Mens hats during the 1920′s ranged from season to season. Warm summers such as in the time of the Great Gatsby brought out straw Boaters and Panamas as well as linen flat caps. The cooler seasons kept men in conservative suits with Bowlers, Derbies and Fedoras being the best hat choices.
Unlike today men and women always wore hats. Every day, every occasion, called for a hat to match your outfit. Light colors in summer. Dark colors in winter.
Let’s take a look at the different styles of 1920′s summer hats.
1920s Flat Cap
The hat that the Great Gatsby wears most is the flat cap. Also knows as Ivy cap, cab driver hat, newsboy cap, driving cap and big apple cap. It is made of 8 triangle panels that meet at the top with a covered button made in the same material. It has a small brim that the top rests on. Overall is looks baggy not the tight narrow Ivy caps you see today. In the summer these caps were made of a light colored linen material and lined in silk for breath-ability. The caps came in tweed, herringbone, and wool as well. Darker colors were worn in the winter-blues, greys, and browns-in solid, plaid, and check patterns. All classes of men wore these hats even boys selling newspapers on street corners hence the newsboy hat name.
1920s Boater or Skimmer Hat
Straw hats were even more popular for hot summer days than flat caps. Outdoor sporting became the new hobby for men and women. From tennis to biking to riding in your new car- the people of the 1920′s were outdoor enthusiasts. Boating became popular and with it the Boater or Skimmer straw hat was worn. Hand-woven thick straw made for a heavy solid cylindrical hat with either a 2 inch or 3 inch brim. Skimmers had the smaller brims while boaters had the larger. Other than that their shape was the same. They each had a solid or striped petersham ribbon around the base. College kids and alumni often wore their college’s colors on their hat bands.
Barbershop quartets are often associated with these hats. Popular in the 1920′s for summer time entertainment they became the staple uniform hat for singing musicians.
1920s Panama Hat
Another common straw hat for summer was the Panama, in particular the Optimo Panama hat. It was hand-woven and imported (from Ecuador.) It could be rolled up and tucked into a lapel pocket which made it very easy to travel with. The rolled crease down the center of the hat defines the Optimo style. Both men and women enjoyed this style of hat. They were, however, quite expensive so only the elite would buy one.
TIP: Don’t go budget on this panama hat. The non packable varieties need careful care to make sure the straw does not get bent. Once damaged it’s not reversible. Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way.
Now lets take a look at year round hats:
1920s Bowler or Derby Hat
A few decades before the 20th century a man developed an oval shaped, hard material, hat for riding. It was designed to protect a man’s head while riding through bushes and ducking under branches. It remained a popular hat with men even without horses. Although materials softened a bit from the early hard hats the Bowler, also know as a Derby, was the most common men’s hat of the 1920′s. Black was the most popular choice although stylish men also had brown, tan or grey bowlers to match their suits. Towards the end of the 1920′s when men’s and women’s fashion became bolder with color bowler hats appeared in blues, greens, and other more festive choices.
In the summer months a bowler could be made of straw although these were less common. Usually they were made of light weight, light colored felted wool.
A cousin of the bowler is the Homburg. Worn in the decade preceding the 20′s the Homburg looked like a bowler with a crease down the middle. These quickly went out of fashion for the smoother rounded bowler or creased Fedora.
1920s Fedora Hat
In the 1920′s the fedora hat was just entering the fashionable scene for men. Previously it was a women’s style hat. 1920′s fedoras feature wide 3 inch brims that were shaped downward on both the front and back side thus making the sides rolled upwards. They also had a sharp crease down the middle that could be a single crease or a more triangle shape with the base of the triangle at the back of that hat. Hats came uncreased when purchased so that the owner could decide how to shape it. Popular colors were olive green, black, brown and gray. While it started out as a middle class hat, wealthy men associated with prohibition and crime, aka Al Capone and his gangsters, were icons for the hats in the 1920′s. A solid wide band, with flat bow wrapped the base of the hat. Usually the band was made of petersham or silk and matched the color of the hat. For extra style the band would be in a contrasting color like white on black. A feather on the side of the hat didn’t appear till a few decades later.
The Trilby is another name for essentially the same hat as a fedora. Trilby’s featured tall crowns with a crease down the center, rolled up side brims and a wide petersham band with flat bow on one side. Common colors were black or brown with matching band. In the 1920′s hats were almost always made of beaver fur felt.
1920s Top Hat
The mid height silk Top hat with curled brim was still the best hat for formal wear in the 1920′s. It had been popular for a century and remained the hat for formal wear for another 50 years or more. The height and material changed over time but the top hat is a classic that everyman needed. Occasionally special occasions called for a top hat to be worn in the day. Gentlemen of 1st class status were the main supporters of top hats for both day and evening.
Here are some excellent 1920′s Gatsby era hat choices from around the web: