History of Hats

If historians are correct in that hats were the first apparel items worn by humans, then perhaps the first profession was not what is commonly purported, but rather hat making. After all, the need to protect one's self from the elements may be even more basic than sex. There are in fact abundant examples, even on-going today, of native peoples weaving stems, roots, fronds, or leaves of various plants into headgear. On the winter hats side, the stories of the discovery of felt, a basic hat material, are legendary. We are aware of three different cultures that take credit for the discovery of felt [maybe all are true-a kind of parallel discovery, not uncommon in science]: 1. St. Clement (the patron saint of felt hat makers) discovered felt when, as a wandering monk, he filled his sandals with flax fibres to protect his feet. The moisture and pressure from pounding feet compressed the fibres into a crude, though comfortable felt. 2. Native Americans "discovered" felt by way of fur-lined moccasins, and 3. Ancient Egyptians "discovered" felt by way of camel hair falling into their sandals.

Considering either straw hat or felt hat making, the process is very labour intensive. Numerous hands are involved in the making of a hat. Preparation of the material and the initial creation of a hood or cone take many steps. From there, blocking and finishing further requires many operations.

To read about the history of different styles (the fedora, the top hat, the beret and more), that have made an impact on society and culture, see our Iconic Hats page.

Or if you want to see how the hat has made an impact on the art world, see our hats in art page.