The wearing of warm-weather-friendly straw hats dates back to ancient Thebes, and it was likely the Greeks who introduced the brim to the petasos lids they wore while traveling (and which the mythologically inclined among us recognize as the cap on wing-heeled Hermes). The past 3,000 years? Well, they’ve brought more than a few innovations to the headgear game. Below, we break down the defining characteristics of the hat types that’ll be dotting the landscape of our modern world this spring.
The Panama Hat (pictured below)
Essentially a wide-brim fedora with a pinched and dimpled crown made of straw, this is the godfather, the classic, the bare-bones essential of summer hatting. It was originally made in Ecuador, but after one was presented to then-president Teddy Roosevelt while visiting Panama for the opening of the Canal in 1914, the name stuck.
The Straw Fedora
A stingier-brim version of the panama, this classic was nearly brought to ruin by K-Fed in the early aughts. Thankfully, Don Draper and mod-ish midcentury flavor came to the rescue.
The Farmer Hat
Worn by zinc-nosed lifeguards the world over, this hat—often made of heavy, woven straw, and featuring an exaggerated, wide-slanted brim—is the ultimate in sun protection. Give its namesake vocation some props and pick one up before you move upstate to grow turnips and craft organic cheeses.
This front-billed classic has the aerodynamic, forward-leaning crown Kangol made famous throughout the late-’80s. The style goes back to the middle ages on the British isles and hopped the pond with emigrants in the 17th Century. When made in lighter fabrics—like cotton—the Ivy cap is ideal for a day on the town.
The Bucket Hat
Made of heavy cotton, with breathable eyelets in its soft square crown and a floppy flat brim, the bucket hat is favored by fishermen who will often tack their flies and lures into the hat for storage. Gilligan rocked one.
This flat-top, straight-brim hat, usually made of sennit, was initially worn by rowing crews in the 1800s, and so came to be known as the boater. Identified with political rallies and flat-footed FBI agents throughout the middle of the last century, the boater is a kind of retro relic these days.
The Captain’s Cap
The visored Greek fisherman’s hat (which traces it’s roots back to democracy’s birthplace during Pythagorean times), with its still sweatband, tassle decorations, and nautical poof of a crown, worn by ship captains (and Gilligan’s skipper), have a place in this world—it’s just not necessarily on your head.
Though it goes back to the Bronze Age in Italy, and made appearances on foppish men in tights throughout the Renaissance, the modern beret was designed in Northern Spain where it was donned by Basque shepherds and sailors for warmth. Later worn by the elegant demimonde in Paris between the wars (and then elite fighters during the war) is making a comeback today. Basically a flop of wool atop a fitted band, and easily manipulated into myriad looks, the beret is a clean canvas for the flamboyant stylist in you.
Like a beret with a tiny stiff-cap brim, the newsboy became associated with those kids shilling newspapers in the late-19th century. Its most memorable appearance came in the Francis Ford Coppola-penned film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, as the former James Gatz’s (i.e., Robert Redford’s) favored headwear.