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    

Vintage Royal Stetson Stratoliner Gray Fedora Hat 7 3/8 Wide BrimAuthentic Bailey Tomlin Tan Straw Wide Brim Green Pink Lily Designer Fashion HatAntique Edwardian Victorian Wired Roses & Ecru Lace Brim Hat Wedding Bridal Borsalino Alessandria Superior Quality Pure Fur Felt Wide Brim 7 1/4 5.5 Ponti Fun Vtg 50s Green Mesh Garden Party Brimmed Hat Pink Roses Millinery Flower TrimHat - Black Sinamay X-wide Brim Kentucky Derby Church Races Funeral FeathersDashing 1912 Edwardian Velvet & Fur Hat/wide BrimHelen Kaminski Beige Raffia Straw Tie Wide Bendable Brim Floppy Sun Beach Hat Auth Eric Javits Tan Squishee Braid Hat With Pink Polka Dot Tassel Ribbon BowHat - White W/black Trim Organza X-wide Brim Kentucky Derby Church Dress Akubra Australian Wide Brim Hat Pure Fur Felt, Beige W/ Brown Leather Trim Sz 58Helen Kaminski Multicolor Raffia Straw Stripe Tie Sun HatWonderful! Vintage 50's Wide Brim Cartwheel Hat Ex Condition!Vintage Womens Frederick & Nelson White Cartwheel Hat Wide Brim Audrey HepburnVintage 40s 50s Sheer Navy Blue Horsehair Braid Wide Brim Hat 23Hat -red 6" X-wide Brim Kentucky Derby Church Cruise Society Scalloped FlowerVintage Women Men Unisex Leather Belt Warm Fedora Wool Trilby Cap Wide Brim HatsPucci Signature Pink Wide Brim Beach Sun Hat Sz Ii / M Nwot09 New Sexy Classy Summer Sun Beach Floppy 6" Wide Brim Derby Church Hat BlackRare!!! 1940's Original Wide-brimmed Hat. Rust Colored Straw.Vintage Pendleton Wide Brim Indy Fedora, 100% Wool (a196-022)Vintage Edwardian Downton Abbey Wide Brim Furry Ostrich Feathers Berries HatNew Red White Flower Kentucky Derby Church Wedding Wide Brim Wave Dress HatVintage 40s 50s Black White Tulle Netting Wide Brim Platter Hat Dior's New LookBlack Womens Vintage Kentucky Derby Sun Hat Wide Brim Wedding Church RacingCharlotte Hornets SnapbackRag & Bone - Floppy Wide Brim FedoraBlack White Kentucky Derby Church Wedding Wide Brim Wave Black Dress Spring Hat1930's Striking Vintage Straw Hat, "toy Topper" Exc. Cond.A115 Black Women Church Wedding Kentucky Derby Wide Brim Straw Summer HatFox Racing Men X-fighters Red Bull Core 210 Flexfit Fitted Blue Hat Cap ApparelFd166f Brown Straw Panama Cuban Round Wide Flat Brim Fedora Feather Band Hat LHat -white /black Trim Sinamay Wide Brim Kentucky Derby Church Dress Curls Mens Ventilated Brimmed Hat Size X-large Xl Khaki 7 1/2-7 3/4 CoolingA047 Hot Pink Women Kentucky Derby Wide Brim Wedding Church Beach Sun Hat LinenHat - Red W/white Trim Sinamay Wide Brim Kentucky Derby Church Dress Curls Summer Ruffle Floral Kentucky Derby 7" Wide Brim Layer Floppy Floral Hat BlueNew Sexy Formal Derby Elegant Black Flower Sun Floppy Church Wide Brim Hat 1 Sz*worn Once* Vintage Whittall & Shon Silver Wide Brim Derby Or Church Hat (straw)Hat-red Wide Brim Kentucky Derby Church Cruise Races Dress Society FlowerLadies Hat Box Covered With Wide-brim Hats And HatstandsHat -lavender Wide Brim Kentucky Derby Church Dress Cruise Ruffle FlowerOutdoor Mesh Cap With Uv Sun Protection Flap Khaki NewLovely Spring Summer Women's Dress Hat Wide Brim Floppy Sz 22 Great Color SchemeBlack Womens Vintage Kentucky Derby Sun Hat Wide Brim Wedding Church Racing009 New Hot Classy Summer Sun Beach Floppy 6" Wide Brim Bow Band Derby Hat BlackNew Church Kentucky Derby Red Hat Feathers Wide Brim Dress Wedding Tea Party Vintage 1940s Hat Wide Brim Straw Boater Velvet Trim Alice MayLady Church Kentucky Derby Hat Organza Wide Brim Dress Wedding Tea Party GrayOutdoor Mesh Cap With Uv Sun Protection Flap Olive NewA115 Purple Women Church Wedding Kentucky Derby Wide Brim Straw Summer HatA115 Hot Pink Women Church Wedding Kentucky Derby Wide Brim Straw Summer Hat Vintage Ladies Casual Natural Color Wide Brim Hat With Black AccentsA047 Yellow Women Kentucky Derby Wide Brim Wedding Church Beach Sun Hat LinenDorfman Pacific Co Handmade Safari Jungle Mesh Wide Brim Strap Hat Sun Shield XlNew San Diego Hat Company Women's Black Ruffle Floppy Hat009 Elegant Hot Sexy White Sun Floppy Formal Church Wide Brim Derby Fashion HatFd166 Classic White Straw Panama Cuban Round Wide Flat Brim Fedora Band Hat LKentucky Derby, Wide Brim, White, Hats, White Hats, White Hat, Large BrimHat - Gray Sinamay Rolled Wide Brim Kentucky Derby Church Dress Rosette