The hat: between utility and fashion

headdress  or  hat  is an item of clothing that was born and evolved for different purposes: the need to cover one’s head for heat and heat or for rain has been accompanied over the centuries by the social purposes covered by headgear. We will cover millennia of history in a few lines: from the ancient Egyptians to the present day, looking at an accessory that  has always been infected by fashion .


Before civilization, at the time of the first men there was no headgear, the use came with agriculture and pastoralism. The man covered his head with  pieces of fur  wrapped to protect himself from the cold and bad weather.

Ancient Egypt

The first purpose of covering one’s head was certainly the practical one of defending oneself from the scorching sun of North Africa, although it quickly took on different connotations. Certainly very famous are the headdresses used by the pharaohs of ancient Egypt or the precious tiaras used by the queens. In Egypt, the use of hats had above all a social and religious function: both pharaohs and priests wore them. The pharaoh’s headdress in particular represented the union of upper and lower Egypt. The period of all the statues and depictions of the pharaohs is easily identifiable thanks to the hat worn:  a symbol of sacredness and nevertheless of power, the sacred narratives of ancient Egypt specified that the headdresses were given to the royals precisely by the gods to establish their representatives on earth.

The hat at ancient Greece

The ancient Greeks used a pointed headdress similar to a cone that was tied under the chin with laces. The material used for this headdress, called  causia  or  galerus , was felt or leather. The first real hat was pear and the  petasos  which was composed of a shaped dome and a very wide brim. In this period the use of the hat was reserved for travels and travelers.

The Romans don’t cover their heads!

Among the ancient Romans,  the use of a headdress was considered decidedly unmanly . The only exception is made in case of rain but using the hem of the toga to protect the head. In general, women adorned their heads with a purple ribbon or, at most, with a bandage in the shape of a triangle called  tutulus  placed on the forehead. Not even among women, who were not required to be manly, did the use of a hat or headdress ever go out of fashion.

The actors of the theater of Greek comedy and tragedy used the classic Greek headdresses, considered however  exotic  and props.

The hats and the Christians

The ancients always tried to attribute inventions to some character. Thus the invention of felt was attributed by Christians to the apostle  James , brother of John the Evangelist. It is said that Giacomo was looking for a way to have more comfortable feet during long journeys to spread the Christian doctrine: between the foot and the sandal he put some tufts of wool that became hard with sweat and pressure, thus giving rise to the felt. San Giacomo thus becomes the protector of hatters  and hats.

The middle Ages

During the Middle Ages the use of the hood spread  : a hooded cloak used by both men and women and churchmen. It was used by all social classes but the material used for its realization distinguished the social class.

Towards the end of the fourteenth century we find the first real hats. The hat becomes an object of fashion and vanity of the noble classes of all Europe.

The cap was also born in this period  , defined as a flattened headdress with or without a brim, made of cloth or fabric. Reinforced by iron mesh sewn inside, they were used for military purposes. The distinction between cap and hat was very clear in the sixteenth century, so much so that there were two distinct guilds. Women embellished the hats with intertwined colored ribbons and flowers. With the use of wigs then, the hats took on ever greater dimensions.

With the Gothic influence, hats with sharp ends were born, which are associated with shoes with very long tips.

From the nineteenth century to the present day

The 1800s marks a turning point in the use of hats both in fashion, culture and art: felt becomes the undisputed protagonist for men’s headgear, with various experiments up to obtaining fine felt from rabbit, otter and beaver fur. For women, on the other hand, the  bizarre  and  extravagance  of headdresses were in fashion.

In the twentieth century we observe the birth of the  bowler hats , the  straw hats  and the  floppy  used throughout the century.

Nowadays, sport and fashion greatly influence our headgear, especially among women.