a crownless hat that leaves the top of the head uncovered, with a front brim that protects the face from sun exposure. The brim, or visor portion of the hat, can be curved or flat. It's fastened with adjustable Velcro or a snapback so you can easily and comfortably fit it to your head.
Who doesn't love a cowboy hat? This western hat is an American icon that's immediately recognizable no matter where you're at in the world. Despite its popularity in American culture, the cowboy hat is thought to date back to 13th-century Mongolian horseback riders. The signature look has a tall crown and wide brim and is usually made with leather, straw or felt. Different styles showcase flat and upturned brims and pinched and teardrop crowns.
While cowboy hats have stayed popular among farmers and ranchers, especially in the western and southern United States, they've also made their way onto the heads of public figures and celebrities. Nearly every star, from Naomi Campbell to the Kardashian clan, has sported this timeless accessory.
Different Hat Materials
When it comes to putting together a trendy ensemble, it's not enough to know hat styles' names and shapes. The material the hat is made of is just as important. Not all hats are created equal, and the quality of the material is a tell-tale sign of how well the hat will hold up when exposed to harsh UV rays and rainy days. These high-end fabrics will preserve the integrity of your outfit while providing optimal style and protection.
Wool is made of animal fibers, typically alpaca, llama, sheep or goat. Wool felts are composed of fibers that are matted together through steam and alkali. In its natural state, wool has a wax-like coating that makes it inherently water- and stain-resistant. Wool is regarded as a superior fabric because of its durability, moisture-wicking and resistance to wrinkles.
While wool is often used for winter garments because of its insulating properties, it's also a breathable fabric with air pockets that keep you cool. Wool is commonly associated with knitted hats, but it's been used in millinery for decades to create some of the most unique and remarkable designs we see today. Fedoras, berets, ascots and western hats can all be made out of wool.
If you're looking for a wool alternative, felt is the next best thing. Just like wool, felt is a cloth made by matting fibers together. However, these fibers may come from natural sources like fur or synthetic materials such as acrylic. Blended fibers that incorporate multiple materials are also common of felt. Fur felts are made of softer, finer materials like rabbit and beaver fur. A notable advantage of felt is it can be produced in any color and maintain its malleability.
Leather hats have continued to increase in popularity because leather is an incredibly durable and stain-resistant material. Leather is made from animal hide, typically cattle, sheep and goat. The highest quality leather is aniline, which is the softest, most supple and natural form of leather. Suede is also a form of leather that features a napped finish. Cowboy hats are often made of genuine leather, but you can also find leather flat caps, homburgs and berets.
Straw is perhaps the oldest and most common material used to make hats. Strains of straw vary in durability, color and quality, and are therefore used to create an array of styles. These strains include raffia palm, toquilla palm, seagrass, rush, wheat, Milan, sinamay, sisal, buntal, jute, hemp, maize and xian.
To make headwear, straw is woven or twisted in specific patterns. The result is a shapely hat that's light and inexpensive. They make for stylish summer pieces you can wear while eating brunch on a patio or at the beach.
Perhaps the most reliable and resilient hat material to date is Squishee. Squishee is a revolutionary material that looks remarkably like straw but is partially composed of recycled plastic. It was invented by Eric Javits in 1995 as a solution to ever-evolving lifestyle needs and concern for rising melanoma rates.
Unlike traditional hat materials, Squishee allows roll up or fold your favorite hats for travel without compromising the integrity of the hat. Regardless of how long it sits in your travel bag, your hat will still unfold into its original shape without any signs of wear.
With unparalleled sun protection and durability, Squishee has revolutionized the women's headwear industry. The material has even been used to create purses and beach bags, so you can continue traveling in style.
Shop Your Favorite Styles at Eric Javits
For more than 30 years, Eric Javits has transformed and redefined the standards of women's hats so you never have to compromise on quality or style. Whether you love a modern take on a classic design or one-of-a-kind exclusive styles, Eric Javits is the leading name in women's headwear and you can find a look you love.
With elegant shapes and cutting-edge materials, Eric Javits hats and accessories are second to none. Featuring patented Squishee technology, Eric Javits hats are the only designs that have superior durability, comfort and sophistication. Whether you prefer style or function, there's a hat for every occasion.
Shop our collection today so you can step out in style tomorrow.