For the H.A.T. TLAs, see HAT.

This article is part of the
hats and headgear series:
Overview of headgear
Hats; Bonnets; Caps
Hoods; Helmets; Wigs
Masks; Veils; Scarves
Tiaras; Papal tiaras
Crowns; Types of crowns
List of hats and headgear

Missing image
There are many different styles of hats

A hat is an item of clothing which is worn on the head – a kind of headgear. Hats are differentiated from caps by being more elaborate; hats have a high crown, a brim, or both and are larger than caps. A hat may be either placed on the head or, in the case of some women's hats, secured with hat-pins (which are pushed through the hat and the hair). Many hats are intended only for men or for women, while other hats are fashionable on both sexes. Purveyors of men's hats are called hatters and purveyors of ladies' hats are called milliners.

While in common usage a hat can refer to nearly anything placed on ones head, this article deals only with headgear with brims or that could not be considered any other form of headgear.


Physical attributes

Hats are made from a variety of materials, including wool and fur felt, twill, canvas, leather and straw. Fabric, leather and straw hats are specially constructed to be a certain shape. Most felt, straw, and some fabric hats differ only by cosmetics, determined by how the hat is blocked, or shaped by a mold or by hand. Blocking the hat shapes the crown by applying steam to the material to soften the fabric and, once finished and dried, fix the shape of the hat. If the hat's material is strong enough, it often can be reblocked to another shape.

Felt hats also vary by stiffness, depending on how much shellac is applied to the felt. Additionally, many soft wool felt hats are crushable or packable, meaning that the material can return to and hold its original shape even after being folded and put in a suitcase. Hats that are not explicitly advertized as such should never be folded as they may be permanantly damaged. Some straw hats can also rolled up to fit in a tube. Such a rolling practice was done for unblocked Panama hats, resulting in a distinctive crown with an narrow outward lengthwise crease.

Due to the round stiff nature of most hats, special hat boxes were created to store them when not in use. They are simple cylindrical cardboard boxes with a fitted lid and are often covered in colored printed paper. Several hats may be stacked upon each other if they are of similar sizes and styles. It is important to support the hat by the sweatband to prevent distortion of the brim by either stuffing the crown with tissue paper or using something to approximate a head.

A hat may also have a "snap" brim. In this case, the brim is constructed so that the front or back can be turned up or down or in alternate directions and hold this shape. Some hats may also feature a wire in the edge of the brim so that the wearer may shape the brim in any way possible.

When a hat is made, it is also blocked to a certain hat size. Generally, less expensive hats will be a named size such as small, medium, large, and extra large. Finer hats are more strictly fitted to a person's head and have a numerical size. A numerical hat size is merely the average diameter of the head, determined by measuring the circumference of a person's head about 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) above the ears, dividing by pi, and rounding to the nearest centimeter or eigth inch. Also note that in the UK, an equivalent hat size is an eigth inch smaller than in the US. Most hats can be stretched by up to two hat sizes.

Parts of a hat

  • Crown - the portion of a hat covering the top of the head.
  • Brim - a projection of stiff material from the bottom of the hat's crown horizontally all around the circumference of the hat
  • Sweatband - the inside part of the hat, this is the part which touches the top of the wearer's head
  • Hatband - a leather stip, ribbon, or string at the intersection of the crown and brim to hold the hat's size.


As with any other form of clothing, hats inevitably get dirty. Soft cotton or canvas hats can be cleaned as if they were regular clothing. Leather must be cleaned with special leather cleaning compounds. Straw hats can be cleaned with a mild detergent and water. Felt hats can be cleaned with a soft hat brush for dust, a damp towel for dirt, or ginger use of very fine sandpaper for persistant stains. Note that excessive use of sandpaper will permanantly damage the hat.

Major hat styles

  • Cowboy hat: Though thought of as a consistant style, cowboy hats are simply highly rugged and utilitarian hats. Made of felt or straw, they feature excessively large brims (as wide as four inches or more) to protect against rain and sun and some are even designed to hold water in the crown. Common styles include a safari style brim (with the brim turned down in the front and back) or a brim sharply curved up on either side. The last brim style has the effect of lowering the front of the brim to better protect the wearers eyes from the sun.
  • Sun hat: Generally made from straw, cloth, or both and featuring an excessively large downturned brim, this style is simply designed to keep off the sun for gardening, yard work, or lounging.
  • Urban wear hat: Hats found in urban or suburban areas are intended to be more fashionable than functional. They have smaller brims of three or fewer inches and are flashy and made to stand out. A typical hat found in the city has an upturned back and downturned front, a wide grosgrain hatband, neatly tied, and an optional feather. The upturned back is an innovation to prevent the collar of the wearer's coat from hitting the hat.

Additionally, if the wearer often uses a rifle, pickaxe, or shovel, the side that the implement is used on will be folded up and pinned or clipped to the crown to avoid knocking ones hat off.

Types of hats

For more hats, see List of hats and headgear.

See also

The neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote a book entitled The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.

Michael Nyman later wrote an opera with the same title, based on the case-study which gave that book its name.

External links

eo:Cxapelo he:כובע nl:Hoed


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