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    

Vintage Stetson Open Road Hat 7 1/8 1950-60s Classic GrayMaison Michel Fedora Hat 1 Knox,1 Byron And 1 Towncraft Vintage Fedora Hat Sizes 7 3/8Mens Stetson FedoraVtg Mens Hat - Grey Felt Cavanaugh Edge Fedora - 7 3/8 Size - W/ Box - 50s-60s Vintage Stetson Twenty Five Selv Edge Dark Gray Fur Felt Fedora Hat 7 1/4Stetson Hat: Vintage With Fur FeltMaison Michel Fedora Hat Stetson The Centennial Hat/ Fedora 7 1/4 3 X Beaver Quality Selv-edgeVery Handsome Wide Brim Fedora Hideout Model 7 1/4 Aussie Indy Gun Club Look GcVintage 40’s Adam Royal €Vintage Dobbs Mens Fedora Grey Felt Hat With Cloth Band In Good Shape CleanMens Biltmore Eleganza Felt Fedora Hat Size 7 1/4 Vintage Men's Dobbs Brown Crushed Velvet Fedora Hat Size 7 3/8 Usa Vintage Straw Boater Hat Size 7 3/8Vtg Choc Brown Fur Felt Mens Fedora Hat 7 3/8-pristineVintage Champ Pork Pie FedoraBorsalino Straw FedoraTilley Fedora Brand New Hat 7 3/4, Sandy , Product Code: Tilltf1Authentic Pendleton Wool Fedora Hat Indiana Jones Style Size LargeOzzy Osbourne Signed Black Fedora - St Mungo's Broadway Woolly Hat DayStetson The Sovereign Caribou Mens Fedora Hat 7 5/8 Nib Stetson Hat Royal Stetson Size 6 7/8 Tan Chicago Stockyard Inn Vintage 50's HatStetson Madision Silverbelly 7 3/8 Felt Fedora HatLot Of 13 Vintage Old Mens HatsHall And Hall FedoraVintage Stetson Fedora Western Hat 4x Beaver Aussie Outback Safari Look - NiceVintage Stetson Playboy Black Fedora Hat With Black RibbonVintage Dobbs Fifth Avenue New York Pure Wool Olive Green Fedora Hat 7 5/8 UsaVtg Knox Twenty Custom Edge (new York) Fedora Dark Gray Felt Size 7 Long OvalVintage Style Biltmore Stetson/fedora Hat 7 1/8 Must See!Very Nice Used Stetson Whippet Fedora, 7-1/4, Caribu (gray) - Fur Felt -modernVintage 1940s Trilby Fedora Pork Pie Felt Wool HatVintage Stetson Key Club Fedora Style Hat Size 7 1/4Akubra Snowy River Imperial Quality, Fawn Size 7 ½ (60)Borsalino Traveller Water Repellent Fur Felt Fedora Size 58Stetson Straw Hat - Fedora - Panama Large (7 1/4 To 7 3/8)Bailey Of Hollywood Dark Brown Wool Fedora, Grosgrain Feathers X-largeVintage Men's Churchill Dark Blue Fedora- 7 3/8Vintage Men's Stetson Ivy League Brown Felt Fedora Sinatra Hat Size 6 3/4 - Nr Richman Brothers Fedora; Size 7.5; Dark Brown; Great Condition; Mens Dress HatVtg €Vintage Mens Hat Fedora Stetson Mallory 7 1/2 The Wedge Mod Accessories BlackGenuine Indiana Jones Dorfman Pacific Brown Xl Rigid Fur Felt Fedora Hat Nwot NrStetson Weathered Cotton Indi Safari Fedora Outback Hat Black Large New !Brixton Brown Twill Fedora Hat New Unused Fitted Adult Size X-large 7 3/4 Free People Clipperton Fedora 100% Wool Felt Black Hat BnwtVintage '50s Royal Stetson Teardrop Pork-pie Fedora Hat 7Orvis Men's Wool Fedora L (new)Fedora Hat. A Real Classic Cut. Beautiful DesignVince Camuto Women's Pebble Gray Adjustable Fit Hat Bnwt Fedora (sz Os) - $32.00Stacy Adams Black Pork Pie Hat*satin Lined 100%wool:fedora/trilby Feathr Band*xlScala Pronto Houndstooth Fedora Hat (for Women)Vtg €Vintage Swing 1940 Mens Brown Stetson Beaver Fedora Fur Felt Hat Sz 6-3/4 & BoxStetson Hat.red,fedora,vintage Late 60's.very Clean, Size 7/1/4Vintage Crofut & Knapp Men's Fedora Hat Size 7 5/8 Hughes Hatcher Suffrin W/ BoxMen's Vintage 1950's Smoke Grey Champ Kasmir Finish Fedora | 6 7/8 -7208 Trendy Mens Hat 100% Wool Round Wide Brim Fedora Satin Feather Band Brown LGodfarther Men's X L Brown Hat Timley Fashion By Park Royal 100% Wool