The History of the Fedora
The Fedora is a hat that is generally made out of felt or straw.
It has a wide brim and a crown that is indented and pitched and usually finished with a ribbon hat band. It can be made in any color but black, gray, dark brown and tan are the most popular.
The word fedora comes from the title of an 1882 play by dramatist Victorien Sardou, Fédora, written for Sarah Bernhardt. The play was first performed in the United States in 1889. Bernhardt played Princess Fédora, the heroine of the play. During the play, Bernhardt wore a center-creased, soft brimmed hat.
The hat was fashionable for women and the women’s rights movement adopted it as a symbol. After Prince Edward of Britain started wearing them in 1924, it became popular among men for its stylishness and its ability to protect the wearer’s head from the wind and weather.
At the height of the fedora’s popularity was from mid-1920s which is why it is often associated with Prohibition and gangsters. In 1940s and 1950s noir films popularized fedora hats even more and its popularity lasted until late 1950s, when informal clothing became more widespread.
It returned in mid-1970s and again in 1980s and in 2000s. Fedora and trilby hats were so fashionable because of their style and because of their practicality. They didn’t obscure the view while driving the car and were not as big as top hats so they could be worn in public transport. They could also be stored by folding without losing its shape.
But main reason for constant returning of the fedora to fashion should be looked for in media and its influence on people. In 1940s and 1950s, Hollywood brought back fedora by making movies in which fedora hat was a repeating icon of manliness and mystery worn by such names as Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant on celluloid and Frank Sinatra on the stage.
Legendary college football coach Paul Bear Bryant wore his trademark plaid and hounds-tooth fedora while standing near sidelines of games of his teams. Fedora was a part of his image that he is wearing it on the cover of the Time magazine. One more coach that made fedora an irreplaceable part of his attire was Coach Tom Landry, head coach of Dallas Cowboys from 1960 to 1988.
In seventies it was Indiana Jones that who brought revival of fedora to the silver screen. Television carries as much weight of responsibility for popularity of fedora as cinema… you will recall Indiana Jones wearing them while the music fanatics of days gone by cannot forget Michael Jackson from Smooth Criminal, Billie Jean, Dangerous to You Rock My World, where he spotted this hat. Simply epic!
In recent years many other musicians such are Justin Timberlake and Brittany Spears were wearing fedora in their live appearances and that has kept the fedora hat in fashion. Famous writer Terry Pratchett is known, among other things, for wearing a wide brim white fedora. In the last decade we’ve seen an explosion of shows, from Mad Men to Boardwalk Empire that depict characters being fashion conscious while retaining their masculinity.
Not coincidentally, these shows packed with tough men in snappy suits all take place in the past, with all the distance that affords. These shows provide an outlet for men who are interested in clothes, but retain the worry that this makes them appear feminine. Clinging to yesterday’s most iconic hat is a way to assert fashion sense without worrying about public perception.
Although it went in and out of the fashion throughout history, fedora was and will be one of the most stylish hats ever.