Many of us associate the fedora with the Herbert Johnson creation worn by Harrison Ford in “Indiana Jones” or the rumbled felt hats that covered the sweaty heads of Jake and Elwood in “The Blues Brothers.” But the fedora had its debut resting on the curly locks of Sarah Bernhardt, who wore a sportier version of the famous chapeau in a late 19th-century play called, appropriately enough, “Fedora.”

In fact, it wasn’t until the 1920s that the fedora—a medium-wide brimmed felt hat with a pinched-in front and a crease down the length of its crown—became associated with menswear. Gangsters were some of the first men to claim fedoras, which were produced in a palette of colors that would do a peacock proud. Today, period photographs of these stern underworld types, struggling to project an air of respectability beneath their outsized hats, appear more than a little bit comical.

As it turned out, the funny pages were actually a good place for the hat, especially when worn on the head of comics crime fighter Dick Tracy, whose yellow felt fedora, trimmed with a black ribbon, was the character’s signature.

Hollywood also took to the fedora. James Cagney wore one in the 1938 gangster film “Angels with Dirty Faces,” as did co-star Humphrey Bogart. Costume designers subsequently put a lot of fedoras on Bogie’s head. In 1941, he made the hat famous in “The Maltese Falcon,” combining it with a long trench coat to create a pairing that remains classic to this day. Bogart also wore the hat the following year in “Casablanca,” most famously when he bids Ingrid Bergman adieu in the film’s climactic airport scene.

Another celebrity to favor the fedora was Frank Sinatra, who was often seen wearing a “Stingy Brim” Cavanagh throughout the 1940s and into the ’50s, when the hat’s popularity began to decline. Even Sinatra switched to a smaller pork pie, which was thought to be more flattering to his small frame.

During the middle of the 20th century, lots of hatters made fedoras, but a few elevated the form to an art. Borsalino of Italy was clearly one of the best. Borsalino felt hats were made out of pressed fur (hare, rabbit, muskrat) rather than wool, and the hats were blocked, reblocked, and shaped with exacting care.

Before Harrison Ford tapped Herbert Johnson for his hat in “Raiders,” the London-based company made hats for the British armed forces—from Bombay bowlers for Kitchener's troops f...

Cavanagh not only made hats for Sinatra, but it created an edge for felt hats of all types. Known as the Cavanagh Edge, this rounded rim can even be found on the hats of Cavanagh competitors, from Borsalino to Stetson.

Which brings us to Stetson. Though long associated with cowboy hats, Stetson has also produced several styles of Stetson hats, which today go by names like Whippet and Benchley.

Today everyone from guitarist Carlos Santana to trumpeter Wynton Marsalis to rapper Kid Rock to football and baseball star Deion Sanders wear fedoras. Sanders is such a fan of fedoras and hats in general that he leant his name to a line of felt hats made by Dobbs.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Des Chapeaux

Des Chapeaux

A French tribute to women's hats and other headwear from the 1940s... primarily magazine images, with some commenta… [read review or visit site]

American Hatpin Society

American Hatpin Society

Who knew there was so much to hatpin collecting? This site is all about great hatpin images - from recent hatpin co… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Dior Homme Aw05 Iconic Runway Rabbit Felt Fedora Trilby Hat 59 £500 Hedi Slimane1950's Vintage Stetson Royal Deluxe St. Regis Gray Felt Homberg-fedora Sz. 7 3/8Vintage Men's Cavanagh Brown Felt Fedora Hat 7 1/8"Vintage Fedora Brown Knox Fedora Felt Hat Men's Size 7 1/8 W/boxTrue Vintage Wool Felt Fedora Hat Mens 7 1/8 - Dan Fried Hat Co.Stetson Men's Hat 7 5/8 Royal Stetson Brown Felt Fedora New In BoxVintage Gray Felt Borsalino Alessandria Italia Fedora Hat Diamante 7-1/2Vintage Borsalino Peluche Fedora Long Hair Fur Felt Dove Grey 7 1/8F.r. Tripler & Co. New York Byer Rolnick By Appointment Dls Mayfair Men's HatAuthentic Gucci Bucket Fedora Hat Size LargeVintage Royal Brown Stetson Fedora W/ Multi Color Feather Detail Size 7 3/8Vtg Man's Fedora Old Hat Sz 7 3/8 Hollywood Prop Nyc 665 Broadway Adam ExecutiveVintage Knox Fifteen Fedora Hat New York Brown 7 1/4? Filson Gay Wool Packer Hat - Fedora (large)Vintage Men's Dobb' S Fifth Ave Fifty Light Gray Felt Fedora Hat 21 3/4"Vintage Mens Fedora Hat Sz 7 3/8 Straw W/ Twill Ribbon Band Crego's HarrisburgVintage Elsa Schiaparelli Red Felt HatMen's Gray Fedora Hat By Dobbs Fifth Avenue New York Size 7 5/8Vintage Dobbs Fifth Avenue New York Golden Coach 7 3/8 With BoxVintage Lee HomburgIndiana Jones Custom Raiders Fedora Made By Peter BrosAntique Vintage Bee Cool Straw Fedora Hat 7-5/8 In Great Shape, Enjoy CollecibleC.c. Filson Co Oil/tin Cloth Fedora Cap/hat Sz XlBlack Fedora Trionfo Black Hat Men Borsalino Used 2nd Hand Made In ItalyVintage Lederhosen, Fedora W Boars Hair , Knit Socks & Embroidered Leggings!!!Vintage Churchill Straw Fedora Hat Striped Grosgrain 7 3/8 Xl Oval Tripler RogueVintage Louise Green Ladies Elegant Fedora Cloche Black Hat Wool Velvet TrimDobbs Fedora Gray With Black Band 7 1/4 Stackpole Moore Tryon HartfordVintage Dobbs Midnight Blue Black Fur Felt Grosgrain Edge Fedora Hat Sz 7 1/4Vintage '60s Sheldon Felt Fedora Hat 7 1/8 From The Hecht Co, WashingtonDobbs 5th Ave Straw Fedora Sz 7 1/4Raffia Braid Classic Fedora Hat - Helen KaminskiGucci Fedora HatNew Single Shoe Lucky Brand Fedora Ankle Wedge Boots Black Amputee Size Left 7.550s Vintage Stetson "the Sovereign" Brown Velour Fedora Sz 7 3/8Vintage Champ Fedora Hat 7 1/4  green W Red Feather & Winged Horse Original BoxLuxury Hat: Vintage '60s Jcp Marathon Xxxx Beaver Cavanagh Edge Fedora Size 7Great Color! Vintage '50s-60s Stevens Beaver Blend Fedora Fur Felt HatMen 100% Wool Felt Crushable Indiana Jones Safari Cowboy Fedora Hats Black L/xlVintage '50s-60s Templeform By Stylepark Felt Fedora 7 1/8 - Sinatra Style Hat!Vintage Indiana Jones 1930's Style Wool Felt Fedora HatBorsalino Beaver Hat Fedora Italian Made In Italy Size: 7 1/2 Brown40s 50s Vtg Barlesoni Dark Blue Fedora Bogart Sinatra Style Made Usa Vguc 7 3/8Men's Champ 7 7/8 Felt Fedora Style Hat *nice*Vintage Men's Fur Felt Cavanagh Champ Kasmir Finish Fedora Hat 7 1/4Black Wool Fedora Size M Very Lightly Used!Pendleton Brown Felt Wool Fedora Hat Size LargeVtg John B Stetson Royal Deluxe The Open Road Lyndon Johnson Fedora Hat 6 3/4Men's Vintage Richman Bros Fedora - Sz 7Men's Euc Duluth Trading Co. Plaid Madras Bucket Hat Xl Fedora Cap Must See !!!Burberry Fedora Trilby HatVintage Mens Fedora Hat Sz 7-1/4 (med) Wool Made By Haband Co (gently UsedStetson Hat Black Fedora Size 7 Xxxx Beaver Brim 23/4Kangol Wool Fedora Type Hat Men XlVintage 1950's Champ "spectator" Fedora Porkpie Hat 7 1/8 - Rare TrimNwt Rag & Bone Beige Straw Elfort Hackman Fedora Hat Sz M $175 Genuine Aussie Chiller Hat - Size MediumToddler Boy's Gray Linen Fedora Hat - Choice Of Suspender And Bow Tie ColorVintage Austrian Fedora 100% Fur Felt Red Feathers 7 3/8"Fashion Fedora Women's Trilby Gangster Straw Panama Summer Beach Hat + Brand New