Wide-brimmed hats can be made from felt or straw, can be stiff or floppy, and can range in style from casual to formal. One of the earliest types of wide-brimmed hat was the sombrero, which was brought to Mexico by the Spanish. Originally designed for horsemen, they evolved from flat-topped hats with wide brims to the round-crowned, brightly colored show pieces we think of today. A relative of the Mexican sombrero is a version made in Columbia called the vueltiao, which is woven of caña flecha (a type of palm) leaves.

In the United States, cowboy hats are a good example of wide-brimmed hats. In 1866, Stetson introduced its Boss of the Plains. With its wide, flat brim and straight-sided, round crown, the hat was an instant success with anyone working outdoors, especially in the West, where the cowboy era was in full swing.

The hats attracted fans for reasons that went way beyond mere functionality. By the 1900s, Stetson hats were fashion statements, worn by everyone from Buffalo Bill Cody to Will Rogers. For Hollywood, Stetsons were irresistible props. Silent-film star Tom Mix was famous for his big, white 10 Gallon Stetsons, whose enormous crowns suited the cameras, as well as Texas ranchers, who liked their imposing look.

Straw sun hats also usually sport wide rims. In some cultures (Victorian England, for example), these hats suggest idle summer days when a cool covering to protect the head against the heat of the sun was a requirement of civilized society. In other parts of the world, straw hats are necessities—workers in Asian rice paddies would not be able to get through their long days without them.

By the 1870s, simple straw boaters with flat tops and brims came into vogue for both men and women. The origins of the design are difficult to pin down, but the hats were also popular with Venetian gondoliers, who tied brightly colored ribbons around the crowns of their hats. In the United States, boaters were soon associated with Vaudevillians, yachtsmen, and horseracing enthusiasts.

Around the same time, on the other side of the planet in Australia, a company called Akubra began making rabbit-felt hats for farmers, cattlemen, and others doing battle with the country’s scorching heat. Akubra hats have since been worn and popularized by Aussies as different as golfer Greg Norman and actor Paul Hogan, who gained fame in the “Crocodile Dundee” movies.

During the Edwardian period and into the 1920s, straw hats for women were worn for playing tennis, while umbrella-brimmed sun hats in bonnet and skimmer styles were the summertime rage. By 1939, many of these hats would be known as “Gone with the Wind” hats, named after the wide hats worn by that film’s heroine, Scarlet O’Hara...

Two other collectible types of wide-brimmed sun hats are schoolgirl boaters, whose crowns are tied with wide black ribbons, and Queen Anne style hats, which featured a wide brim in the front that tapered to a narrow width in the back.

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    

Tillys Classic Mens Lightweight Airflo Hat Ltm6 - Size 7 5/8 Wide Brim Tilley Airflo Hat, Size 7 5/8Reinhard Plank White Wide Brim Straw Donna HatHelen Kaminski Albertine Size M Natural Braided Raffia Sun Hat Mint W Orig. BoxVtg 30s 40s Dobbs Panama Straw Fedora Hat Wide Brim 7 1/4 W/ Trusize Feature ExcTilley Airflo Hat, Size 7 5/8 KhakiNwd Goorin Lady Eileen Wool Beige Wide Brimmed Felt Cloche Womens Fashion HatTilly Airflo 7 5/8 Green Wide Brim Unisex Fishing Hiking Safari Hat With Manual Kourtney Kardashian Express Black Felt Wide Brim Hat Sz M/lLadies Women Summer Sun Beach Foldable Roll Up Wide Brim Straw Visor Hat CapWomen's Natural Straw Floppy Wide Brim Charms Summer Sun Beach Hat Ladies CapNwt Lilly Pulitzer Pink HatHelen Kaminski Coco Brown Crocheted Raffia Classic 5 Wide Brim Hat Ln Summer FunPatagonia Tan Sun Hat MediumScala Women's Black & White Wide Brim Sun Protection Hat-upf 50+, NwtFree Ship Wide Large Brim Floppy Fold Summer Beach Sun Straw Beach Derby HatUnique Wide Brim Helen Kaminski Raffia Hat. Worn Once. In Original BoxEric Javits Striped Grosgrain Ribbon Floppy Hat Gigi Dame IiPeruvian Connection Beaton Hat New Black Large Brim Adjustable Polyester RibbonVtg C.c. Filson Long Bill Hat Tin Cloth Outdoor Fishing Cap Hat MedBetmar 7-1/2" Ladies Beige Wide Brim Straw Flowered Ladies HatWomens Sunday Afternoon Wide Brim Adventure Gardening Hat Large "mint*Fox Racing Grey Bunt Snap Back Flat Bill Hat New With Tags "the Classics"New Unisex Bucket Hat Boonie Hunting Fishing Outdoor Sun Wide Brim Military CapPink Lady's Wide Large Brim Floppy Fold Summer Beach Sun Straw Beach Derby Hat7 3/8 Resistol "gus" 5-x Beaver Wide-brim, Cowboy -new Mexico Movie Hat - SassWomens Fuchsia Pink Green Huge Derby Drag Queen Hat Flower Feathers AdjustableHat- White Wide Brim Kentucky Derby Church Bridal Wedding Full VeilVtg Retro Vogue Designer 1950s Black White Wide Brim Deco Cocktail Derby Hat WowVtg Retro Vogue 1950s Navy Blue Black Wide Brim Cocktail Derby Hat W RhinestonesLot Of 7 Wide Brim Kentucky Derby Hats Church Embellished Sheer Straw VintageWomen Ladies Fashion Floppy Wide Brim Wool Felt Bowler Beach Hat Summer Sun CapUnisex Sun Bucket Hat Boonie Hunting Fishing Outdoor Cap Wide Brim Military HatSexy Men Sheer See Through Boxer B013 Wide Brim Trunks Knikers Sk 33to38 L RedSummer Women Lady Hollow Wide Brim Beach Sun Hat Straw Floppy Bohemia Cap HotHot Lady's Wide Large Brim Floppy Fold Summer Beach Sun Straw Beach Derby HatBeige Lady's Wide Large Brim Floppy Fold Summer Beach Sun Straw Beach Derby Hat$275 Helen Kaminski Floppy Liseli Hat NougatVtg Men's Lynyrd Skynyrd Style Stetson Mallory Black Fur Felt Wide Brim Hat XlChicago White Sox Black On Black Mlb New Era 59fifty Fitted Cap Hat Size 8 1/8Unusual Vtg Retro 1950s Stunning Beige Wide Brim Cocktail Hat W Flowers NettingHat-dark Blue 7" Ribbed Wide Brim Kentucky Derby Church Beach Animal Print Band Black Womens Vintage Kentucky Derby Sun Hat Wide Brim Wedding Church RacingBlack Velvet Wide-brimmed Cloche Women's Hat Stylish FunBlack Summer Women Girl Sun Hat Face Neck Protection Uv Pvc Brim Foldable CapBlack Women Wide Large Brim Floppy Fold Summer Beach Sun Straw Beach HatNew Elegant Faux Wool Felt Wide Brim Bowknot Bowler Hat Cap BlackHat- White /blk 7" Ribbed Wide Brim Kentucky Derby Church Cruise Wedding FlowerSunday Afternoons Charcoal Nylon Waterproof Upf 50+ Cascade Sun Hat (medium) NewChicago White Sox Black On Black Mlb New Era 59fifty Fitted Cap Hat Size 8 1/8Dorfman Pacific Natural Rush Straw Wide Brim Outdoor Safari Bonnie Hat (medium)Fox Racing Pin Point Flex Fit Flat Bill Hat Size Xs-small New W/ TagsBeige Summer Women Girl Sun Hat Face Neck Protection Uv Pvc Brim Foldable CapNew Womens Trilby Straw Wide Brim Beach Cap Summer Outdoor Fedora Sun Hat Chic Women Wide Large Brim Floppy Folding Summer Beach Sun Straw Beach Hat CharmBucket Men Hat Boonie Hunting Fishing Outdoor Wide Cap Brim Military Sun Hat NewWide Brim Wool Red Hat With Hat Storage BoxRed Sexy Men Sheer See Through Boxer B013 Wide Brim Trunks Knikers Sk 33to38 LGucci New White Hat Without Tags Ladies Size Medium Helen Kaminski 100% Raffia Sun Hat Straw Provence 12 Handmade Madagascar