Hats are renowned to be a distinguishing feature of a man's style. Some say it represents a fundamental part of a man's persona; either coordinating with their charm, should the man be a charmer, maybe trying to bring about some sort of mystery which often results in creating a lasting impression on a woman's first encounter with a man wearing a hat; or it could simply be to do with a bad hair day.
Men's hats have not yet faded with time. Though the style always evolves, there is no Hat era, it is continuous, worn by many all over the world and it is even considered symbolic in many leading religious groups. Turbans for Sikh followers, Taqiyah for Muslims and Birretta for Catholics are amongst many symbolic head attire within religion. The diversity in men's hat styles can go back as far as cavemen time, used to protect their head from the bitter cold weather as they hunted and foraged for food.
During these primitive times and cultures, the hats were nothing like they are today. They were simply a head covering which protected the men from the elements rather than posed as a fashion statement. Early Egyptians, Greeks and Romans used to wear hats as a symbol of their rank. Those who were given specific hats or helmets, were recognised immediately for being a part of a higher ranking and status, gaining much notoriety and/or respect.
The most commonly used material for men's hats have been felt and is believed to have been first used in the nomadic tribes of Asia, who had used felted sheep's wool for making clothes and building tents. This material was much more durable, strong against the forces of the elements and would keep the hat lasting for a longer time. They were also easier to maintain because of their durability and kept ones head warm during the winter months.
It would not be until the 14th and 15th century that women's and men's hats became more of a fashion item and were more commonly worn in casual societies. Hats for men were an important part of their identity and appearance, as it was considered a vital part of their attire. Women's hats were not considered an important part of their fashion until during the 18th century, whereby hats were custom made for every outfit and came available in many colours and styles.
By then there was a larger number of materials used for producing hats, such as velvet, taffeta, silk, beaver, felt and leather. The range of men and women who wore hats differed greatly too, with women in the upper or middle classes wearing hats. Men tend to wear hats as a necessary accessory rather than as a symbol of status, which further highlighted the small differences in the hats that were worn by men and women. This meant that women were also inclined to wear hats that were very masculine looking, especially if they were from a middle classed background.
Towards the 19th century men's hats were beginning to see a turn in its symbolic appearance, with the top hat being sported by men of the upper or middle classes. This style represented the bourgeois or aristocratic male. Trilby hats were associated with intellectual, artistic and country officials, also representing democracy and revolution.
To this day men's hats have developed and taken on bored their own masculine style, not representing any classes and portraying a more fashionable trendy appearance. Many of the previous styles are still prevalent in some countries, however most are more modern and have many different materials used to create different affects.
Anna Stenning is an expert on men's hats having seen how they have changed over the years, both in their appearance and what they represent.