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    

Eric Javits Swinger Sun Hat Os Blk/wht Straw Broad Brim Upf 50+ $315 New Hrf012True Vtg 1940s Ny Creation Striped Tilt Top Wide Brim Hat Matching Purse Lot NosBlack Vintage Lady's Wide Brim 100% Wool Felt Bowler Fedora Hat Floppy Cloche 1pHat- White W/black Sinamay Wide Brim Kentucky Derby Wedding Bow Church Curl BowsAnthropologie 100% Wool Floppy Bohemian Feather Brown Hat One Size Vintage Womens Chocolate Brown Fedora Hat Bettye CoNew Era Detroit Tigers 2014 Postseason Patch Authentic Collection On-field 7 5/8White Women Wide Large Brim Floppy Fold Summer Beach Sun Straw Beach HatBlack Lady's Wide Large Brim Floppy Fold Summer Beach Sun Straw Beach Derby HatElegant Vintage Easter~church~sunday Spring Hat~wide Brim Navy~helen HarperWhittall & Shon Vintage Ladies Hat Red W/black Stones Wide Brim Laquered StrawA001 Black Womens Kentucky Derby Wide Brim Wedding Church Tea Party Sun Hat Borsalino Classic Fedora Hat, Black, Wide Brim Aprox. 3" Size Us 7 1/4-eu 58Chic Black Women`s Wide Brim Bowler Hat Wool Floppy Cloche Fedora Cap Beach SoftMen/women Camouflage Military Wide Brim Bucket Camping Hunting Boonie HatVery Nice Vintage Churchill Wide Brim Fedora 7 1/4 Neiman-marcus BlackGray Noble Womens Dress Hats Wide Brim Church Wedding Kentucky Derby Floral New Elegant Sexy White Floppy Debry 6" Wide Brim Summer Sun Beach Hat Black BandFloppy 6" Wide Brim Flower Band Ladies Natural Straw Summer Sun Derby Hat BrownBeige Lady's Wide Large Brim Floppy Fold Summer Beach Sun Straw Beach Derby HatNew Summer Bassic Deep Beige Straw Hat Cap Fedora Wide Brim Black Band UnisexTilley Endurables Hemp Hat Womens Sz. S NwtLot Of 5 Vintage Wide Brim Hats-flowers,rhinestonesBlue Organza Wedding Dress Hat Kentucky Derby Hat Women Wide Brim Church Hat 208 New Mens Panama Hat 100% Wool Round Wide Brim Fedora Feather Band Gray XlRoxy By The Sea Hat Women's Floppy Beach/sun HatDark Blue Lady Girls Wide Large Brim Fold Summer Beach Sun Straw Beach Derby CapNew Lady's Wide Large Brim Floppy Fold Summer Beach Sun Straw Beach Derby HatWhite Child Kids Girl Straw Cap Wide Large Brim Summer Beach Sun Hat And BagPink Lady Girl Wide Large Brim Fold Summer Beach Sun Straw Beach Derby CapMen Women Black Band Navy Blue Hard Felt Panama Fedora Trilby Wide Brim Hat CapHat-fushia W/black Sinamay Wide Brim Kentucky Derby Wedding Bow Church Curl BowsA045 Gold Womens Dress Hats Wide Brim Church Wedding Kentucky Derby Floral Vtg Adolfo Ii ~ Black Wool & Faux Fur Bohemian Hat Wide Brim Geo W Bollman ExcLot Of 5 Wide Brim Hats W/flowers/bows-some VintageSuper - 4 1/2"- Wide Floppy Brim 100% Australian Wool Black Felt Hat- One SizeBrand New Formal Derby Elegant Beige Brown Tan Flower Sun Floppy Wide Brim HatFree Ship Wide Large Brim Floppy Fold Summer Beach Sun Straw Beach Derby HatTilley Endurables Hemp Hat Womens Sz. M NwotTilley Endurables Gray Wide Brim Hat Womens Sz. M NwotSky Blue Linen Summer Womens Wide Brim Sun Hat Wedding Church Sea Beach3 Lot Vintage Ladies Hats Woven Straw Wide Brim Ribbon Trim Quality Hats Nice ~New Era 59fifty Nba Charlotte Hornets Basketball Hat Cap Size 8 New NwtNew Era 59fifty Mlb Oakland A's Baseball Onfield Ac Performance Cap Hat 7 NwtVery Cool Vintage 1970's Betmar Hippie Hat Brown Velour Wide Brim Feathers 22New Classy Sexy Elegant Sun Summer Beach Wide Brim Flower Hat Brown Natural BrnWomen's Vintage Natural Straw Hat 1979 Dried Flower Accent Excellent Camouflage Bucket Hat Wide Brim Hiking Mountaineer Hunting Camping Boonie HatYellow Women Wide Brim Floral Organza Summer Sun Hat Church Wedding Party A202Vintage Downton Abbey Style Ladies Hat Black Taffeta Net Ruffled Brim EdwardianAmish Black Wide Brim Dress Hat Boys / Mens Size SmallWomans "betmar" New York Black Roll Up Brim Hat~nice!Vintage 1960 Sexy Faux Leopard Fur Hat~wide Brim~funky~mod~hippie~Fd166f Ivory Straw Panama Cuban Round Wide Flat Brim Fedora Feather Band Hat MCamel Women Faux Wool Floppy Cloche Hat Fedora Derby Wide Brim Summer Beach CapA001 White Womens Kentucky Derby Wide Brim Wedding Church Tea Party Sun Hat Cute Ladies Colorful Floppy Summer Sun Hat! :)Vintage Women's Wool Hat Black 100% Wool Italy Accessory LadyBlack Women Wide Large Brim Floppy Fold Summer Beach Hat Sun Straw Beach HatCream Women Lady Bowknot Band Wide Brim Straw Hat Outdoor Sun Summer Beach Cap