History Of The Fedora Hat

Even if you’ve never had the pleasure of wearing a fedora, you’re still probably familiar with the term. Dubbed by many as the 20th-Century’s most popular hat, the fedora has been worn by kings and working-class people alike. In modern times, the fedora has seen a resurgence as a fashionable accessory for both men and women. However, this versatile and classic hat has a long and storied history. We will give you glimpse into the fedora, from its earliest days in Europe to its modern usage around the world!

Who Invented The Fedora?

Records indicate that the term “fedora” first came into use in the early 1890s when it became the hat of choice among upper-class men in England and some parts of continental Europe. It soon outperformed the Homburg, a hat that was especially popular among working class Englishmen in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. The name originated from a play by Victorien Sardou and Sarah Bernhardt entitled Fédora. Though the fedora has historically been a symbol of “masculinity,” the origin of the fedora hat is far more unisex than most people realize.

In the play for which the hat was named, the heroine (played by Bernhardt) wore a soft brimmed hat with a notable crease down the middle of the crown. The hat turned out to be quite popular among women of the time, particularly feminists. Berhardt was known to cross-dress, which made the style both unique and ideal for people of all genders. That said, the fedora was originally designed by Victorien Sardou to be worn by women, though its popularity among women quickly waned at the turn of the century.

Fedoras In The Early To Mid Twentieth Century

In the years that followed its creation, the fedora shifted from a “progressive women’s accessory” to a fashionable hat for men. Most notably, Prince Edward VIII (Prince of Wales and briefly King of England before his abdication) wore the hat in the 1920s, cementing its status in the men’s fashion of the time. As many in England (and across Europe) watched the royal family with a special sense of scrutiny, every little change of attire mattered. Thus, hatmakers across Europe were flooded with requests for the newest trend from Buckingham Palace.

However, it wasn’t just British princes and other Englishmen who liked the style of the classic fedora. In fact, it’s popularity quickly spread across the Atlantic Ocean, becoming a staple of the “modern” American gentleman in the first half of the 20th Century.

The hat kept its place in popular culture throughout the 1920s, though its visibility was reduced during the Great Depression. Men’s hats were often seen as a status symbol to be worn in all public places. However, due to the economic downturn, many men (especially in the United States) simply couldn’t afford to keep up with the latest fashion trends.

Fortunately, as the economy recovered in the mid-1930s, the fedora made a major comeback. Soon, men of nearly every social class were wearing fedoras every time they left the house. The legacy of the fedora was further cemented by various movie stars and celebrities throughout the early and mid-20th Century.

Additionally, it was adopted in a wide range of groups, including Orthodox Jewish communities in North America, Europe, and various other parts of the world.

Humphrey Bogart's Fedora

In addition to being one of the most famous and beloved stars of Hollywood’s Golden Era, actor Humphrey Bogart ensured that the fedora made a major impact on the general public. From his classic look in Casablanca to his appearance in The Big Sleep, Humphrey’s signature high-crowned fedora remained a symbol of his on-screen power. Generally made from fur felt with a wide brim and large band, Humphrey Bogart’s look was adopted by a number of different actors and celebrities of the time, including Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Bing Crosby, and many of the figures of the “rat pack,” including Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Sammy Davis Jr.

Gangsters and Al Capone's Fedora

Though it may seem strange to consider, alcoholic beverages were illegal for more than a decade in the United States. From 1920 until 1933, the abolition of alcohol led to a sharp increase in organized crime, which also led to the infamous subculture and underworld of the American gangster. Among the most famous gangsters who managed to outsmart law enforcement for years was Al Capone.

In addition to becoming a household name for his illicit activities, Capone also had a major impact on fashion. His three-piece suits, large jackets, and straight-brimmed fedoras became iconic symbols of the “bad boys” of the 1920s, 30s, and beyond. Thus, the fedora wasn’t just for gentleman and regular working class men; it was also for the gangsters who flaunted their wealth and status in broad daylight.

Dick Tracy’s Fedora

Though fictional, Dick Tracy was a comic strip character who stood in stark contrast to the gangsters of the early and mid-20th Century. An intelligent detective, Dick Tracy became a fan favorite among young boys and girls alike. In addition to his ability to solve seemingly unsolvable crimes, Dick Tracy was most notable for his yellow fedora and matching suit. The character would later be portrayed by various actors in both television and film, most notably Warren Beatty in the 1990 movie adaptation.

Bear Bryant Fedora

Fedoras are not just for movie stars and famous criminals. One of the most well-known people to maintain the fedora fashion in the middle of the 20th Century was Bear Bryant, the long-time coach of the University of Alabama football team. Unlike fedoras popularized in years past, Paul William "Bear" Bryant was frequently seen in a short-brimmed fedora with a black and white checkered pattern.

Fedoras In The Late Twentieth Century

While fedoras had begun to fall out of fashion by the 1970s, one can never underestimate nostalgia for past trends. This was most noticeable in films of the 1970s, 1980s, and even 1990s, in which characters would often wear classic fedoras from decades past. Since audiences often like to copy the styles of their favorite actors and characters, this naturally led to a small resurgence of the fedora in the latter half of the 20th Century.

Fedoras in Movies

Some of the most notable films that feature fedoras also happen to be some of the most popular movies ever made. For example, Al Pacino wore a fedora in The Godfather, which helped reignite the interest in “gangster” fashion. A few years later, Harrison Ford made the character of Indiana Jones even more iconic with his trusty whip and signature fedora hat. Though more feared than loved, the character of Freddy Kreuger also helped bring back the fedora in the popular horror film series, A Nightmare On Elm Street. Finally, Sam Neill continued the tradition of adventurers donning the classic fedora hat in the first Jurassic Park film.

Fedora Hats In Modern Fashion

It’s important to note that the fedora is not just a fashion that lived on during the 20th Century. In fact, the fedora has come back in a major way, becoming a classy way to remain in style in the contemporary world. Some of the most notable celebrities who continue to wear fedoras to red carpet events or simply out and about include Johnny Depp, Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Brad Pitt, Kristen Bell, Pharrell Williams, and Beyonce.

We hope you enjoyed this guide on the history of the fedora hat! If you’d like to shop for a specific fedora hat or even create your own custom fedora hat, be sure to check out Bellissimo Hats today!