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Trends & Subcultures

09 January 2017

History of The Fedora Hat

As a statement of style and elegance, the fedora hat has stood the test of time. It's been adopted by numerous subcultures over the years, with particular roots in the old Hollywood, jazz and ska scenes. 


But what is a fedora exactly, where did it come from and what's the history behind it? More than just a beautiful brimmed accessory, the fedora hat has also had strong political connotations, beginning life as a gesture of female empowerment.

History of the Fedora Hat

The fedora hat got its name in 1887, when infamous stage actress Sarah Bernhardt donned the headpiece for her role as a feisty Russian princess, Fédora Romanoff. As a result, women's rights activists and suffragettes started to wear this traditionally masculine hat as a symbol of liberation. 


Fast-forward to the first few decades of the 20th century and fedoras had caught on with both men and women, from the streets to the silver screen. Even today, the fedora recalls the strong female leads of Hollywood’s Golden Age, such as Ava Gardner and Marlene Dietrich.


Bringing us up to present day, the fedora maintains its much-loved position amongst the fashion elite. We've taken a look at a few key contemporary fedora moments, both on and off the runway. 


Fedoras on the runway


Fedoras have made a dramatic impact on the catwalk over the years. Hedi Slimane’s debut collection for Saint Laurent in 2012 successfully brought the ever-elegant hat back into the spotlight. This luxurious reincarnation featured a wide, floppy brim with a black ribbon band around the crown. It was teamed with tailored Saint Laurent trousers and preppy blazers for a polished finish.


The Saint Laurent rabbit hair fedora hat became one of the season's most sought-after accessories, with the grey colourway selling out almost as soon as it hit stores.

Variations of the fedora have also made their way onto other prestigious runways. Vivienne Westwood offered her take on the design in her SS14 collection, which included oversized straw fedoras. More recently, the Burberry Runway SS15 collection featured rabbit-felt fedoras in soft shades of blue, deep raspberry tones and rich jewel green hues.


Maison Michel hats have also made an appearance at Paris Fashion Week, showcasing chic fedora styles with subtle details such as striped ribbons and feathers.


Four seasons of the fedora


The fedora takes on a different character depending on the season. It can provide an elegant finishing touch to an oversized coat in winter. Or it can be worn as a transitional piece, as seen on Florence Welch. She combines her black wool felt Janessa Leone hat with a dark Saint Laurent shirt featuring an all-over paisley print and J Brand flared jeans for an effortlessly vintage feel.


However, fedora hats for women really come into their own when the sun comes out. Jaime King has been spotted in an elegant white crochet maxi dress styled with a matching Ryan Roche angora fedora hat in white. A pair of flat animal print Loeffler Randall sandals with double strap fastenings add a chic twist to this fresh, all-white summer ensemble.


Alessandra Ambrosio also exudes the spirit of summer, by teaming a cream straw fedora from Janessa Leone with a relaxed denim playsuit featuring a sweetheart neckline, accessorised with a Chanel shoulder bag.


A head for music


From the sharply dressed jazz singers of the prohibition era to more recent style icons such as James Bay and Madonna, fedoras have long been associated with the music industry. 


A regular on the Burberry front row, as well as occasionally providing the soundtrack to its shows, Paloma Faith is no stranger to a boldly angled fedora. She made a particularly striking entrance at Burberry's London Fashion Week AW14 show, pairing her dramatic burgundy hat with a green satin embroidered skirt and a burgundy coat flung over her shoulders.


At the Emporio Armani Milan Fashion Week SS14 collection, Paloma wore her fedora to entirely different effect. Her pastel pink hat, baby blue A-line dress and white ankle socks combined to create a girlish vintage aesthetic. 


Lou Doillon stepped out in her black Maison Michel fedora at the Paris Fashion Week Chanel RTW SS11 show. Worn with a half-unbuttoned black shirt neatly tucked into a high-waisted Crayola-red skirt (both Chanel), her red-ribboned hat playfully matched the colour scheme of her outfit. 


Oh Land is another fedora fan, wearing her blue version with a mixture of high street and designer pieces on her arrival for The Late Show With David Letterman in March 2011. She tucked her blouse into a pair of Weekday shorts, finishing with a cropped H&M jacket and a long-chained Alexander Wang bag.


Although the meaning behind fedoras may have shifted over the last couple of centuries, the history of this much-loved hat has always retained its association with style and refinement. By experimenting with colours and materials, as well as contemporary outfit pairings, the fedora continues to evolve and move with the times. There aren't many designs that look just as chic and fresh in the late 19th century as they do in the 21st. 


 Fedora Hat
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