Hats for women come in all shapes and sizes, typically offering a much greater choice than available for men. However, the one area that tends to be lacking in dedicated women’s sizes are those hat styles traditionally worn by men. We’re talking about menswear classics such as the felt fedora, trilby, or a fine straw panama hat.
However, over the decades, many innovative women have appropriated traditionally male hats, incorporating them into their looks to stylish effect. Pulling off such a look today is easier than ever before. In fact, genre boundaries in fashion have never been less strictly enforced. So, forget about wearing the same old hats for women which we’ve all seen a million times before – it’s time to branch out and try some classic men’s styles instead!
In this article, we’ll offer inspiration from a few pioneering ladies who pushed sartorial boundaries to make men’s hats for women a more common and socially acceptable feature of the female fashion landscape. Along the way, we’ll offer some tips on how to best integrate traditionally male hats into your wardrobe for maximum impact.
A Guide to Men’s Hats for Women
Let’s take a closer look at a few of the most popular types of men’s hats for women and consider how you might incorporate them into your look for daily wear.
Today, we tend to associate the fedora with the macho gangsters and hardboiled detectives of classic Hollywood. From Casablanca to The Big Heat and Chinatown, the fedora is usually accompanied by a sharp suit, a trench coat, leather gloves, and a cigar. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, it even came with a bullwhip and a pistol. In short, the fedora is the archetypal hat for “real” men.
That said, this wasn’t always the case. In fact, your average hard-drinking, hard-fighting, Hollywood macho man might be surprised to learn that when the fedora first became popular in the late 19th Century, it was a hat that was just as – if not more – likely to be worn by women. Indeed, in the 1880s, the fedora was adopted as a symbol of the fledgling women’s rights movement. In that context, it’s easy to see that a woman wearing a fedora today is not hijacking an originally male style, but reclaiming one of the first modern hats for women to become fashionable.
Of course, the popularly accepted meaning for any given fashion item tends to change over time. In the 1920s, the well-known dandy Prince Edward of England made the fedora a hit with men, too. Following this, sharply-dressed, zoot-suited Jazzmen and high-profile Prohibition-era gangsters such as Al Capone further reinforced the masculine appeal of the fedora – an image that was then amplified by film noir and B-movies.
Today, though, the fedora is for everyone and can be worn by women in a variety of ways. Pairing your fedora with classic menswear items such as a shirt and tie, a trenchcoat, or a slouch suit will certainly make for a stylish combo. You might even be surprised at how many people – of both genders – find such a “butch” look attractive – especially if you go for the sightly disheveled effect of bed hair, a loosened tie, and an untucked shirt à la Patti Smith.
However, a fedora can also work well when worn in a smart and boyish manner. As a case in point, check out Katherine Hepburn in these clips from Sylvia Scarlett (1935) – 80 years before Tilda Swinton made androgyny cool again!
Of course, the alternative is to use the fedora to turn the old macho image on its head, combining it with much more stereotypically feminine garments, such as soft knitwear, a linen blouse, or a flowing, floral dress. All are equally stunning looks for women seeking to
make a fashionable impression with a fedora today.
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When it comes to staking a claim on traditionally male hats for women, Marlene Dietrich provided us with one of the most stylish historical examples. Dietrich was repeatedly photographed, over the course of her long career, looking fabulous in a top hat and tuxedo – most famously in the 1930 film Morocco, in which she performed cabaret dressed as a man before kissing a female member of the audience.
To pull off this look, you needn’t necessarily opt for a complete white tie ensemble like Dietrich although that effect can be stunning. As a slightly more modern example, think of a late-1980s Lisa Bonet and things might make more sense.
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Flat Cap/Driving Cap
Jodie Foster, Jane Fonda, Rachel Weisz, Vanessa Paradis, Raquel Welch, and Cameron Diaz – each indisputably among the most talented and beautiful actresses ever to grace the silver screen. Acting abilities and looks aren’t all they have in common, though, as each of these women has also been known to sport a popular item of men’s headwear from time to time. Specifically, the flat cap or driving cap.
As with each of the several other traditionally male hats being discussed here, when worn by women, the flat cap will often look best when combined with items that retain something of the hat’s original context. In the case of the flat cap, that means sticking to clothes with something of a traditional country feel.
In practice, you might opt for a jacket or coat in a fine woolen fabric such as tweed or a windowpane check. Masculine tailoring silhouettes can work well here, but if you’re already going with a heavy woolen cloth, you might consider utilizing a more fitted and feminine cut to your best advantage. Alternatively, a chunky knit and a heavy scarf will look equally stylish when combined with a flat cap. For a more unisex option, try cotton canvas workwear and leather ankle boots.
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Straw Panama Hat
While women have, of course, been wearing straw hats of one form or another for centuries, these have generally been styles specifically designed as hats for women rather than men. Indeed, unlike some other traditionally male hats, you’d be hard-pressed to cite many examples of female celebrities wearing panama hats dating from prior to the Millennium. For arcane reasons of international fashion whim, it just wasn’t the done thing.
That’s all changed now and, in the last decade or so, men’s panama hats have become among the most popular hats for women. Once again, Cameron Diaz is a fan though it was Meghan Markle’s panama hat that confirmed the classic panama’s crossover from being strictly an item of menswear to one of the most sought-after hats for women around – especially during the summer months.
Viewed in one possible light, it can be seen as odd that women took so long to adopt the men’s panama, as it’s undoubtedly one of the easiest types of men’s hats for women to wear. What’s more, men’s straw panama hats come in such a wide range of shapes and styles that there’s bound to be a model to suit every woman’s face.
As we’ve suggested with some of the other hat styles mentioned above, you can certainly combine a men’s panama with more masculine clothing. However, that’s really only one of the many viable options open to you when wearing a panama. Indeed, a man’s panama hat will look equally great with more feminine and pretty summer styles, so feel free to experiment as much as you wish.
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Often mistaken for its wider-brimmed sibling, the fedora, the trilby is another classic men’s hat which has a long history of being worn by women to great effect. Back in swinging ‘60s London, hip young women would combine the trilby with geometric Mary Quant minidresses for a sharp, modernist look. By the end of the ’70s, the trilby was more associated with Britain’s Mod revival – tight suits, skinny ties, et al. Famously, the trilby became the signature look of Pauline Black from the British 2 Tone ska band, The Selecter.
More recently, the trilby has become a female fashion staple, worn by everyone from Naomi Watts to Cara Delevingne. So far as men’s hats for women go, it’s one of the easier styles to pull off, as it can be worn with everything from a classic raincoat-and-jeans combo to more relaxed looks such as cropped shorts and sneakers.
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Clearly, there’s already an extremely wide range of hats for women available today. Nevertheless, many women also enjoy wearing hats originally designed specifically for men – or, at least, much more unisex styles which may be easily worn by both sexes.
To be sure, although some hats have clearly been designed with women in mind, the differences between men’s and women’s hats are frequently far more superficial than otherwise. Oftentimes, the main difference between hats for women and men is simply a matter of the side on which any decorative elements are positioned.
On men’s hats, details such as feathers, bows, or charms are traditionally placed on the left. Conversely, with hats for women, those various adornments will usually be found on the right. So, if you really want to turn a man’s hat into bonafide women’s headgear, it’s often necessary only to switch the hatband around.
We hope that you’ve found this guide to men’s hats for women useful. If you’re interested in experimenting with different hat styles, be sure to check out both our men’s and women’s hat ranges on the web store: