For most of human history, people had very few clothes. Even the wealthy would only have a half-dozen changes of clothes — it was only the uber-rich who had huge wardrobes. In fact, according to Ruth Goodman's "How to Be a Tudor," most regular folks had a couple changes of underwear (which would have been like T-shirts and leggings to us) that would be washed regularly, but only one or maybe two sets of outer clothes — one for church and one for everyday wear.
Hats, however, were an important accessory. Not only did a good hat keep you protected from sun, rain and snow, but it could reflect personal style and was less expensive to replace than clothes. People of the time would use hats to say something about their style, class and probably something about their personality based on the color they chose.
But over the past few years, hats worn purely for style have made a comeback. Still, many people aren't sure if they can "get away with a hat."
The answer is: Of course you can. While there are some outlandish and trendy styles out there when it comes to chapeaus, the list below includes only classic, time-tested toppers that are almost universally flattering. “For me, [a hat] needs to be classic. So you can’t tell if it came out of 2015 or the 1940s. It can’t be over-designed,” Janessa Leone, an L.A.-based milliner told the Wall Street Journal.
Here are some hats to try:
Keeping the sun off your face is the primary benefit of a lightweight straw or fabric hat, but they tend to be really flattering as well. Look for those that are well-made and woven tightly (but not so tightly they won't let your head breathe). Ideally, these hats should have a chin cord so if the wind blows it off your head, it will just get pushed back and land on your back, rather than ending up halfway down the street.
The thing about a fedora is that it comes in several styles (see video above). One type of fedora has been mocked as a hipster style, but there are others with wider and shorter brims, different heights of crown, etc. A fedora is simply a felt hat with a crown that's creased lengthwise. Which means that you can fairly easily find a fedora that fits you well and works for your face and head shape.
This useful hat has a real classic-cool vibe about it. It's lighter color and weight keeps you cool in warmer climes, but it can be worn in the spring and fall too — even year-round in parts of the country that don't have much cold weather. There's something kind of minimalist about a Panama, with its black band and simple shape, so if you're a jeans-and-T-shirt kind of person, a Panama will work with a relaxed aesthetic. Pachacuti makes these hats the traditional way, and the company's Panama hats have been called the world's most ethical hat by several U.K.-based publications.
Berets are a classic French hat, and they will not only keep your head a bit warmer, they also leave your ears uncovered (which many other cooler-weather hats do not). One of the best parts of a beret is that it can be styled several different ways, so if you're not into the asymmetrical look, you can always wear it pulled all the way back or on top of your head — or any other way that flatters your face and feels comfortable.
Baseball or trucker cap
This hand-painted trucker hat shows how far you can push this style's versatile nature. (Photo: Courtesy RJYArtistry/Etsy)
This hat style has expanded in recent years from being the domain of boys and young men to being a hat that's worn by almost everyone. It's long front brim will keep sun out of your eyes, but your neck and shoulders will be exposed to the sun, so be careful if you're using it for sun protection — it's not an ideal hat shape for that purpose. These hats come in such a huge variety of colors and fabrics that almost no matter what your style, you should be able to find one that works with your look. The upshot is that this is probably the least expensive hat you can find.
Floppy felt hat
These hats are similar to sun hats in style but are made from heavier material — usually wool felt. Their thick texture means they will keep your head warm in cool and cold weather, and the nature of wool felt means they will keep their shape for years if cared for properly. They are a fun alternative to the traditional winter hat and keep your head almost as warm (unless it's very cold out).
Knit hat with earflaps
Earflap hats can be worn down to cover the ears or tied above the head, lifting the flaps up. (Photo: Image courtesy Ambika.)
This style is often considered "for kids," but plenty of adults wear them now, too. In fact, they come in a variety of more grown-up colors and fabrics, like the angora style shown above in a natural grey color that is the same as the bunny that grew the fur (in this case, ethically raised bunnies).
Newsboy or flatcap
This classic style gained popularity over the years and has become a classic hat-style for both men and women. You get all the same benefits of a baseball cap, but it comes across as a little more sophisticated and tailored, depending on the fabric you choose for the hat. Flatcaps can be made with thick tweedy wool, or light, breathable cotton, so these hats are suitable any time of year, depending on what they are made from.
This hood could be paired with a sweater or layered under a coat — or both. (Photo: Courtesy TLYarnCrafts on Etsy)
Hoods don't have to be attached to a jacket or sweatshirt to be useful. Just like the hoods that come built in, detached versions can be both cozy and useful. Depending on the style, you can replace a hat and scarf combo with one warm hood (like the above photo) or opt for just a solo hood if you want to pair it with a scarf (see this lovely piece). If you find a traditional knit hat too confining (or too hot) during the winter, these are a great alternative as they aren't as restrictive. Since they are detached, you can slip them on or off as needed, and I like that I can continue wearing one inside when I'm chilly without keeping my coat on.