You may think a hat is just a hat. Beret, babushka, pillbox, porkpie, planter. Tyrolean, Tam O’Shanter, fedora, flat cap, fez – I could keep going. Still think a hat is just a hat?
Hats have been named for the job they do, the city they originated from, the person most associated with wearing them or just by the way they look, and sometimes that name is in a foreign (to us) language.
Cowboys wear cowboy hats. A sunbonnet is worn for sun protection. Gob is another name for an American sailor – so we have gob hats. Planter hats with their wide flat brims for sun protection are worn by people who work in the fields, planting, obviously. A watch cap is a beanie worn by sailors who keep ‘watch’ at sea. The watch cap has a cuff that can be pulled down over the ears to stay warm on any cold, damp night – at sea or in your own backyard.
Newsboy caps or newsies, for short, are round, 8/4 (sewn from 8 equal pieces), flat caps worn by the boys hawking newspapers around the turn of the last century. The name stuck. But the same cap was adopted by golfers and will sometimes be called a golf cap today. An over-sized version is known as an ‘apple hat’ .
The flat brim and four symmetrical pinches around the crown of the campaign hat are recognized all over the world, as military head-wear for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and drill sergeants in the American Army. Smokey the Bear borrowed the style from park rangers. And even the Boy Scouts of America favor the campaign hat. Were you counting? The campaign hat has five names – Police hat, Drill Sergeant, Smokey the Bear, Park Ranger, Boy Scout hat. Actually, six names, when you add ‘Campaign Hat.”
When I say, “Robin Hood” or “Sherlock Holmes” , bet you can’t picture them without their hats. What about Indiana Jones? His hat was a typical outback fedora – but it gained iconic stature after Harrison Ford wore it in Raiders of the Lost Ark and all four sequels (and I must add, the hat had a leading role in the last one). Sherlock Holmes wore a traditional deerstalker or huntsman’s hat. Detective work could be considered hunting – so very appropriate, Mr. Holmes.
Hat names that describe the hat are the best, a picture is drawn in your head as soon as you hear the name. Lampshade – a lady’s hat with a wide down turned brim, like a lampshade. Swinger – another wide brimmed lady’s hat, but flat and flared out – as if in motion. Porkpie – a man’s hat, short brim and round crown, similar in looks to a pork pie, an old English dish. Cloche – a French word for ‘bell’ describes a bell-shaped lady’s hat that fits close to the head. Pillbox – a small lady’s hat that looks like small (pill) box turned upside down. Bucket – usually a soft fabric hat that looks like a bucket upside down, worn by men and women. Flat cap – a flat, small brimmed round practical man’s hat or cap, also called ivy league (ivy, for short) or golf cap.
Don’t get me started on golf hats. Golfers are very particular about their hats. They just can’t agree on what that hat is. It needs to shade their eyes from the sun and ideally protect the neck and head. It could be a visor for some golfers (if they don’t care about their neck and head) or a flat cap for another. Straw fedoras or gambler style hats (variation on a western hat – wide, slightly turned up brim, round crown) are popular. But so are crushable outback hats like Tilley makes. As long as it doesn’t get in the way of their back swing….practically any hat is a golf hat.
It doesn’t matter what you call it, it matters that you wear it. Put something on your head. You’ll be glad you did.
About the author
Viki Spector has worked at Village Hat Shop since 1999 as Manager of the Old Sacramento store and in recent years, General Manager of all the 'brick and mortar' stores. Now turning her knowledge of the hat industry and retail to writing and editing for the online channel. Born in the Missouri Ozarks and landing in northern California via Chicago with a background in art, advertising and raising 3 kids, Viki brings a unique perspective to this side of the business. And people have always told her she looked good in hats.