From being conceived centuries ago for practical purposes, like providing shade or hold on to body heat in frigid conditions, types of hats for men have progressed beyond their pedestrian origins into the must-have accessory territory.
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In fact, you can often sense a man’s character by what he chooses to put on his head, be it a structured five-panel snapback, a relaxed six-panel ball cap, or a felt fedora with a feather tucked into the band.
In thinking about this essential accessory, we’ve put together a guide to all of the men’s hat styles you’ll find out there.
The Basic Parts of a Hat
Regardless of which type of hat you’re sporting, all tend to have specific design components:
- Crown: Basically, this is the top portion that extends over your head. Some may be completely unstructured, while others, like the fedora or western hat, may have a pinched shape in parts for definition.
- Band: There’s no practical reason for this part; rather, it’s strictly decorative and, decades ago, added some character — notice the Panama hat with a purple hat band from Dodie Stevens’ 1959 song Pink Shoelaces’ for one example.
- Brim: This portion, going all the way or partially around depending upon the style, extends from the crown to provide the necessary degree of coverage you seek. For ball caps and related styles, this may also be called a bill.
- Sweatband: Also prominent in ball caps and other outdoor styles, this moisture-wicking, sweat-absorbing band lines the interior to help you stay dry. At the same time, it further ensures that the hat’s primary material doesn’t absorb the oils from your body, plus any hair and skincare products you’re using, preventing long-term stain formation.
- Liner: Especially for winter, these types of hats for men have a full interior liner that offers an extra layer against the cold, all while also offering a degree of stain protection.
Men’s Dress Hats
At some point in history, types of hats for men moved beyond functional into fashionable territory without losing sight of their origins. Thus, the dress hat emerged. Although men’s dress hats cover a wider range of styles, all tend to have specific attributes: A structured, stiff-sided design, often with some pinching, and a full brim.
By default, a fedora is what most picture when you say, men’s dress hat — unless, of course, they’re picturing a costume-y top hat. Today, the fedora has turned into a catchall term for any structured felt men’s hat with a brim, but based on its heyday from the 1920s through the 50s, a few key features set a fedora apart from, say, a trilby or a bowler: pinched sides, a crease down the center, and a medium-width, flexible brim. Decades ago, this aspect allowed the wearer to bend the brim up or down, depending upon the weather and occasion.
Visually, the trilby looks very similar to a fedora, and in pop culture, the two are frequently confused. However, in the trilby vs. fedora discussion, the shapes look similar, but the trilby features a shorter brim and higher crown, making it traditionally ideal for warmer weather. Added to this last point, trilbies were initially made out of straw or tweed, although today, you’ll spot felt versions.
Seen as more of a classically British style (or associated with A Clockwork Orange), bowlers are structured men’s hat with a rounded crown and a stiff brim that curves up slightly in the front and back. As it’s a bit old-fashion (or makes you seem prone to ultraviolence), take care with how you style your look in relation to your headwear. A three-piece suit, for example, will automatically look like early 20th-century cosplay.
Originating in Ecuador — not Panama — this warm-weather type of hat was originally made out of leaves. Today, though, you’ll find straw and other light woven fabrications, meant to breathe and keep the wearer cool. In all cases, the crown has a slight pinch, and a brim offering shade extends from the edge.
Any time someone talks about a men’s straw hat, it’s quite likely a boater. Another summer dress hat, this one’s known for a stiffer body and a contrasting ribbon around the crown. These days, you might associate them with barbershop quartets or Venice Gondoliers, as they’re defined by a particular shape — mainly, a flat top, a round crown, and a wider brim. The ribbon can also extend to a tail going down the back.
More western than other types of hats for men, the gambler is known for a medium- to wide-width brim no larger than three inches that features a slightly turned-up edge. The profile itself seems a bit flat and angular, although the crown, when viewed from above, resembles an oval.
Men’s Casual Hats
The snapback is the quintessential casual type of hat for men. Although it’s truly an offshoot of the ballcap (more on this style below), its origins are said to date back to 90s New York Yankees fans. In any case, snapbacks differentiate themselves from baseball caps in a few regards. One, the body is structured; two, they feature a five-panel style and a flat bill; three, they have a plastic pin-and-hole closure on the back for adjustments. These days, they’re on the oversized side and tend to be an essential piece amongst streetwear aficionados.
Dad hats — a casual cap more recently appropriated by the streetwear scene — and snapbacks also overlap in a couple of areas: mainly, the five-panel design and the bill. Here, though, is where that ends. Dad caps are relaxed to the point they have no defined crown and use cotton or canvas material. The bill, too, is usually curved from the get-go and the back generally has a strapback or belt-like closure.
Frequently called ballcaps, this style dating back to the early days of baseball has set the template for practically all casual types of hats for men. While they started off with a five-panel design, most now sport six and an adjustable back.
The type of hat design has given way to a few offshoots: The trucker cap adds mesh panels to the back and foam or canvas to the front, while fitted ballcaps — popularized by New Era’s Stretch-Fit designs and commonly called FlexFit caps — eliminate the adjustable closure in the back and, instead, sport a slightly stretchy material.
Also known as sailors, fishermen, or skipper caps, this type of hats for men is yet another historically sourced style within the menswear canon. In general, mariner caps have a soft, unstructured design with a flat top and short but curved brim. While the’re not on the fashion radar today, they made the jump from practical to an everyday item when the Beatles started sporting them in the 60s.
Sometimes referred to as private caps, military caps resemble their baseball brethren in a few ways, but as the most definitive feature, they sport a cylindrical crown with a flat top. The brim itself, while usually curved, is also shorter, extending no more than two or three inches.
While most today associate them with the 1990s movie Newsies, newsboy caps sometimes called pageboy or baker boy caps emerged sometime in the 19th century. In another soft, unstructured style, the paneled design is capped off with a button that secures the front of the hat directly to the brim. The apple cap, while visually similar, is an offshoot that enlarges the design.
Back in the 90s, these were better known as Kangol caps, after the brand that popularized the design. Whatever you want to call them, these types of hats for men were sported years ago by chimney sweepers and, later, progressed to the golf course. With a flat top that keeps a consistent pitch through the stiff brim, they are typically made out of wool or cotton and feature a lining.
The ascot branched off from the flat cap, and as such, it retains several of its predecessor’s properties. However, its top is rounded, and the felt or wool design, while unlined, was initially conceived for colder weather.
Do you play in a ska band? For most, the answer will likely be “No,” but due to Breaking Bad’s Walter White, the style made a return a few years ago. Similar to a fedora but slightly dressed down, it’s an overall smaller style with a cylindrical crown that’s been pinched on the sides and a short brim.
Although these were once practical fisherman’s hats for the brim’s shape and ability to secure hooks to the exterior, this type of hat for men gained pop-culture popularity through the late 80s, early 90s rave culture.
Due to the 90s revival over the past few years, bucket hats have been a fixture on the runway. Regardless of its origins, the bucket hat sports an unstructured design made out of cotton, wool, or tweed, a downward-angled brim that can be folded up, and multiple eyelets for breathability.
The style automatically reads as Frenchin the U.S., but no matter how you want to interpret it, a rounded poof-like top defines this cap traditionally made out of cotton or wool. Because of this feature, berets tend to offer some flexibility in terms of wear — keep it on top or angle it to one side. As its definitive feature, most have a stem-like point or ribbon right on the top.
Men’s Sun Hats
Although straw hats and other woven styles might have kept a man cool decades ago, today, nylon with UPF protection and moisture-wicking properties offers better protection and comfort in the outdoors. Visually, the boonie shares several characteristics with the bucket hat, but differs in a few ways.
One, the brim is longer, naturally providing more shade against the sun. Two, these styles, going back to their military origins, tend to have a chinstrap. Three, while the general design is flexible, more techy versions sport mesh paneling or vents over eyelets to improve air circulation for long hours outdoors.
While they might resemble a cross between a helmet and a cowboy hat, this less-structured style originally designed to keep the wearer cool outdoors in intense heat has a downward-sloped brim, a higher crown, and a dent down the center, borrowing multiple attributes from popular dress types of hats for men.
Men’s Winter Hats
The quintessential knit cap, beanies today are also found in fleece or are lined for an extra degree of warmth. Either way, its composition is meant to keep the wearer’s body heat close, while offering coverage over the forehead and ears against the cold, if needed. While still practical, beanies have been adopted by skate and streetwear scenes for their comfort and adaptably slouchy fit.
The beanie, too, has gained a few offshoots. The Peruvian adds earflaps to the design for more coverage. The tam, meanwhile, ups the slouch factor and frequently sports a crocheted, textured appearance.
Initially made with sheepskin and leather and featuring thick Sherpa lining, these types of hats for men deliver the ultimate amount of winter coverage. However, yours is composed — today, for instance, you’re likely to find them in flannel, corduroy, and performance materials — they offer coverage for your ears and the full top of your head and secure below the chin to stay in place outdoors.