The Fedora: Feeling Fine

While more commonly worn by men today, the fedora was initially worn by a woman.

History of the Fedora

The first use of the fedora (a wide, soft-brimmed hat) dates back to the late 1800s.  In the play Fédora, Sarah Bernhardt played a Russian princess named Fédora Romanoff, who wore a soft-brimmed hat with a center crease. 

Since Bernhardt was influential in the women’s movement, the hat was eventually adopted as a symbol of female resistance and a rejection of stereotypical gender roles.

The hat later became popular with men after it was spotted on Edward, Prince of Wales, in the 1920s. Its popularity continued and soon, the British and Americans created different versions of the hat. While the Americans favored a wider brim, the British kept to a smaller brim size.

What Defines a Fedora?

The fedora has a very distinctive look, with a soft brim and creased center. The brim is normally as wide as 2.5 inches and the edge can be machine-hemmed or left as is. Generally, the hat is made of wool, cashmere, rabbit, or beaver felt.  It is also not uncommon to see hats fashioned from straw, cotton, hemp, linen, or leather.

The traditional colors of the fedora are earth tones, like black, brown, or gray.  After World War II, the palette grew to include khaki, blue, and green. 

A number of famous hat manufacturers still produce fedoras today, including Bailey, Borsalino, and Stetson.

Fedora in Pop Culture

The fedora has been associated with different groups throughout the 20th and 21st centuries:

  • The Early 1900s — The fedora was strongly associated with gangsters and Prohibition.
  • Late 1900s — Indiana Jones re-popularized the fedora by sharing a notable back story on how he received his iconic hat.
  • The Early 2000s — The fedora became affiliated with hipster culture.

Regardless of the era, the fedora is sure to add a touch of style to any outfit.