The History and Origin of the Fedora Hat

There’s nothing like a hat when it comes to making a statement. And when it comes to hat types, nothing combines class and bravado like the classic fedora.

But this cultural phenomenon didn’t come from nowhere. And there’s nothing like hearing the history and origin of the fedora hat to make us appreciate this style icon all the more.

A Hat Fit for a Princess

The history of the fedora begins on the stage back in 1882, when a play called Fédora opened at the Théâtre du Vaudeville in Paris. Sarah Bernhardt, who played the main character of the show, princess Fédora Romanoff, wore a creased felt hat as part of the costume.

Even though they were similar to the old Homburg style of hats, they quickly became more popular, especially as a symbol of the woman’s movement.

…Or a Prince

It wasn’t only fictional royalty that was donning the new headwear. On a 1924 visit to the United States, Prince Edward VIII was seen wearing a fedora with a suit. And as everyone knows, what is stylish for royalty quickly becomes stylish for the rest of us peasants. Soon, the fedora was popular for both men and women.

The Hat of the Mob

If there is one thing we associate with the roaring 20s more than jazz music, it’s bootleggers and gangsters. And despite the heinous crimes and acts of violence, if there’s one thing gangsters were known for, it was dressing well.

Since the fedora was the hat of choice of the 20s, it’s only natural that I worked its way into the wardrobes of several high-class gangsters. And when you’re a small-time gangster and see pictures of Al Capone and Bugsy Siegel sporting a fedora, then you rush to buy one too.

Fedoras and the Silver Screen

Hollywood has helped to set the tone of fedoras over the course of the last century. We’ve all seen images of Humphrey Bogart wearing a killer fedora as he gazes at Ingrid Bergman at the airport in Casablanca. And what’s an old-fashioned film noir without a hard-boiled detective in a fedora?

In the 80s, the fedora made its way onto our screens on the heads of more rough-and-tumble characters, like Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Freddy in Nightmare on Elm Street. This gave the fedora a new persona—one a little edgier, but no less refined.

The Rise of the Borsalino

An unexpected cultural move of the fedora was when they began being worn by Orthodox Jewish men in the 1960s. Headwear has always been a part of Jewish tradition, and as Jewish students sought to establish a sense of individualism amid the world around them, so they began donning a black Italian-style fedora called the Borsalino.

The Fedora of Today

Although the “fedora guy” meme of 2013 gave the fedora some unfortunate associations, it has risen above it and remains a style icon. And if you’re ready to join a proud history, Fashionable Hats has a fine collection of Dobbs Fedoras for every style.