15 Old-Fashioned Hats We Should Bring Back


Whether we wear them to stay warm, protect our heads, hide our hair, or simply add flair to our ensembles, hats have always been a celebrated part of our wardrobes. Here are 15 once-iconic toppers that have fallen out of fashion—and should be brought back into style. 


Don’t call this knotted headdress a hair net—it’s actually a snood. In the late 1850s and early 1860s, it was in vogue for young women to hold their hair back with close-fitting, bag-shaped caps they’d woven from velvet, lace, yarn, or other materials.

The trend faded by the 1870s, but the snood made a comeback in the 1940s after female factory workers realized it added both practicality and panache to their work ensembles. The hat fell to the wayside once more after World War II ended and women returned to the domestic sphere.


Resembling a flying saucer affixed to one’s head, the cartwheel hat is a wide-brimmed circular or saucer-shaped topper that first became popular in the 1930s. It was typically worn at a rakish angle, and it was usually fashioned from materials like straw, felt, silk, or taffeta.

To our modern sensibilities, the cartwheel hat may seem bizarre, and records indicate that the look also perplexed the public when it was first debuted. “Do not be astounded if you notice a smartly gowned woman crowned with a hat of huge proportions, for she is but following fashion’s latest edict,” one 1914 newspaper article noted. “The new large hats are broad brimmed and have low crowns, which are not discernible when the hat is worn, hence they resemble cartwheels tilted at a becoming angle.”


If you’ve ever seen a portrait of George Washington, chances are good that he was wearing a tri-corner hat, or a tricorn. 17th-century European and American men of all social classes wore these hats because the brim turned up on three sides, allowing them to show off their stylish wigs. The hats were also small, which allowed polite gentlemen to take them off and tuck them underneath their arms when entering a building.   

Tricorners were either left plain or festooned with feathers, brocades, silks, or metallic fabrics. They often came in neutrals like black, grey, and tan. 



Famous flappers were fans of the cloche—a fitted, bell-shaped hat that took Roaring Twenties style by storm. Invented in Paris, the cloche became popular among both European and American women during the 1920s. The hat fit neatly over a short bob, and its simplicity allowed the era’s “modern women” to dance, socialize, and move with abandon. 

Today, women occasionally wear cloche-like styles. However, the hat still remains synonymous with the Jazz Age.



In 1849, London hat makers Thomas and William Bowler created a toque that gamekeepers on horseback could wear to shield their heads from low hanging branches. With its close fit, low crown, and sturdy make, the bowler hat was way more practical than a top hat.

Over time, businessmen, politicians, and celebrities became fans of the look. By the mid 1950s to 1960s, it was common for men to incorporate bowler hats into their suited ensembles. The look became less common by the 1980s. However, British cavalry officers still traditionally wear bowler hats and suits for their annual parade. 



While it’s a myth that Davy Crockett wore a coonskin cap, they were indeed popular among American frontiersman during the late 18th century. Early pioneers saw Native Americans wearing the warm, fuzzy hats, and they adopted the look for themselves. Soon, the coonskin cap became inextricably linked with the rugged, individualistic American settler.

Like all iconic looks, changing cultural aesthetics caused the coonskin cap to dwindle in popularity. By 1902, the fuzzy hat wasn’t perceived as “rustic”—it was straight-up redneck. However, the look exploded in popularity once more when a TV show based on Crockett’s adventures premiered in 1954. 

Crockett fever faded in the 1960s, and the cap once more became a relic of a bygone era. However, bloggers report that a few brave souls have been spotted donning the coonskin cap while walking the streets of New York City’s SoHo and Williamsburg neighborhoods.  



Not surprisingly, the deerstalker hat is worn for hunting. However, fictional detective Sherlock Holmes popularized the hat in the 19th century, trotting about in his novels clad in a cape and the smart headwear. Not surprisingly, the hat is most often worn by rural outdoorsmen—not by genteel city dwellers like Sherlock. 



British sailors in the 19th century donned hard, flat-topped hats made from water-resistant varnished straw. Later, English sportsmen wore the stiff-brimmed hats while rowing along the Thames. The look caught on, and by the 1890s, everyone was wearing boater hats—even girls and women, who were becoming more active in outdoor sports. 

Boater hats crossed the Atlantic, and were fashionable among middle-class men and college boys alike. During election campaigns, they were dressed up with red, white, and blue bands and transformed into political symbols. 


The pillbox hat was a simple, elegant, and no-frills accessory hat that was popular from the 1930s through the late 1960s. The round, brim-less hats were worn perched on top of the head. True to their name, they were also shaped like a pillbox.



Those pointy medieval princess hats with veils have a name: They’re called hennins. Worn by European royalty, the tall, stiff hats were fashioned from expensive fabric and girded with wire or padding. In France, some hennins reached heights of up to three feet. However, English versions of the hennin were smaller and less dramatic.



Unless you’re running with a royal crowd, fascinators probably aren’t on your radar. But they should be: these decorative headpieces can be as simple or as elaborate as you’d like. All around the world—going way back to ancient times—women have dressed up their locks using feathers, cloth, flowers, and more, creating fascinator-like looks.  Our favorite is probably the 13th century ramshorn, which involved a headband-brooch combo, plus two coiled buns reminiscent of a certain science fiction heroine.



In the late 18th century, European and American military and naval officers (think Napoleon Bonaparte) wore bicornes. The hat had a broad, floppy brim, and its front and back section were folded over and pinned together. This feature made the accessory less cumbersome and easier to carry. 


The sky-high hairdos of the late 18th century demanded equally lofty protection. Massive bonnets called “Calashes” fit the bill. Each had wood or whalebone sewn in for stability, but the super tall toppers were collapsible, too.


The Phrygian cap is most commonly associated with freed Roman slaves, who wore a variant of the soft, pointy hat to symbolize their independence. The hat was later adopted as a symbol of liberty during the French revolution.



This floppy, tasseled beret was named after Queen Victoria’s Scottish estate, Balmoral Castle. The traditional hat is worn tilted sideways, and is typically paired with Scottish highland dress.

Composite by Mental Floss. Illustrations, iStock.
The DEA Crackdown on Thomas Jefferson's Poppy Plants
Composite by Mental Floss. Illustrations, iStock.
Composite by Mental Floss. Illustrations, iStock.

The bloom has come off Papaver somniferum in recent years, as the innocuous-looking plant has come under new scrutiny for its role as a building block in many pain-blunting opiates—and, by association, the opioid epidemic. That this 3-foot-tall plant harbors a pod that can be crushed and mixed with water to produce a euphoric high has resulted in a stigma regarding its growth. Not even gardens honoring our nation's Founding Fathers are exempt, which is how the estate of Thomas Jefferson once found itself in a bizarre dialogue with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) over its poppy plants and whether the gift shop clerks were becoming inadvertent drug dealers.

Jefferson, the nation's third president, was an avowed horticulturist. He spent years tending to vegetable and flower gardens, recording the fates of more than 300 varieties of 90 different plants in meticulous detail. At Monticello, his Charlottesville, Virginia plantation, Jefferson devoted much of his free time to his sprawling soil. Among the vast selection of plants were several poppies, including the much-maligned Papaver somniferum.

The front view of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello estate
Thomas Jefferson's Monticello estate.

"He was growing them for ornamental purposes,” Peggy Cornett, Monticello’s historic gardener and curator of plants, tells Mental Floss. “It was very common in early American gardens, early Colonial gardens. Poppies are annuals and come up easily.”

Following Jefferson’s death in 1826, the flower garden at Monticello was largely abandoned, and his estate was sold off to help repay the debts he had left behind. Around 115 years later, the Garden Club of Virginia began to restore the plot with the help of Jefferson’s own sketches of his flower borders and some highly resilient bulbs.

In 1987, Monticello’s caretakers opened the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants, complete with a greenhouse, garden, and retail store. The aim was to educate period-accurate gardeners and sell rare seeds to help populate their efforts. Papaver somniferum was among the offerings.

This didn’t appear to be of concern to anyone until 1991, when local reporters began to obsess over narcotics tips following a drug bust at the University of Virginia. Suddenly, the Center for Historic Plants was fielding queries about the “opium poppies” in residence at Monticello.

The Center had never tried to hide it. “We had labels on all the plants,” says Cornett, who has worked at Monticello since 1983 and remembers the ensuing political scuffle. “We didn’t grow them at the Center. We just collected and sold the seeds that came from Monticello.”

At the time, the legality of growing the poppy was frustratingly vague for the Center’s governing board, who tried repeatedly to get clarification on whether they were breaking the law. A representative for the U.S. Department of Agriculture saw no issue with it, but couldn’t cite a specific law exempting the Center. The Office of the Attorney General in Virginia had no answer. It seemed as though no authority wanted to commit to a decision.

Eventually, the board called the DEA and insisted on instructions. Despite the ubiquity of the seeds—they can spring up anywhere, anytime—the DEA felt the Jefferson estate was playing with fire. Though they were not a clandestine opium den, they elected to take action in June of 1991.

“We pulled up the plants," Cornett says. “And we stopped selling the seeds, too.”

Today, Papaver somniferum is no longer in residence at Monticello, and its legal status is still murky at best. (While seeds can be sold and planting them should not typically land gardeners in trouble, opium poppy is a Schedule II drug and growing it is actually illegal—whether or not it's for the express purpose of making heroin or other drugs.) The Center does grow other plants in the Papaver genus, all of which have varying and usually low levels of opium.

As for Jefferson himself: While he may not have crushed his poppies personally, he did benefit from the plant’s medicinal effects. His personal physician, Robley Dunglison, prescribed laudanum, a tincture of opium, for recurring gastric issues. Jefferson took it until the day prior to his death, when he rejected another dose and told Dunglison, “No, doctor, nothing more.”

Family Communications Inc./Getty Images
Pop Culture
Mr. Rogers’s Sweater and Shoes Are on Display at the Heinz History Center
Family Communications Inc./Getty Images
Family Communications Inc./Getty Images

To celebrate what would have been Fred Rogers’s 90th birthday on March 20, the Heinz History Center of Pittsburgh has added two new, iconic pieces to its already extensive Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood display: his trademark sweater and shoes.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Rogers's green cardigan and blue Sperry shoes are now part of the fourth-floor display at the History Center, where they join other items from the show like McFeely’s “Speedy Delivery” tricycle, the Great Oak Tree, and King Friday XIII’s castle.

The sweater and shoe combo has been in the museum’s storage area, but with Rogers’s 90th birthday and the 50th anniversary of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood on deck for 2018, this was the perfect time to let the public enjoy the show's legendary props.

Fred Rogers was a mainstay in the Pittsburgh/Latrobe, Pennsylvania area, and there are numerous buildings and programs named after him, including the Fred Rogers Center and exhibits at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

If you’re in the area and want to take a look at Heinz History’s tribute to Mr. Rogers, the museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

[h/t Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]