Men in hats

What happened to men and hats? Why did men stop wearing bowlers and derbys? Was there a sudden shortage of felt or whatever they were made of?

Seems like in every old movie, and even early TV shows, men are wearing hats. Not just businessman types either – they’re all in hats.

Anyone know why they went out of fashion?

I read in one of those “Bathroom Reader” books (don’t ask) that John F. Kennedy started the no hat trend. Apparently, it was a big shock that he appeared in public hatless, but soon it became a trend.

It’s a bummer, because I really like how men look in fedoras.

Thanks, Melanie. The timing would be about right for JFK to have started this.

I agree with you – wouldn’t mind if this fashion made a comeback. Hats are cool, on men and women both, I think.

Hats , as a fashion item for men, started dying out at the end of WW2.

Returning soldiers resented the military discipline they were under (draftees, ya know) & wanted nothing to do with formality in dress. The’no-hat-look’ was thus fashionable.
Brown suits, being the same shade as Army uniforms of the time, also went the way of the dodo.


I’d considered that as possible explanation too, but then I remembered all the TV shows where the characters still wore hats, clear up to the late 50’s. (Superman comes to mind.)

Your explanation is very plausible. Thanks.

I’m going to have to disagree with you, Dan. Men still wore hats hrough the late '40’s and 1950’s. I’m looking at my Classic Jazz calendar. Let’s see what we’ve got.

(Random selection)
Johnny Hodges, 1958, wearing a pork pie hat
Thelonious Monk, 1949, wearing a beanie
Clark Terry, 1953, wearing a beret
Dexter Gordon, 1948, wearing a fedora

Maybe that’s not the best way to prove the point, but I’m also thinking of “On the Waterfront” (the best movie, EVER), circa 1954. All of the men wore a hat in that movie.

I think the hat thing died out in the early 60’s (coinciding with JFK).

Also, I was under the impression that most of the returning soldiers were given a hero’s welcome and felt patriotic and proud of having “served their country”, that they were not bitter about having been drafted, etc.

I suspect that this was one of those cases where there were multiple causes for a trend and the trend was more slow in coming than is generally thought.

I suspect that the lesser tendency for men to wear hats (and a similar trend, the tendency for men to wear suits less often) began to take effect around the end of World War II. I think that a lot of trends that we now associate with the '60’s had already begun by the late '40’s, but they didn’t affect a majority of the population till the '60’s.

President Kennedy’s refusal to wear hats was probably what finished off hat-wearing as any sort of a general rule, but the trend away from men’s hats was well on the way before his administration and continued to decrease after his death. I think hat-wearing would have pretty much disappeared in the late '60’s anyway as the number of occasions on which men were expected to wear suits decreased.

As a guy who has been wearing fedoras for the past 13 years, I personally think it’s a shame that hats went out of style. But given that I’m the only person anyone I know knows who habitually wears one, I’m not anxious for it to come back in style either. It would irritate me if some clod decided I was following some trend, and I don’t want to have to resort to the weak apology, “But, I’ve been dressing like this for years, I swear.”

In any case, these days hats are seen as sort of a novelty item, so most of the ones you see are cheap $25-$30 models that are not really meant to last. Or, you could get one of those horrific canvas or stitched-leather models they sell at Wal-Mart. Either way, good luck finding a cleaner that does hats.

So we come from Kennedy with no hats to Clinton with baseball hats. I wear baseball hats in summer, and when driving. I prefer it to the visor in the car. But there is no formal hat that is in style. Russians wear fur hats for obvious reasons, weather.

I’m also an avid supporter of wearing hats, especially fedoras. The Russians know a thing or two about haberdashery as well. The red army surplus hat I got for $10 at a surplus store is not terrific for keeping my head and ears (what, you thought the weird sides were just decorative?) warm, but it’s also gotten me quite a few stares from local yokels thinking that they’re starring in their own personal version of ‘Red Dawn’. Then again, if the mens’ hat craze had died down, would we ever have heard the classic ‘Safety Dance’ from ‘Men Without Hats’?

Auntie Pam & Melanie:

Forget about how MEN look in hats. Women are absolutely SEXY in hats! I’m not talking about the off-the-rack baseball caps that every teenager and college girl in America is wearing; I’m talking about fashionable hats. Remember Molly Wringwald at the beginning of “Sixteen Candles”? I hope THAT trend comes back!

hee hee hee

Women’s hats range from the sublime to the ridiculous, even moreso than men’s hats. But women hardly ever wear even the good styles anymore

Honestly, I sometimes think the whole culture could use a wind-back to 1945.

We’ve got to get of ties.

Rid of ties (OOOPS!!)

My two funny hat stories:

My mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas about two years ago. I couldn’t think of anything except a fedora. I told her I wanted one, thinking someone from her generation would completely understand. She claimed to not know what a fedora is, and certainly not where to find one. I described it to her as well as I could, “You know it’s one of those 40’s hats that everyone wore that you apparently never noticed”, and told her the only place I knew that sold them was the army surplus store. That was the only place she could find one at.

Later on, I showed up at my employment agency on my way to an interview for an assignment they’d arranged for me. I thought I looked pretty dapper in my new black fedora and charcoal suit (actually the suit is too small since I got kind of fat, but I felt pretty good anyway). So I went in to discuss interview details with my employment agent, and before I left, she said, “You will take off that … hat won’t you?”

So, hats are apparently a “fashion joke” today, which means, yes, there will be a stupid fad for them in a year or two, and yes, we will be forced to say we were wearing them before they were cool. And my employment agent will think they were cool and never remember the above incident.

That’s what my crystal ball says anyway.

:::: Singing :::::
Americans dance on a dance floor
And the Spaniards they dance on a table
And the Russians they dance on a saber,
But the Mexicans dance on their hats!

There are Mexicans dancing on derbies,
There are Mexicans dancing on caps;
They just throw their fedoras
Wherever the floor is
And start doing horas and taps.

They don’t quit! They go on!
It’s a Mexican custom
To take hats and bust 'em
By doing a dance thereupon!

– With thanks to Allan Sherman

Markxxx wrote:

The hell we do. I’ve seen the alternative, and brother it’s pretty shabby.

Probably you automatically associate suits with some out-of-date notion of conformism. The fact is, most everybody is going casual. Those who aren’t wear suits that, let’s face it, look obligatory. I decided a long time ago that I was going to resist the banal lure of casual dress – the call of the mild, if you will.

The suit-and-tie is also anachronistic as a symbol of the bourgeoisie. Most of the bourgeoisie identify with the anti-suit sentiment, even while they’re wearing one. And have you seen how atrocious most modern ties are? They look like Jimmy Buffett album covers. They’re designed for people who don’t like ties to begin with, and so don’t know a bad one when they see it.

To really get the full effect out of suits, you have to make it clear that you don’t have to wear it, you want to. You can signal this in small ways, such as wearing a sharkskin, or a suit with piping. I myself have own a burgandy-cordoroy suit that makes me feel like a shag carpet when I wear it, but I like it because nobody would ever think I’m on my way to a board meeting.

The hat, too, is a good way to indicate that you’re after more than just a business look, since businessmen don’t wear them anymore.


I didn’t know those were the lyrics to “The Safety Dance!”

Yer pal,

Boris B…
You take your hat off when you walk inside, it’s the polite thing to do.

Actually those hats must be coming back because there were whole piles of them last time I was in JCPenny.

Wasn’t there a general trend of “dressing down” already going on.

I’ve been told that “back in the old days,” when a person “went out,” he or she really dressed “to the nines,” with coat, tie, whatever.

I don’t know at what point people started dressing less formally–I suppose we can always blame Stanley Kowalski.