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    

Helen Kaminski Multi-color Raffia Wide Brim Hat One SizeVintage Wide Brim Straw Picture Hat Garland Millinery Flowers Roses Pink RibbonNt Men's Vintage Style Genuine Wool Felt Wide Brim Fedora Pork Pie Hat Cap BlackDavid & Young 1955 Womens Black Straw Wide Brim Frayed Trim Sun Hat O/s BhfoEric Javits Lot Of 2 Squishee Wide Brim Hat Natural/black Nice AuthenticLot 20 Vtg Ladies Hats Straw Wide Brim Pillbox Cloche Church Flowers Hippie ModEric Javits Squishee Hat - Wide Brim - PackableVintage C. C. Filson Tin Cloth Wide Brim Packer Style Hat Size Large Chic Men's Vintage Genuine Wool Felt Wide Brim Fedora Pork Pie Hat Cap BlackVintage Retro Women Ribbon Wide Brim Faux Wool Felt Hat Floppy Bowler Fedora CapUv - Sun Block Outback Hat-upf/ Spf 50+ Wide Brim Shapeable-adjustable-tan-largeWine Womens Derby Floral Wide Brim Church Dress Outdoor Sun Hat A323Summer Ruffle Floral Kentucky Derby 7" Wide Brim Layer Floppy Hat Beige BlackWomens Face Saver Upf/spf 50 Uv Sun Block Wide Brim Tennis Sports Hat-blackBlack Fashion Women Ribbon Wide Brim Woolen Felt Hat Floppy Bowler Fedora CapVintage 40s 50s Wide Brimmed Black Velvet Hat With Green Hat PinFacesaver Cap *upf 50 Uv Sun Block Solarweave-face Saver-wide Brim Hat-whiteLancaster Wool Black Hat By Ernie Wide Brim Vintage Kentucky Derby Carriage Tea Party Wedding Wide Brim Hat Pink Flowers, Pearls NeBlack Womens Dress Church Wedding Kentucky Derby Wide Brim Sun Hats A344Purple Womens Dress Church Wedding Kentucky Derby Wide Brim Sun Hats A344Gray Women Dress Church Wedding Wide Brim Feather Sun Floppy Hat A337Black Women Dress Church Wedding Kentucky Derby Wide Brim Feather Sun Hat A265A115 Orange Women Church Wedding Kentucky Derby Wide Brim Straw Summer HatVtg Deborah Ny Black Straw Wide Brim Hat Silver Sequin Wedding Halloween 22"Men's Cuban Style Fedora Trilby Hat Panama Wide Brim Cap Sun HatBlack Womens Church Wedding Kentucky Derby Crin Wide Brim Sun Race Hats A343Cool Men Cowboy Hat Fishing Cap Wide-brim Handmade Tibet Brown Skin Velvet HatsWomen Summer Large Wide Brim Visor Hat Sun Foldable Roll Up Floppy Cap C032 PuA002 Brown Womens Dress Sun Hats Wide Brim Church Kentucky Derby Wedding OrganzaColorful Women Wide Brim Casual Stripe Folding Canvas Sunscreen Sun Hat Cap B483Women Outdoor Anti-uv Sun Hiking Fishing Wide Brim Cap Neck Face Cover Hat NavyVintage Retro Women Fedora Trilby Faux Wool Cap Ribbon Wide Brim Felt Hat Black