The Age-Old Question: Is It a Men's Hat or a Woman's Hat?

The Age-Old Question: Is It a Men's Hat or a Woman's Hat?

Taking Risks Reading The Age-Old Question: Is It a Men's Hat or a Woman's Hat? 6 minutes Next Navigating the Nightmare World of Hat Sizes

You might have noticed that we don’t list our hats as for men or for women. Why? Because all the old gender rules of fashion are about as relevant as white after Labor Day – most of us don't give two figs, especially if you live in Miami. Okay, okay, fine. Some people do care and maybe you're one of them. You really want to make sure that you’re getting a hat that is appropriate for your gender. We got you - yes, there’s a way to tell ladies’ hats from men’s hats and I’m going to share it with you.

if you can't tell just by looking if a hat is intended for a man or a woman, no one else can either

But first…

Let’s talk about what’s the same about hats regardless of gender norms.

Sizing, especially in the small, medium, large variety, is the same, which is to say a large men’s hat is the same size as a large ladies’ hat. There’s a really long tangent here I could go into about sizing and measuring. There are at least four types of sizes – inches, centimeters, eighths or “Proper Hat sizes” as my Stetson sales rep likes to say, and good old SML (small, medium, large, x-large). This is something that is getting its own blog post next week and is somewhat informational and something of a rant. So back to the topic at hand: sizes are the same regardless of gender. That said, a lot of womenswear brands opt to only make one size of hat (there’s another big rant here that I’ll save for another day), which is usually a size medium or 22.5” or 57 cm or 7 1/8. Why? Who knows but it was probably decided by the same person who decided that women’s shoes should be soled in cardboard. 

Second, many, but not all, hat shapes crossover. A fedora is a fedora is a fedora. A pork pie is a pork pie is a pork pie. A boater is a boater is a – well, you get the idea. Cloches are the obvious exception to this rule. Though the shape of the crown has some similarity with a bowler (we once inspired a hat in the Stetson line that was a bowler crown with a four inch floppy brim. It was a great hat that came in a full size range and is, sadly, no longer in production). There are other specialty shapes in womenswear hats including lampshades, a kind of bucket hat with a wide brim and usually an exceptionally wide ribbon trim, and fascinators of all types. But, chances are, if you’re looking at a specialty shape as such, you already know it’s designed with women in mind and don’t need my help sorting out who the designer had in mind to wear it.

high femme hats are easy to distinguish

Next up, materials. They are essentially the same regardless of whether a hat is made by a womenswear brand or a menswear brand. In the summer women's hat and men's hats are straw and in the winter men’s hats and women’s hats are felt.

Both types of brands use the same trims for the most part – grosgrain, leather, cording, maybe some chain for the adventurous. Sometimes, womenswear brands will do bigger bows (we have a Big Bows collection if you’re interested), but especially in the current fashion moment, this is the exception not the standard. Womenswear brands will sometimes use flowers, veiling, or lace. Again, not what’s really happening in this fashion moment. About a decade ago, femme hats (ie. cloches with big bows) were the bee’s knees thanks, in large part, to Downton Abbey. Ms. Maisel has put in some good effort but she just doesn’t have the glamour of the Crawley family, and the hats of her era were not quite so glamorous so we’re just hanging out waiting for high femme to be cool again. And if you’re one of those people who’s ride or die high femme, we got you. 

Sweatbands are mostly the same, but it's rare to see a leather sweatband in a hat designed for the women's market. I personally think this has to do with suppliers being focused on fast fashion buyers and trying to keep the cost down (probably the reason womenswear brands often produce only one size hat and sole shoes in cardboard). But grosgrain, padded cloth, elasticized fabric, and even adjustable sweats, which started life in the women's market, are used unilaterally (speaking of starting in the women's market, did you know that even though it's now more strongly associated with men, the boater, you know the barber shop quartet/voting hat, started as a women's style in the 1800s? (Subscribe for more useless but interesting information)).

if the hat fits and you like it, it's for you

Historically, menswear hats have the bow on the wearer’s left and womenswear hats have the bow on the wearer’s right, like buttons on dress shirts or zippers on pants. Just as buttons and zippers close up a garment, the bow or knot on the side of a hat is where either end of the trim that goes around the hat meet up. The cold hard truth is that even this stalwart tradition of gendering hats is falling by the wayside. Some brands pay this historical vestige no mind whatsoever and put the bow on different sides on different hats. Some hats are so wild and crazy as to have trim on both the left and the right!

So, are you ready for the big reveal? Ready to learn how to tell men’s hats from women’s hats and vice versa?

Everyone gets to decide for themself. If you can’t tell just by looking at it, no one else can either. If you like it and it fits, it’s for you. If you don’t or it doesn’t, it’s not for you.  

a woman and a man wearing the same hat looking at each other with sassWho wore it better?

Bobby and Carolyn are both wearing Harrod

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