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    

Borsalino Italy Alessandria Beige Felt Wide Brim Fedora Hat 7 1/8" In BoxStetson 3x Beaver Open Road Vintage Size 7 3/8 1947-1964 Fedora Felt SilverbellyVintage Stetson The Open Road Silver Belly 4x Beaver FedoraVintage Knox New York Box Mallory Stetson Hat Bowler Light Gray Clean Beaver Brand Felt Fedora 71/4 Pinkish Khaki ColorMib 1930s Dobbs 5th Avenue Black Fedora Mans Hat 7 1/4 W Christmas Card + TagVintage Men's Stetson Vita-felt Fedora Hat 7 1/4 Dated Jan 1943Vintage 3x Beaver Fur Stetson Xxx Open Road Fedora Hat / Look!Authentic Rag & Bone Kingsley Wool Fedora MBlack Stetson Fedora, Size 7 1/4Size 7 1/4 Vintage 1950's Knox "madison Ave" Silver-gray Men's Felt Fedora HatVintage Stetson Straw Fedora Size 7 1/4 Boys Gap Easter Outfit Shirt Pants Fedora Hat Xs/s 2tVintage 1950's Stetson “open Road” Royal Deluxe Western Fedora Hat 7 To 7 1/8Vintage Tan Resistol 3x Beaver Self Conforming Fedora Hat Lbj Style Large 7 3/4Vintage Knox Superfine Gray Felt Homburg Size 7 1/2John B Stetson Bowler, Derby, Fedora Hat Size 7 1/8 Philadelphia Pa VentilatedTory Burch FedoraClassic Mid- 2oth Century Style Stetson Panama Hat 7 3/8 Large Bnwt Never WornMen's Vintage Brown Wool Felt Fedora Hat Alexander New York Size 7 1/4Dobbs "golden Coach" "savoy" Size 7 1/8 Grey FedoraMid Century Mallory Wedge By Stetson Navy Felt Fedora Hat Size 7 1/4″Stetson Mode Edge The Sovereign Gray Fedora Hat & Trolley Cord - 7 1/8Vintage Churchill Ltd Fedora Hat Gray 7 1/4 Size In Original BoxCavanagh Hat Ny 7 1/8 Grey Fedora Feather Jacobsons With Stetson Hat Box Vtg 4x Beaver Stetson Fedora Hat 23", 7 3/8 Diameter Clean With FeathersChurchill Ltd The Bullwhip "dusk" Colored Fedora Style Hat Mens Size 7 1/4 VgcBailey Madison Fur Felt Fedora - 7 3/8 - Fits Like 7 1/2 - Senate GrayVtg Men's Champ Hat 6 7/8" Gray Feel The Felt Kasmir Finish Fedora Pharrell ExcRare Vintage May Company 1940s-50s New York Men's Gray Fedora Hat 7 1/8 MalloryVintage Stetson Royal Stetson Brown Felt Hat Sz 7 1/2 "lucky Fedora"New Brixton Midnight Black Lined Fedora Porkpie Player Hat Size M Last Ones!Lot Of Four Ladies Felt Hats Circa 1945, Fedora, Cloche, Halo Hat, Rolled BeretVintage 1950's Appleby Of New York Hat Size 7 1/8 Fedora SilverMens Biltmore Woodbine Black Felt Fedora Hat Size 7 1/4 Made In Canada Tory Burch Classic Walking Fedora. Color, Olive Branch One Size.Vintage Stetson Brown Felt Fedora Hat 7 1/8Vintage Lock & Co. Hatter Gray Black Trim Size 71/4 Leisure Fedora Hat Excellent1950's Original Vintage Vogue ~black Wool Fedora Hat~ Chic Stylish FeathersMan's Vintage Hat And HatboxStetson Vintage Fedora Chocolate Brown Bever Felt Hat Size 7 1/8-7 1/4 V N CVintage Mens Dobbs Fifth Avenue Brown Felt Hipster Fedora Brixton Gain Black Wool Fedora Size LargeSold Out Nwt Forever 21 Classic Panama Hat/fedora Women Trendy Boho SummerVintage Schoble Mens Hat Size 7 1/4" Beautiful Felt An RibbonLot Mens Hats Western Fedora Amish Cabbie Stetson Peerless Baron Vintage Mens 6 7/8 Vtg Beaver 3x Stetson Hat Fur Felt Dark Brown Derby FedoraFd219 New Mens Hat 100% Wool Round Wide Brim Fedora Ribbon Feather Band Black LLot Of 4 Men's Brown Fedora Trilby HatsVintage Hats Lot Of 7 1940-1960's Saucer Pillbox Turban Fedora Desinger Hats Lot Of 13 Vintage Mens Wool Fedoras Newsboy Cabbie Caps HatsMens 100% Wool Felt Indiana Jones Crushable Fedora Safari Cowboy Brown Hat~l/xlVtg John B Stetson Royal Stetson Fedora Hat Grey Felt 7 - 7 1/8 Red Wing MnAuthentic 1910s Vintage John B Stetson Fedora_archive Worthy_sweatband PortraitBrixton Castor Fedora Color: Brown Straw-olive Band, Size: M ,msrp $42.00Gain Felt Fedora Hat In Black Felt By BrixtonVintage Empire State Hats Fedora Milan Weave 6 7/8Vintage Stevens Black Beaver Hand Felted Mens Fedora Trilby Hat Sz 7Vintage Antique Italy Straw Hat, Made In Italy 6 3/4 Italian MensMens Black Fedora Scala Classico, Hand Made Large Dorfman Pacific Co Nice!