THE ULTIMATE HAT GUIDE TO HAT STYLES, TERMS, AND MATERIALS
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 be assured you know what you’re talking about!
Before we begin:
It is important to note that in the world of fashion, styles are crossed and new things are tried 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 certain style names like the ones just mentioned. Additionally, there are literally hundreds of styles of hats when you include the specifics like a bellhop cap or Napoleon’s famous bicorn. We are not diving this deep here, as you will rarely see these types of hats nowadays. With this guide however, you will be able to distinguish pretty much anything you will 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 apple cap is simply a larger version of the newsboy cap as described further down the page. It is divided into 8 panels and finished with a sewn button on top.Shop now
The Ascot cap is a variation of the ivy and flat caps and is characterized by 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 seen on people’s heads around the world. 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. Throughout the years many different variants have been created 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 more for 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. Many times they have what can be described as a short apple stem coming out of the top. They can be worn 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/or 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 more often are between 4 and 6 inches. They come in a variety of colors and are typically made of paper-braids or tweed material because it is slightly stronger and can support the weight of the brim better. Most always the crown style is the simple unformed rounded shape.Shop now
Boater / Skimmer Hat
The boater, or skimmer, hat is a style that many love and few actually wear. It is commonly associated with barbershop quartets, proper boating or sailing events, and men’s formal summer wear from the late 1800’s to mid 1900’s. It is made of straw with a small to medium sized brim, a shorter crown, and a flat top. It is typically embellished with a two-tone ribbon around the crown. 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
The bowler hat is an iconic style that is typically seen in movies set in the 1800’s and early 1900’s . Bowler hats cannot be mistaken. They are typically a hard felt hat with a short brim of around 2 inches and a rounded crown.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 most common brim size for this hat is between 2.5 – 3.5 inches.Shop now
The cloche has become a very popular style in recent years and is being produced 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. It is typically embellished 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 sloped bill. This forms a shape that looks similar to the bill of a duck giving the style its name.Shop now
Following the royal wedding the fascinator made a huge comeback and suppliers couldn’t produce them quick enough. The fascinator is a headband style hat that can be as simple as a bow on top of a headband or as ornate and large as one wishes. They can also be described 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. It’s 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 and 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 TV show “Dr. Who”. Most commonly seen in red, it is a tapering cylinder shape that usually has a tassel on the top.Shop now
The term “fitted caps” refer to baseball caps that are usually measured in 1/8” increments for an exact fitted size. Typically worn by the MLB.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 an oval, with a turned up lip around the brim of the style and generally curved up sides. The primary feature of the hat is the center-dent crown though. It has also been called the Godfather hat as it was seen on Al Pacino 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. The ivy cap is distinguished by a low profile 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 other times the crown and bill are perfectly matched. They can be made from any material but most often are constructed from 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 can be made in any material. The style is distinguished by a symmetrical circular shape, a short to medium brim that has 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 as well.Shop now
The lifeguard hat is a very popular style due to it’s very large brim and great sun coverage. They are almost always made of some 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 cap or private cap is a military looking style and is essentially a minimalist, stubby baseball cap. Features of this style are a short brim of between 2 and 3 inches and a crown that is also short and around the same size with a flat top. These caps can be worn by both men and women and are a great alternative to the standard baseball cap.Shop now
Newsboy Cap / Paperboy
The newsboy cap is a style that is referred to as having 6 or 8-quarter panels that form into a larger, rounder version of the traditional ivy or flat cap. It is typically finished with a button atop it and sometimes it will have 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, or fireman, or the madhatter hat. These are for fun and costume.Shop now
Outback / Aussie Hat
The outback hat is characterized by a wider brim, 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 a western or “outback” feel to it. Crown shape may vary but most often you will see a teardrop, also called “C” crown, shape.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, Toquila Straw. A Panama hat can be made into any shape or style using it’s 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 the two large and long ear flaps for extra warmth and a bit of style. They usually have a decorative weave and many times have a pom/ball on the top.Shop now
The Pith helmet is a classic design that is nowadays a symbol and commonly seen used by our United States Postal Service workers. Many variations of the style exist from the sterotypical version seen at the right to the cloth covered more ornate versions that have been used by explorers and militaries of days past. The term “Pith” comes from the material they were originally made from which is a tissue in the stems of vascular plants but they are also made of cork and in present day many other materials including even toyo or paper.Shop now
The porkpie is a stylish hat typically worn today by the more fashion-fforward. 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. It is primarily characterized by the crown shape, which is a flat-topped oval with an oval indention that defines the shape. This style can have a medium brim but most often has a very small brim, called a “stingy brim” and can be called by this name. The “Stingy brim” term more often now just refers to the brim size however and is used to describe other styles with a short brim as well.Shop now
Race Hat / Derby
Race hats or derby hats are the big ornate styles that you see at the opening days of the horse races. They can also be called derby’s 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 that some post-office workers use. The safari style as called by manufacturers however, is defined by a gently downward sloping brim all around, a medium to high crown, and a center dent crown style.Shop now
The term “snapback” is used when the cap can be adjusted using two plastic pieces that snap together at the back in a variety of lengths.Shop now
Steam Punk Hats
While not a traditional style with history, this category has become popular as of late with Burning Man and other festival attendees and is worth noting. Steampunk is a fictional genre based in earlier Victorian time periods, and the hats are generally characterized by 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 for it however is a loose fitting, crocheted weave style beanie hat that is worn off the back of the head. Aside from some men with dreadlocks or longer hair, this is a style that is usually worn by women.Shop now
The top hat is another iconic style that today is more often used as novelty or in an extremely formal situation. The two main distinguishing features are a large crown that is sometimes convex, and a short to medium brim. Aside from these, there are many variations on the style.Shop now
The Trilby is similar to the fedora in shape and style with the exception that the brim is quite short or stingy. Trilby and fedora are commonly exchanged terms when talking about the styles so you will usually find what you are looking for when asking for either of these styles.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 that is coveted for it’s simplicity and packing ability. The only real criteria for a visor is that the top of the head is uncovered, essentially a hat without a crown. There are now full brims that look like donuts and 3/4 brims where there is a split in the back for a woman’s 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
Commom hat terms
A stingy brim is a term to describe a hat with a very short brim. Usually short implies about 1-2 inches. This can also be considered to be a style in it’s own right.
A common misconception about packable/crushable hats is that you can fold, crush, and generally beat on a hat and it will always come back out in its original form. This is simply untrue. When you see a hat with a “packable/crushable” tag it generally means that it can withstand more abuse or is not so fragile that it will break when this action is applied. Moreover if the hat is semi-rigid, or has a stiffer brim or crown it may require a little steam and love to come back to it’s 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 hats are described with this trait it means that the normally plastic wire woven inside brims has been replaced with a metal wire that allows you to augment the shape of the brim in any way you choose.
When hats are described with this trait it means that the normally plastic wire woven inside UPF not to be confused with SPF, stands for “Ultraviolet Protective factor” and refers to a few factors. These factors include the weave, color, weight, stretch and wetness of the material. Additionally in order to achieve ultraviolet protection, fabrics are sometimes treated first with a protection material and then it is up to the other factors to determine the actual UPF rating. The ratings are as follows:brims has been replaced with 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 sides, back and front of the crown. Common crown shapes you may encounter are:
Tear Drop / C-Crown
This crown type features a teardrop looking shape when viewed from above. It is also called a “C” crown because the rear of the crown looks like a distinct C when again viewed from above.
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 again looks exactly as it sounds when viewed from above. It is a wider crown shape and is mainly 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. That being said, it definitely exists in other styles as well.
The flat top is commonly seen on top hats, the Spanish zorro style, fez’s, and pork-pie’s have a variation of this.
MOST COMMON MATERIALS
Whether you're a passionate hat collector or merely want to learn more about the different hat styles out there, 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. There are even certain techniques you can employ 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 crated 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 is a straw used to make many packable and crushable hats, and straw from the toquila palm is used for Panama hats. Most any straw can be woven into a hat but the best ones are hand picked for evenness of color, texture and pattern. Paper/Toyo – Made from Twisted, woven paper creating a fiber that is surprisingly strong, cost effective, and light. Not good to get wet or used in rain. Wool Felt – 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.
Fur felt is created in the same manner as wool felt but from finer and softer materials. Most fur felt hats are created from rabbit, beaver and hare pelts. Fur felt is incredibly soft and when you hold/touch one you can feel the difference in quality from wool felt.
I have rarely seen hats made of 100% polyester, they are usually combined with cotton. These hats tend to be very durable, though they do not breathe as well as other fabrics.
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 you want to try something new, Hats Unlimited has plenty of options to choose from. 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 brands and an emphasis on exceptional service and value, you know you can count on us. From fun accessories to stylish fashion trends and hat materials, Hats Unlimited has the perfect headpiece for you. 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 hats today to find the style you're looking for! If you'd like some help choosing the ideal hat style, fill out our online contact form, and we'll be more than happy to help.
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