A Century of Mad Hatters

By Jenzi Langley

Lewis Carroll penned the infamous Alice In Wonderland character “Mad Hatter,” yet the term has its roots in the 18th century.  During this time, mercury was a key ingredient for felt hat production.  As a result, prolonged exposure caused the wearers of these hats to go mad, according to Corrosion-Doctors.org.  Oh, the things we do for fashion! Though designers have come a long way from poisonous accessories, the hat is still an underrated hero of the fashion world. From simple and utilitarian to ornate and gaudy, hats have had their fair share of transformation over the years. Let’s take a peek at the evolution of hats in the last century.

Photo retrieved from The Glasgow Story
An advertisement for women’s hats in 1915 // Photo retrieved from The Glasgow Story

1915 – Bigger is Better

Wide brims and feathers characterize the essence of fashionable hats in 1915. Often lavished with vines, flowers, and broches, these hats were designed to be over-the-top statements pieces.  Generally cumbersome, the hats were worn only on special occasions or family outings. As the trend of the time was a well put together look, hats were usually designed as part of a whole outfit centered on a tailored dress. However, this trend of gaudy hats began to die out as the Great Depression hit, when women started opting for a more practical wardrobe.

1945 – Pretty and Petite

The mid-20th century hat fashion saw a shift in notion from “bigger is better” to “pretty and petite.” Most women’s hats during this time were worn close to the head.  Wide-brims were not favorable. Rather than an overdose of ornate plumage and flowers, hats instead sported vibrant colors.  As elaborate hairstyles began to fade, hats were worn more frequently. Part of this change in trend was due to the rising number of working women in the United States. Women needed stylish yet practical accessories. Instead of bulky hats, they chose to wear sleek hats with fun pops of color.   

Women's hats in 1945 // Photo retrieved from HERE
Women’s hats in 1945 // Photo retrieved from HERE

1975 – Seasonal Sensation

From the step of The Stepford Wives, 1975 // Photo retrieved from The Huffington Post
From the step of The Stepford Wives, 1975 // Photo retrieved from The Huffington Post

The wide-brimmed hats made a comeback in the 1970’s with the introduction of the modern sun hat.  These hats were a re-creation of earlier styles, but without the heavy decorations. Modern sun hats are made of straw or another light-weight material and often sport a ribbon around the base. They can be stiff or flop over on one or both sides. Bright colors are unusual in sun hats, with white, pink, and straw colors being prominent.

2015 – Bold and Comfy

Though knit beanies and jazz hats have been around for generations, the latest trend in hat fashion sees a rebirth of both these styles. Only in recent years, women’s fashion (especially teen fashion), has embraced the knit beanie. Coming in all colors of the rainbow, beanies are both a comfortable solution to a bad hair day and a perfect complement to a casual outfit. Sun hats have also made a bold comeback in a new style referred to as the jazz hat. This commonly black hat is a cross between a bowler hat/fedora and a sun hat. They feature wide, thick brims (similar to a sun hat), and either the rounded top of a bowler hat or the pinched crest of the fedora. Both the beanie and the jazz hat are a wonderful mixture of fashion and function. On the practical level, one is designed for the chilly months and the other is tailored to the sunny season. In the stylish sense – they’re both adorable hats to be madly in love with.

Jazz and hats and beanies // From L-R: 1 and 2 from Wardrobe Looks, 3 from Where to Get It, 4 from Photobucket
Jazz and hats and beanies // From L-R: 1 and 2 from Wardrobe Looks, 3 from Where to Get It, 4 from Photobucket
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