THE ULTIMATE HAT GUIDE TO HAT STYLES, TERMS, AND MATERIALS
Shopping for a new hat may seem like a simple task. However, a hat has dozens of features, styles and fits to accessorize your wardrobe. Finding the perfect hat is a fun experiment that lets you explore your own style.
Take a look at our ultimate hat guide to learn the anatomy of a hat and how you can find the perfect fit for you.
Why is this hat guide needed?
As hats have become more popular again, words like fedora, bowler, gambler, safari and others are becoming better known. The problem is that people are not always sure which style is which, and we often have people thinking they want one style when they’re really talking about another. Consider this your guide into the world of hat styles, crown shapes and hat materials for both men & women so you can become a hat expert!
Before we begin:
It is important to note that in the world of fashion, new and existing styles mix all the time. There are very minor differences between certain styles and terms like trilby and fedora that are nowadays pretty interchangeable where they used to be distinctive brim sizes.
Not everyone has the same opinion on a style. Even our manufacturers mix specific style names like the ones just mentioned. Additionally, there are hundreds of hat styles when you include the specifics like a bellhop cap or Napoleon’s famous bicorn. We are not diving this deep here, as you rarely see these hats nowadays.
With this guide, however, you can distinguish pretty much anything you see when you’re out and about. The styles listed below are the broad, popular categories that have been established over time and are ones that any respectable hat merchant will know.
How to find the perfect hat style and material: the ultimate guide
Every part of a hat has its purpose. Whether it's to offer comfort, provide shade or simply add aesthetic appeal, the different sections of a hat contribute to the wearer's overall experience. Before you determine which type of hat best suits the style and function you're looking for, it's helpful to be familiar with common hat terms and shapes, the most common hat materials and the different styles out there. These details can help you draw a distinction between similar hats, like the fedora and trilby, to determine which one is best for your needs. We've broken down the anatomy of a hat and supplied helpful information on different hat materials and terms you'll encounter when choosing your ideal style.
Anatomy of a Hat
The different parts of a hat can determine the shape, style and fit of these accessories. While each hat might differ in looks, they typically share the same anatomy to offer you the comfort and chic you desire. You can observe the different hat parts broken up into two sections — the exterior and the interior.
The outer parts of a hat provide the style and protection you need for your new favorite accessory. The exterior parts of a hat include:
- The crown: The most important feature of any hat is the crown. This part covers the head and sits comfortably for hours of comfort and style. The crown supports the other parts of the hat, so you can consider this the base of any hat you choose.
- Crown shape: The shape at the top of the hat can change how the crown fits on your head when wearing it. Cowboy hats, fedoras and gambler hats all have indented crown shapes that sit slightly above the top of your head. Baseball, bowler and cloche hats have a round crown shape to fit snugly on top of the head. Hats with no shape, such as beanies, berets and bucket hats, rest comfortably on the head without internal support to hold the hat's shape in place.
- Hat band: Some hats come with a ribbon band that rests at the bottom of the crown around the brim. The band offers flair and the chance to add a stylish feature to attach to the exterior of the hat.
- Hat decoration: With the help of the hat band, you can add extra features to the hat that give your favorite accessory a new look. Common hat decorations include a feather, bow, buckle and support for chinstraps.
- The brim: This outward expansion of the hat that covers the face is excellent for offering shade and protection from the sun. Some hats will have a brim that surrounds the entire crown, like cowboy and bucket hats. Others, like baseball caps, might only have a brim in the front. Brims come in different shapes, sizes and materials to serve the purpose you had in mind.
While the exterior of a hat offers you the styles you love, the interior provides the support to make these features stay intact while you wear the hat. The interior parts of a hat include:
- Underbrim: The underbrim refers to the underside of the hat's brim. This feature supports holding up the brim to protect your eyes and face from the sunlight. The material underneath the brim can sometimes match or differ from the exterior brim, depending on the type of hat you choose.
- Inner band: Sometimes referred to as the sweatband, the inner band supports the shape and fit of the crown on your head. With this small band that expands around the interior shape of the crown attached to the underbrim, you can enjoy the same fit of the hat you regularly wear for years to come. The inner band material usually comes in leather or synthetic leather.
- Inner liner: Some hats come with a comfortable inner liner that offers a soft touch if you plan to wear the hat for several hours at a time. Not every hat comes with this feature. Inner liner materials typically include silk, cotton, satin, velvet or synthetic mesh.
Using the various parts of a hat, you can choose from dozens of stylish and protective options to sport on any day of the week. Take a look at some common hat styles for you to explore.
The apple cap is a larger version of the newsboy cap as described further down the page. It is divided into eight panels and finished with a sewn button on top.Shop now
The Ascot cap is a variation of the ivy and flat caps and with a more rounded crown profile that is often stiffer and made from wool or felt.Shop now
The baseball cap is an American tradition and is one of the most common hats worldwide. Simple, casual and easy to wear, they are great grab-and-go hats. They have a short to medium size bill that can be curved or flat in front that is normally attached to 6-quarter panels ending in a button at the top.Shop now
Beanie / Stocking Cap / Watch Cap
The beanie is a knitted, close-fitting cap typically made of wool or cotton created to provide warmth to your head in cold weather. Many different variants have developed throughout the years, such as the long stocking cap. This style is the same as the beanie, just with a longer crown meant to be too large and hang off the top or side for more style than warmth.Shop now
The Beret is a round, soft, flat crowned style with extra material around the edges for a slight “poof." They are commonly made of wool, cotton and acrylic fibers and are stereotypically associated with painters or artists. They often have what is known as a short apple stem coming out of the top. You can wear them in many different ways, either flat across the top of the head or hanging to one side or the other. They have roots as militaristic garb, and a Special Forces division even uses the term in their name, the “Green Berets."Shop now
Big Brim / Floppy Hats
Big brim and floppy hats are exactly what the name implies. They have become more popular and fashionable recently and are great pool hats for women. These brims can get up to 10 inches but are usually between 4 and 6 inches. They come in various colors and are typically made of paper braids or tweed material because they are slightly stronger and can support the weight of the brim better. Most always the crown style is a simple unformed rounded shape.Shop now
Boater / Skimmer Hat
The boater or skimmer hat is a style that many love and few actually wear. Boater hats are often associated with sailing and boating events, barbershop quartets and men's formal summer wear during the late 1800s and mid-1900s. They are made of straw and have a small- to medium-sized brim, a shorter crown and a flat top. The crown typically comes with an embellishment of a two-tone ribbon. The hats worn by the Gondoliers in the canals of Venice are very similar, with the exception that they normally have a thinner and wider brim, and the ribbon extends off the back of the hat in two tails.Shop now
Bowler / Derby Hat
Movie theatre characters of the 1800s and early 1900s helped make bowler hats iconic. They are typically hard felt hats with a rounded crown and a short brim that is around 2 inches.Shop now
Bucket / Boonie Hats
While I have seen both spellings of the word in many different catalogs and Internet sites, the more common and proper seems to be the “Boonie” variation. This style, originally made popular in the Vietnam War, is comprised most often of cotton/twill/polyester/canvas and is a soft wide-brimmed hat that can be rolled up and easily packed. It features a flat crown on top, a wide floppy brim, a chinstrap and sometimes has sewn-in loops around the crown to stow small pieces of gear. The hat's most common brim size is between 2.5 – 3.5 inches.Shop now
The cloche has become a very popular style in recent years that comes in every material. It is a close-fitting bell-shaped style that is round at the top and often flares a little at the bottom. You will typically notice an embellishment around the crown.Shop now
The Duckbill cap is another more recent variation and is a hybrid style between an Ivy and an Ascot-style cap. It typically features a more rounded top towards the back that ends at the front in a more exaggerated down-sloping curve meeting the up-sloping bill. This formation creates a shape that looks similar to a duck bill, giving the style its name.Shop now
Following the royal wedding, the fascinator made a huge comeback, and suppliers couldn’t produce them quickly enough. The fascinator is a headband-style hat with a bow on top of a headband. They also refer to as “cocktail hats,” but the main distinction is that they are either worn with a headband or clipped to the hair.Shop now
Stingy – Classic – The fedora is a broad term that encompasses a variety of crown styles and brim shapes. Its classic good looks, the ability to suit a wide variety of people and the many celebrities seen wearing it only add to the appeal. It is characterized by a short to mid-sized brim with an upturn in the back. The front can be either turned up or down in styles that let you do both are called snap-brims. See also: TrilbyShop now
The fez is a surprisingly popular style and can trace its roots to Fes, Morocco. It has become more popular recently thanks to the “Dr. Who” TV show. Most commonly seen in red, it is a tapering cylinder shape that usually has a tassel on the top.Shop now
Fitted caps refer to baseball caps that measure in 1/8” increments for an exact fitted size that MLB players typically wear.Shop now
The Gambler style features a medium to wide brim of about 3 inches that typically has either a tight turned up lip around the edges or a slight turned up western flair at only the sides. It tends to have a flatter profile when looking at it from the side and is made in just about every material. The one distinct feature that defines the Gambler hat is the large oval shaped crown. Most are just rounded in the middle but a slight pinch at the center can also be found similar to that of an optimo style.Shop now
The homburg hat is an interesting style not seen too often these days. The overall shape of the hat is oval, with a turned-up lip around the brim of the style and generally curved upsides. The primary feature of the hat is the center-dent crown. Many movie fans refer to this hat as the Godfather hat that Al Pacino wore in the movie.Shop now
Ivy Caps / Flat Caps
The ivy cap and flat cap are a distinctive style that is growing in popularity among more fashion-forward and trendy youth. A low profile distinguishes the ivy cap with a slightly rounded top that extends to the front of the hat and is sewn to the bill. Sometimes the bill sticks out a little for a different look, while the crown and bill match perfectly other times. They come in any material but often consist of wool, cotton or polyester. It has the name “flat cap” because when laid on a table with the back of the style folded underneath it, it becomes perfectly flat.Shop now
Kettle Brim or Up-brim
A Kettle-brim hat is a women’s style, and though the name may not sound familiar, it is a hat most everyone has seen. They have a simple yet classic look and come in various materials. The style is distinguished by a symmetrical circular shape, a short to medium brim with a half to one-inch upturn at the edges and a rounded crown. Often they are accompanied by a bow or a ribbon around the crown and can have chinstraps.Shop now
The lifeguard hat is a very popular style due to its large brim and great sun coverage. The material consists of a type of straw, be it raffia, rush, palm fiber or other. Most lifeguard hats feature a center-dent crown shape and a wide, flat or down-sloping brim. One important thing to consider is though they are known for sun coverage, most lifeguard styles do not feature UPF protective fabrics.Shop now
Mao, Private or Military Cap
The Mao or private cap is military-looking and essentially a minimalist, stubby baseball cap. This style features a short brim of 2 and 3 inches and a short crown around the same size with a flat top. Both men and women wear these caps which are a great alternative to the standard baseball cap.Shop now
Newsboy Cap / Paperboy
The newsboy cap style refers to having 6- or 8-quarter panels that form into a larger, rounder version of the traditional ivy or flat cap. It finishes with a button atop it or a snap on the brim.Shop now
Novelty Hats / Caps
Novelty hats are styles that are mock-ups of the original thing, such as a fake policeman cap, fireman or mad hatter hat. These are for fun and costume.Shop now
Outback / Aussie Hat
A wider brim characterizes the outback hat, usually starting at about 2.5 inches and a flatter, slightly less parabolic profile than the safari. Often there is a slight upturn on the sides, giving it a western or “outback” feel. Crown shape may vary, but you will most often see a teardrop shape, also called a “C” crown.Shop now
The Panama hat is one of the more beautiful and timeless styles around. Technically, Panama hats come from Ecuador, not Panama, but the widespread use of these hats during the construction of the Panama Canal granted them the name we all use today. Panama hats are not one style. Instead, they are characterized only by their material, Toquilla Straw.
A Panama hat can be made into any shape or style using its distinctive straw and, depending on the fineness of the fibers used, can be priced up to tens of thousands of dollars. All that said, when people talk about the Panama hat they tend to think of the wide-brimmed plantation or fedora style that is most common.Shop now
The Peruvian beanie or cap is a style easily recognizable by the two tassels hanging off the bottom of the ear flaps on either side. It shares characteristics with the beanie but has two large and long ear flaps for extra warmth and a bit of style. They usually have a decorative weave and a pom on the top.Shop now
The Pith helmet is a classic design that is nowadays a symbol that United States Postal Service workers wear. Many variations of the style exist, from the stereotypical version seen at the right to the cloth-covered ornate versions that explorers and militaries of days past have used. The term “Pith” comes from the material, a tissue in vascular plants' stems. They can also consist of cork, toyo straw or paper.Shop now
The porkpie is a stylish hat typically worn today by the more fashion-forward. It has recently seen a rise in popularity due to the show “Breaking Bad” since it is the trademark hat of the main character Walter White. The primary characteristics are the crown shape, a flat-topped oval with an oval indention that defines the form.
This style can have a medium brim but most often has a small brim, called a “stingy brim." The “stingy brim” term more often now refers to the brim size and describes other styles with a short brim.Shop now
Race Hat / Derby
Race or derby hats are the big ornate styles you see on the opening days of the horse races. They are also known as Derbys though it is a contextual term because it is more traditionally associated with bowler hats.Shop now
The safari style is often confused with the pith helmet some post-office workers use. The safari style is known for its gently downward sloping brim all around, a medium to high crown and a center dent crown style.Shop now
The term “snapback” refers to the cap that can adjust using two plastic pieces that snap together at the back in various lengths.Shop now
Steam Punk Hats
While not a traditional style with history, this category has recently become popular with Burning Man and other festival attendees and is worth noting. Steampunk is a fictional genre based in earlier Victorian periods, and the hats fit in with older styles, such as top hats and bowlers adorned with various brass ornaments like clock wheels and chains.Shop now
The tam hat has increased in style as of late and can be found in many varieties. The base is a loose-fitting, crocheted weave-style beanie hat worn on the back of the head. Aside from some men with dreadlocks or longer hair, this is a style that women usually wear.Shop now
The top hat is another iconic style that today is more often used as a novelty or in a formal situation. The two main distinguishing features are a large, sometimes convex crown and a short to medium brim. Aside from these, there are many variations in the style.Shop now
The Trilby is similar to the fedora in shape and style, except that the brim is relatively short. Trilby and fedora are often interchangeable terms when talking about the styles, so you will usually find what you are looking for when asking for either of these hat types.Shop now
The trucker cap is like the baseball with the exception that it is all mesh except for the front two quarter-panels. It usually has a snapback (see term below) adjustment.Shop now
The visor is a great style coveted for its simplicity and packing ability. The only real criteria for a visor is that the top of the head is open, essentially a hat without a crown. There are now full brims that look like donuts and 3/4 brims with a split in the back for long hair.Shop now
Western or Cowboy
The cowboy hat is an American icon and can be immediately recognized as such anywhere around the world. They are typically made in felt, leather, or straw and have very wide brims. The more iconic shape shows the brim turned up at the sides but they are also sometimes flat. Along with brim size variation, they can have many different crown shapes as well including the pinch crown, “C” or teardrop, and center dent among others. In summation, the most telling factors of a cowboy hat usually tend to be a taller than usual crown and a wide brim up sloping brim.Shop now
Common hat terms
Hat styles, features and fits come in various terms that most hat wearers may not know. Get to know some of the most common hat terms that can make your shopping experience easier.
A stingy brim is a term describing a hat with a very short brim, usually about 1-2 inches long.
A common misconception about packable/crushable hats is that you can fold, crush and generally beat on a hat, and it will always return to its original form. However, this idea is simply untrue. Hats with a “packable/crushable” tag can generally withstand wear and are not so fragile that they will break when packed or crushed. Additionally, a semi-rigid hat or one with a stiffer brim or crown may require some steam and a little love to return to its original form. The exceptions to this would be bucket and Boonie hats or soft styles typically seen with women’s hats. In any case, always think of the packable/crushable term as durable rather than a miracle hat that will always be perfect.
When a hat description says “shapeable,” it means that the plastic wire normally woven inside brims now has a metal wire that allows you to augment the shape of the brim in any way you choose.
When hats offer sun protection as one of their traits, it means that the plastic wire normally wove inside UPF — not to be confused with SPF — stands for “Ultraviolet Protective factor” and refers to a few factors. These factors include the material's weave, color, weight, stretch and wetness.
Additionally, to achieve ultraviolet protection, fabrics are sometimes treated first with protective material and then it is up to the other factors to determine the actual UPF rating. The ratings are as follows: brims have a metal wire that allows you to augment the shape of the brim in any way you choose.
Most common crown shapes
The crown is another name for the top portion of the hat. This area sits on your head above the brim. The dent or pinch of the hat, also called the crease, refers to the indentations made along the crown's sides, back and front. Here are a few common crown shapes you may encounter.
Tear Drop / C-Crown
This crown type features a teardrop-looking shape when viewed from above. Hat enthusiasts call this a “C” crown because the rear of the crown looks like a distinct C.
The center dent style is as it sounds, with a single crease down the center of the crown with a typical depth of 1-2 inches.
The diamond crown is a less widely seen style but looks as it sounds when viewed from above. It is a wider crown shape typically seen on contemporary fedoras.
Oval / Round
The oval or round-shaped crown is most commonly found and is a distinctive attribute of a Gambler hat. Other hats use this style as well.
Top hats, the Spanish zorro style, fez and pork pies have a variation of flat tops that describe the hat's cropped surface.
MOST COMMON MATERIALS
Whether you're a passionate hat collector or merely want to learn more about the different hat styles, you should know that there are numerous fabrics for hats.
Knowing your cap's fabric is essential — it's a prime indicator of how you should care for your hat. You can even use certain techniques to stretch your cap based on its material. Not every stretching technique will work well for every hat style, so it's important to choose the right approach. Otherwise, you could harm or damage the cap's material.
Cotton hats are usually quite durable and often packable and crushable. They come in a wide variety of colors and are usually softer.
Felt is created by rolling and pressing wool and applying moisture and heat, making the fibers mat/interlock together and creating the felt fabric. It is soft and can come in just about any color.
There are a great many varieties of straw used to make hats. They vary in strength, fineness, durability and color. Raffia straw creates packable and crushable hats and straw from the toquilla palm makes Panama hats. Most straw can weave into a hat, but the best ones are hand-picked for evenness of color, texture and pattern.
Fur felt is created similarly to wool felt but from finer and softer materials. Most fur felt hats come from rabbit, beaver and hare pelts. Fur felt is incredibly soft, and when you touch one, you can feel the difference in quality from wool felt.
Polyester hats typically combine with a cotton material to provide a highly durable hat option.
Toyo / Paper Braid
Toyo or paper-braid hats are constructed of finely woven paper material. The paper is woven into strands just like straw and then formed into the desired style. They have been increasing in popularity due to their reduced cost and reasonable durability. While this material can withstand quite a bit, it is still not as strong as straw or raffia and also is more difficult to steam back into shape once crushed. This is certainly a material to keep away from water.
Shop at Hats Unlimited Today
Whether you have a particular hat style in mind or want to try something new, Hats Unlimited has plenty of options. We're a family-owned and -operated business with multiple retail locations across Southern California. Founded in 1994 as a retail store in Ventura, California, we've committed ourselves to selling hats in as many colors, styles and varieties as possible.
With over 10,000 hats in stock on our website, 1,000 current styles, top designer hat brands and an emphasis on exceptional service and value, you know you can count on us. With numerous helpful hat accessories to choose from, Hats Unlimited has the perfect headpiece for you that can fit any stylish fashion trend. We are continuously updating our selection of hat styles to meet your needs. Take, for instance, a name synonymous with quality hats — the ever-popular and iconic Stetson Hats brand.
Shop our vast inventory of kids, women's and men's stylish hats today to find the perfect fit for you and your family! If you'd like help choosing the ideal hat style, fill out our online contact form, and we'll be more than happy to help.
Want to learn more tips on how to measure your hat size? Click here!