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Hat History - Fun Trivia and Facts

woman wearing a hat over her eyes

Headed to the beach? Don’t leave home without your wide-brim paper straw hat. Going to a formal? Steal the spotlight with a sophisticated-looking copper fedora. And don’t forget to bring your vented outback hat along for the adventure during your next mountain hike.


When you’re looking for a practical and polished accessory, you can’t go wrong with a hat. Hats have crowned heads for hundreds of years for three reasons. First, they can signify a person’s high economic and social standing. Second, they can shield you from stinging and biting insects, sun, cold, rain, and wind. Third, they’re a stylish way to top off any outfit.


How much do you know about hats and historical hat facts, though?


Let’s explore some of the most intriguing aspects of hat history and delve into fun hat trivia that will make your jaw drop.


Hat History: Earth’s Oldest Headpiece


Woven clothing might date back around 27,000 years based on archaeological evidence that hunter-gatherers during the stone age left behind. This means figurine features that were once thought to be prehistoric hairdos were the world’s first-known caps.


Researchers found these historical hats, which looked like interlaced fiber impressions, on 90 clay fragments at sites like the village Dolni Vestonic of the Czech Republic. This shows that mankind’s passion for hats is nothing new. It also shows that hats are ageless and unfailing: They will never go out of style.


Why Mad Hatters Became Mad


In the 1800s and 1700s, hat makers used mercury to produce their headgear. That’s because mercury made their felting process more efficient. Mercury nitrate was used to make the fibers moist, which led them to produce higher-quality caps.


There was one caveat: They didn’t know mercury, a dangerous heavy metal to humans, would harm them.


When they were exposed to large amounts of mercury during the manufacturing process, they suffered from mercury poisoning. This led to the following types of neurological problems:


  • Mood changes and irritability
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Physical tremors
  • Depression
  • Memory problems
  • Numbness


The behavioral changes the hat makers endured due to mercury poisoning caused them to be called mad hatters. Fortunately, mercury was later replaced with hydrogen peroxide, which was less costly and less dangerous. A little hat trivia for you: The last known case of “mad hatter syndrome” was in the 1940s.


What’s Size Got to Do With It?


If you’ve been hat shopping for a while, you know determining your hat size is an important step. But how did standard hat sizes come about?


The old-fashioned technique used to determine hat sizes was to measure the head’s circumference in inches. The metric system has also been used to figure out the sizes of hats like fedoras. This means you can use both inches and centimeters to decide which hat size works best for you.


If you’re using the metric system, choose an extra-small hat (6 ⅝ hat size) if your head’s circumference is 53 centimeters, and select an 8 ⅛ hat size if the circumference is 65 centimeters. Using inches? An extra-small hat will fit a head with a circumference of 20 ¾ inches, and an 8 ⅛ hat size works well for someone with a head circumference of 26 ½ inches.


How Top Hats Made It to the Top


Top hats were a sign of refinement and distinction during the 1800s. Several popular figures in history wore top hats, including the following:


  • Winston Churchill
  • Josephine Baker
  • Duke Ellington
  • Abraham Lincoln


Even though President Lincoln didn’t popularize these historical hats, as it was already established as an accessory, his image today remains predominantly tied to his top hat.


man wearing a top hat

Panama Hats…Not from Panama?


Another noteworthy fact from hat history is that the popular Panama hat isn’t from Panama. It originates in Ecuador. These beautiful historical straw hats became in high demand when Panama Canal workers wore them. The “Panama” name remained tied to the hat, which continues to be a sign of fashion and quality.


Hat Magic


One of the most famous magic tricks in history involves hats. Pulling rabbits out of hats is a traditional trick that has captivated illusion lovers for years. It’s a trick that will likely continue to enthrall audiences for years to come.


Show Your Manners: Tip Your Hat


Hat etiquette, like tipping the brim of your hat, is a big part of hat history. Tipping a hat conveys a variety of messages. If you’re a man, tip your brim to a woman to show you respect her. When you come across a fellow hat wearer, tip your brim to them to show them you recognize and share their love for hats.


Fun With Feathers


Feathers have graced hats for centuries to exude fashion and opulence. Plumed caps were in high demand in the 1700s. Native Americans also wore hats with feathers to indicate their high social status. Whenever you wear your favorite hat, you’re playing your part in keeping this rich aspect of hat history alive.


Fantastic Fascinators


Fascinators were tiny formal headpieces that picked up steam in the 1900s. These historical hats, made from materials like lace, feathers, mesh, wool, and silk, are now often worn at sophisticated events, like weddings. They feature decorative designs attached to clips or bands, which you wear to the side of your head. Show off your boss status with these beauties!


The Juggling Hat Act


Another important piece of hat history is the mesmerizing act of hat juggling. Vaudevillian entertainers mastered this skill, and today’s circus performers are keeping it going. It’s no easy feat, as it requires excellent balance and motor control.


Become a Part of Hat History With Help from


At, we’re a proud provider of a variety of hat styles and fabrics to suit your personality and keep you at the forefront of today’s latest hat trends. Each time you wear one of our hats, you’re claiming your place alongside the hunter-gatherers, Vaudevillian performers, magicians, and famous top hat wearers in history. See the look you want? Make it yours by ordering today, and earn points/exclusive rewards through our Rewards Program each time you buy!