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Your Chapeau?

Updated on August 29, 2009

Where is your HAT?  Historical evidence has shown that even primitive man covered his head for protection against the elements.

Throughout early Egyptian, Roman and Greek times, the hat was worn as a mark of rank.  It is known that the nomadic tribes of Asia who used felted sheep's wool for making tents, clothing, covered his head with the same material.

One of the first hats to be depicted was found in a tomb painting at Thebes and shows a man wearing a coolie-straw hat.  one of the uses in headwear was in the Roman 'petasus' a narrow brimmed skull-cap which was the general head covering of the populace.  Slaves were not permitted to wear it, unless they were ceremoniously set free and then they were presented with it by his owner as a recognition that he was a free man.

Men's hats continued to make a symbolic statement.  the most notable being the formal tall stiff top hat representing the authority of the aristocracy and those who were involved in the professions of trades.

Top Hat
Top Hat
Derby Hat
Derby Hat

To this day top hats and bowler hats continue to be worn for formal dress.

The derby hat was invented by William Bowler he noticed it was being worn at active sports, English Derby race and therefore became known as the Derby.


Panamas and soft hats became popular head attire from the mid 1800s.  A panama hat is a traditional brimmed hat of Ecuadorian origin that is made from the plaited leaves of the toquilla straw plant.  Panama hats are often seen as accessories to summer-weight suits.  They are usually preferred over felt hats in such climates  as the Panama canal region for their light colored, light weight, and breathable material.



Panama Hat
Panama Hat

Companies, such as Dobbs, Stetson and Cavanaugh, now produce more Panama styled hats than felt hats, such as fedoras or bowlers. 

Today a hat-maker makes hats for men and a milliner makes hats for a women.  The famous Coco Chanel started out just making hats before she made the little black dress famous.  Many of the ladies hats featured feathers and dyed flower arrangements, they were called plumassiers.  Plumes have always been a status symbol and a sign of economic stability. 

 Both men and women changed their part in in hat wearing due to their activities and everyday life changes.  The large Merry-widow hat with all of its plumes and feathers had to give way to the smaller hats when the automobile came into their lives.  Many ladies found it difficult to hold onto their hats and brace themselves for that bumpy road ahead.


The events of two wars also dramatically took its toll on the wearing of hats. Many women took the jobs that men once held. Tying their hair back with a colorful scarf or more stylish turban came into a necessary fashion.

Today's man is seldom seen in any other hat than a baseball hat and women seldom bother wearing one at all.

Maybe we should return to those days of big hats? The reason being that statistics show that the high rate of skin cancer is alarming. Sure we are now warned and aware of the exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Much of the damage to DNA in skin cells results from ultraviolet radiation found in not only sunlight but commercial tanning lamps and tanning beds.

Risk Factors:

Fair Skin:

Having less pigment (melanin) in your skin provides less protection from damaging UV radiation. If you have blond or red hair, light colored eyes, and you freckle or sunburn easily, you're much more likely to develop skin cancer than a person with darker features.

A History Of Sunburns:

Every time you get sunburned damage, your skin cells and increase your risk of developing skin cancer. After a sunburn, your body works to repair the damage. Having multiple blistering sunburns as a child or teenager increased your risk of developing skin cancer as an adult. Sunburns in adulthood also are risk factor.


The risk of developing skin cancer increases with age, primarily because many skin cancers develop slowly. The damage that occurs during childhood or adolescence may not become apparent until middle age. Still, skin cancer isn't limited to older people. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are increasing fastest among women younger than 40.

Wear protective clothing:

Sunscreens don't provide complete protection from UV rays. That's why it's a good idea to also wear dark, tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs, and a broad-brimmed hat, which provides more protection than a baseball cap or a visor does.

Yes my friends maybe it's time to bring back the HAT. Oh! I know some will say---"But I don't look good in a hat," I say to you vanity is a small price to pay next to the doctor saying the word SKIN CANCER.


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    • Ginn Navarre profile imageAUTHOR

      Ginn Navarre 

      9 years ago

      Yes Brian, hats do have several advantages, especially when you are my age and you may have forgotten to comb your hair--with that hat on---who knows.ha-ha.

    • BrianS profile image

      Brian Stephens 

      9 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

      I don't wear hats enough, especially as I live in the South of France now. Think I need to take this advice.

    • Ginn Navarre profile imageAUTHOR

      Ginn Navarre 

      9 years ago

      Hey William, I bet that was an interesting experance working at a Hat Corp. I too remember the fuss they made over Kennedy being hatless. Living in the West I know that my father never-never went out the door with out his Stetson hat--he had two--one for everyday and the other for special events. Thanks.

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 

      9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I remember when fedoras were very popular. It amazes me when television shows scenes of baseball games in Babe Ruth days where just about everyone in Yankee Stadium wore a hat. I worked for a while making hats at Hat Corporation of America in Norwalk, Conn., which made some of Harry Truman's hats. I still know some men who often were fedoras, and one man who wears a different hat just about every time I see him. Now I only wear a hat when I'm playing golf or when I'm involved in some activity for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. I remember the big fuss everybody made when President Kennedy went hatless as he delivered his Inaugural speech on a very cold day in January. Thumbs up.

    • Ginn Navarre profile imageAUTHOR

      Ginn Navarre 

      9 years ago

      Dolores, some times necessity wins the race. I never go out side in the sun without one--now.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      9 years ago from East Coast, United States

      a truely fabulous outfit is not complete without a hat...hats make a huge difference in winter and everybody looks good in a hat...wish i could stand to ahve one on my head, they drive me insane

    • Ginn Navarre profile imageAUTHOR

      Ginn Navarre 

      9 years ago

      Aya you are right about the area that one lives in does make a difference. I for one ---in my stupid youth growing up in the Desert of Arizona and then being a beach-bum on the Calif beaches did not have the education that we have now on what the sun rays could do.(probably wouldn't have listen anyway) So today I think I am paying for my dermatolest to send his kids through school.

      Ivorwen, you and your husband have good taste in hats. Filson hats have been around since the Gold Rush days and they are made in the USA.

    • Ivorwen profile image


      9 years ago from Hither and Yonder

      Great article! I love hats, they're so romantic! My husband, a red head, has a collection of 'mountain man' hats... it wasn't intentional, just his style. Most are made by Filson, prized by him for their durability, warmth or shade. I personally love wearing cowboy hats and scarves.

    • Ginn Navarre profile imageAUTHOR

      Ginn Navarre 

      9 years ago

      Theresa, I agree baseball caps here in the US are used very rudely. I did not wear a hat in my youth but now I love the straw hats and never go out without one.

      Jerilee, you might be right, if a hat could hold in common sense it would be a simple fix for this world.

      Feline, I believe that anyone can over come their fears, a simple head covering can be a benifit to your health.

      Shalini, it's a simple thing---stop watching and just try it. Besides it's fun to shop for a new hats and collect them.

      Christa, I grew up in the west and a man never stepped out the door with out his Stetson hat and women also wore them. All you have to do is---be your own person! I still wear one---when ever I want to.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 

      9 years ago from The Ozarks

      Ginne Navarr, thanks for this informative treatment of the history of hats and their function in the fight against skin cancer.

      We face a double bind, when it comes to sunlight. Not enough, and we are deprived of important vitamins. Too much and we have cancer. This is why people in Northern climes had to develop lighter skins, where sunlight was not enough, and people in Southern climes needed more melanin for protection against the sun.

    • Christa Dovel profile image

      Christa Dovel 

      9 years ago from The Rocky Mountains, North America

      I love hats, but have seldom worn one since marring and leaving the cowgirl life... Still trying to find my style.

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 

      9 years ago from India

      Like FP, I find it hard to wear one too - though I love watching hats go by when others are wearing them!

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 

      9 years ago

      What an interesting history of hats. I agree hats can probably save your life but for some reason I have never been able to bear a hat on my head - I feel claustrophobic!

    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Mom -- Seems to me that back when hats were more the fashion norm than not, people had a lot more common sense. Great hub! Love you

    • Teresa McGurk profile image


      9 years ago from The Other Bangor

      Wonderful! Hats are useful and fashionable and healthy. When I first came to the states, though, I was aghast at the number of students who wore baseball caps to class. In the classroom. It seemed so rude of them not to take off their caps, and it took me years to get used to the sight -- especially as I also taught part-time at Fort Jackson, where of course the drill is to uncover upon entering a building.


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