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 Dobbs Twenty Fedora Hat Size 7 1/2 Wide Brim Beauty!!!Kris Jenner H&m Purple Felt Wide Brim Fedora Hat Sz L/58 NwtKyc Vtg Rare Air Snapback Hat Supreme Bape Pyrex Stussy T-shirt Off-white NikeKris Jenner Black Saks Fifth Avenue Light Brown Straw Floppy Hat No Size NwtLot 15 Vtg Ladies Hats Straw Wide Brim Mod Bubble Bucket Floppy Great For PartyVintage Camel Womens Mens100% Wool Floppy Belt Fedora Felt Cap Wide Brim HatsVintage 40s Black Straw Floppy Brim Ruffled Heart Hat Netting New York CreationIndiana Jones Custom Raiders Fedora Made By Peter Bros100% Wool Felt Crushable Summer Sun Beach Wide Brim Ladies Floppy Black HatVintage Hand Crafted Unique Mens Natural Leather Buckle Western Safari Hat WvBeautiful Ivory Mink Fur Hat W/wide BrimKris Jenner Unlabeled Beige Black Stripe Floppy Sun Hat No SizeAuthentic Helen Kaminski 100% Raffia Made In Australia Wide Brim Tan Bow Sun HatWomen Folding Summer Sun Floppy Hat Straw Beach Wide Large Brim Cap BlackLadies Vintage Wide Brimmed Hat Bonnet Summer Spring Easter 15 In.big Free Ship Wide Large Brim Floppy Fold Summer Beach Sun Straw Beach Derby Hat100% Wool Felt Crushable Summer Sun Beach Wide Brim Ladies Floppy Camels HatBlack Vintage Lady's Wide Brim 100% Wool Felt Bowler Fedora Hat Floppy Cloche 1pNew Hot Classy Summer Sun Beach Floppy 6" Wide Brim Bow Band Derby Hat BlackOakley Men New Era 9fifty Metal Gas Can O-justable Square O Snapback Hat CapEric Javits Squishee Iv Wide Brim Cream Sun Hat NwtVintage Lot 6 Ladies Wide Brim Picture Hats Navy Ruffle Saratoga Southern WhiteHat- White X-wide Brim Kentucky Derby Church Beach Black / White Stripe BandYtpm Bucket Boonie Hunting Fishing Outdoor Cap -wide Brim Military Boonie HatRgg Chic Bucket Boonie Hunting Fishing Outdoor Cap-wide Brim Military Boonie HatVintage 1940 Wide Brim Tilt Derby Hat Felt Chamois Wire Netting Kitten BowWomen's Ladies Dress Wedding Hat Wide Brim Derby Gauze Hat Church Tea Party HatGiovannio New York Wide Brim Flower Dress Hat Black O/s $74 NwtA047 Red Women Kentucky Derby Wide Brim Wedding Church Beach Sun Hat Bow LinenVtg Women's Belvedere Hat Wool 1960s 1970s Wide Brim Floppy Hippie OrangeSummer Bassic Deep Brown Straw Hat Cap Fedora Wide Brim Black Band UnisexBucket Boonie Hunting Fishing Outdoor Cap -wide Brim Military Boonie Hat 04 PjRpp Bucket Boonie Hunting Fishing Outdoor Cap - Wide Brim Military Boonie Hat 10Sand Camouflage Camouflage Military Wide Brim Bucket Camping Hunting Boonie Hat Ytpm Bucket Boonie Hunting Fishing Outdoor Cap -wide Brim Military Boonie Hat 06Jeans Blue On Straw Kentucky Derby Frank Olive Wide Brim Ladies Women Church HatNew Elegant Sexy White Floppy Debry 6" Wide Brim Summer Sun Beach Hat Black BandA001 Black Womens Kentucky Derby Wide Brim Wedding Church Tea Party Sun Hat 3 Hats Mens Mitchell And Ness Chicago Bulls Mike Jordan Fitted 7 3/8 New Era CapWomen's Beige Dress Wedding Hat Wide Brim Derby Gauze Hat Church Tea Party HatBucket Boonie Hunting Fishing Outdoor Cap Wide Brim Military Hat Ht-0052-09 PhYtpm Bucket Boonie Hunting Fishing Outdoor Cap -wide Brim Military Boonie Hat 08Bucket Boonie Hunting Fishing Outdoor Cap - Wide Brim Military Boonie Hat 07 PfNew Summer Bassic Light Brown Straw Hat Cap Fedora Wide Brim Black Band UnisexRpp Bucket Boonie Hunting Fishing Outdoor Cap - Wide Brim Military Boonie Hat 12Bucket Boonie Hunting Fishing Outdoor Cap Wide Brim Military Hat Ht-0052-09 PfSummer Bassic Classic White Straw Hat Cap Fedora Wide Brim Black Band UnisexFashion Womens' Black Wide Large Brim Summer Beach Sun Hat With A Flower Vintage Geo W. Bollam Navy Wool Peachfelt Wide Brim Feather Hat Gatsby Boho SFd166f Ivory Straw Panama Cuban Round Wide Flat Brim Fedora Feather Band Hat XlSimple 100% Wool Hat, Grosgrain Ribbon Trim, Black, Made In Italy, L To XlVtg Wide Brim Women`s Island Straw Hat 22'' 5'' Brim 2 1/2'' High Scala Wide Brim Packable Cotton Sun Hat, BlackVintage Wide Front Brim Black Hat Skull FittedHiking Camping Fishing Outdoor Cap Face Neck Protection Block Cotton Hat Dut5Women's Folding Wide Visor Brim Sun Hat - San Diego Hat Co.Bucket Boonie Hunting Fishing Outdoor Cap - Wide Brim Military Boonie Hat 07 PrBucket Boonie Hunting Fishing Outdoor Cap - Wide Brim Military Boonie Hat 07 PhBucket Boonie Hunting Fishing Outdoor Cap Wide Brim Military Hat Ht-0052-09 PlYtpm Bucket Boonie Hunting Fishing Outdoor Cap -wide Brim Military Boonie Hat 10