The Ultimate Hat Guide: A Complete Breakdown
As the adage goes, there’s a lid for every pot. Here, we like to think of it as a hat for every head. But when it comes to picking out the perfect one, how can you find your best fit among the myriad styles and options out there? It starts with an understanding of exactly what makes a hat, a hat in the first place. From practical features to fashionable flourishes, this is your ultimate guide to hat terms and types.
First thing’s first: what are the components? From Panama Hats to fedoras and everything in between, most hats share some common characteristics. And there are more than you think!
While not always present, this decorative element typically wraps around the circumference of the crown, just above the brim. Made from a variety of materials, from ribbon and rope to leather and lace, the band is just one element that can make a hat uniquely yours.
Bill or Brim
Largely interchangeable, the brim is the part of the hat that juts out like a diving board from the crown, and on some hats it can encircle the entire head; the bill is the frontmost part of the brim (frequently referred to as a visor) that protects your eyes and facial skin from the sun.
Akin to a decorative band but generally thinner, this trim is not always a facet of every hat. In more casual uses, it may be a trim of leather cord, while on more elevated hats it may consist of finer fabrics, like velvet or silk.
Crown and Tip
The crown is the part of the hat that encircles the head—essentially, it’s the part you physically wear, and for a just-right fit, this is the part that’s often measured and sized. The tip is just as it sounds: the topmost portion or apex of the crown.
Decorative elements lend a bit of flair to an otherwise utilitarian part of the wardrobe. In addition to bands and brim bindings that wrap around the crown, such decorations may also include beads, buckles, feathers, fringe, or any other flourish to suit your hat style and taste.
Another optional feature, the liner is a practical addition that lines the interior of a hat, making it more comfortable to wear, as well as providing seasonal benefits. Summer-friendly fabrics like synthetic mesh or cotton can wick sweat, while winter-weight textiles like velvet and fleece can add warmth.
Pinch, Dent or Crease
These features are present on styles like the Panama Hat as well as cowboy hats, and they refer to the lines or indentations that run along the top and sometimes the sides of the hat.
Like the liner, the sweatband is big on comfort, rimming the hat’s interior just below the under-brim with leather or oftentimes a synthetic fabric. Its purpose is to help maintain the hat’s overall shape and integrity, while also providing a cozier and more secure fit.
Popular Crown Shapes
With the anatomy of the hat down pat, now let’s take a look at the most common crown shapes.
Just as it sounds, the defining feature of this crown type is the single crease down its center.
Open or Round Crown
Unlike the center crease, round crown hats have a domed shape and don’t have a crease at all.
To appreciate this refined shape, you’d have to view it from the top, where the diamond-shape crown is instantly recognizable.
Just like its namesake, this crown style (also known as flat top) features a basic circular impression.
Like it sounds, this crown type is like a circle that comes to a distinct point on one end.
Common Materials for Hats
With an understanding of basic crown shapes, and of all the hat parts that make a whole, you’re closer than ever to finding the topper that’s right for you. But not so fast—now it’s time to choose the primary fabric. Here are just a few of the most common.
Not just for a favorite pair of bluejeans or hoodies, this ubiquitous fabric packs a punch when it comes to hats. At once comfortable and breathable in the summer months, cotton hats are also hardwearing, long-lasting, and generally superbly easy to wash.
The essential process for creating felt entails pressing core material fibers together under conditions of both moisture and heat, ultimately forming a durable material that’s uncanny at trapping warmth. Wool felt is a go-to for many hat styles like the fedora, while fur felt (made with animal fur at its base) is a favorite among the luxury set.
There are just about as many variations of straw types as there are crop fields and palm trees from which to harvest it. Loved for its relative tensile strength when tightly woven or braided, straw is the foundation of many favorite hats on heads around the world. For example, authentic Panama Hats are crafted specifically from the straw of the toquilla palm, a straw which is known for both its flexibility and durability.
Man-made materials—like polyester, nylon, rayon and various synthetic blends—may not originate in nature, but they can provide an ideal fabric for a number of different hat styles. Generally more affordable than their natural counterparts, synthetic textiles tend to be easy to keep clean, but the tradeoff is they may not be as comfortable or breathable in all cases.