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 summertim...

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    

Ladies Vintage Straw Hat Red Wide Brim Ribbon Band Easter BonnetVintage Antique 1950's Wide Brim Hat Ladies Woman's Classic Summer Sun HatVintage Joe Bill Miller Ladies Hat. Wide Brimmed Derby, Wedding, Formal. IvoryEdwardian Titanic Style White Eyelet Embroidery Organdy Floral Wide Brim Hat VtgHelen Kaminski Gray Anastasia Sweater Knit Wide Brim Sun HatJ.crew Burgundy Wide Brim 100% Wool Hat Size S/mVintage Retro Women Ribbon Wide Brim Faux Wool Felt Hat Floppy Bowler Fedora Cap1pc Coffee Vintage Men Hat Wide Brim Fedora Trilby Panama Gangster Hard Felt Eric Javits Beige Wide Brim Squishee Packable HatTilley Airflo Hat Khaki Wide-brim For Travel Golf Fishing Upf 50+ Size 7 1/8Vintage Retro Women Fedora Trilby Faux Wool Cap Ribbon Wide Brim Felt Hat BlackVintage Frank Olive For I.magnin Wide Style Incognito Summer Hat-fabulous ColorWomen's Jcrew Straw Hat Wide BrimVtg 7 Lot Wool Corduroy Velvet Pillbox Bucket Wide Brim Church Dress HatEric Javits Beige Woven Packable Wide Brim Bucket HatVintage Hat Wide Brim Red Sun Mod Glam Super Model Asymmetrical Beach Pinup Vtg Christian Dior Paris Chapeaux Dark Rich Black Velvet Wide Brim Women Hat EucVtg 50s Baby Doll Bonnet Wide Brim Cap Hat Fancy White Nylon Ribbons Clover LaceSkin Pink Wide Brim Kentucky Derby Sun Hat Wedding Tea Party Church Bohemia CapVtg Ladies 50's 60's Brown Wool Felt Wide Brim Fedora Hat M 22" CircumferenceKentucky Derby Wide 5-1/2" Brim Layers Floppy Feathers Net Floral Hat Blk PinkVtg Jacqueline Ferrar Black Straw Wide Brim Hat Netting Silk Roses Goth WeddingChampagne Wide Brim Kentucky Derby Sun Hat Wedding Tea Party Church Bohemia CapBronze Wide Brim Kentucky Derby Sun Hat Wedding Tea Party Church Bohemia CapVintage 80's Couture Designer Adolfo Red Wool Wide Floppy Brim Hat Feather BandByther Beige Modern Classic Folded Top Wide Brim Soft Wool Mountain Fedora Hat NGreen Women Kentucky Derby Formal Wide Brim Church Dress Wedding Velvet Hat A389Vintage Women’s Navy Blue Felt Wide Brimmed Hat, “geo. Bollman 100% Wool ” Vintage White Hat W/black Patent Leather Accent Frank Olive Wide Brim ElegantBlack Felted Wool Derby Bowler Wide Brim Hat Floppy Knot Hipster Minimalist ModGrey Wide Brim Kentucky Derby Sun Hat Wedding Tea Party Church Bohemia Cap1pc Sapphire Bohemia Sun Hat Pierced Girls Floppy Straw Wide Large Brim SummerMen Brown Panama Hat Cap Fedora Trilby Wide Brim Hard Felt Size 7 1/4 OutdoorPink Huge Women Kentucky Derby Wedding Ascot Church Wide Brim Dress Sun Hat A371Beige Straw Wide Brim Sun Beach HatBlue Wide Brim Kentucky Derby Sun Hat Wedding Tea Party Church Bohemia CapBlack Wide Brim Men Hard Felt Hat Panama Hat Gangster Cap Fedora Trilby WomenAdorable Boho Hippie Vintage Wide Brim Woven Straw Summer Beach Garden Style HatBlack Fashion Women Ribbon Wide Brim Woolen Felt Hat Floppy Bowler Fedora Cap