Hat Types: The Pork Pie

Pork Pie | Royal Hats

pork pie

Traditional English Pork Pie (inspiration for the hat!)

History: first Perhaps the most oddly named of the hat styles, the pork pie came into fashion around 1830 on the heads of American and English women and remained en vogue through the American Civil War. In the early 1900s, this style changed gear and was seen on fashionable men about town in Britain. American men adopted the pork pie style in the 1920s thanks to silent film star Buster Keaton who wore them in many of his films. Popularity of the pork pie continued through the American Great Depression until the end of World War II (when it topped many a zoot suit). It remains popular within African American jazz, blues and ska music culture today, where it retains many of it’s ‘cool cat’ associations with the 1930s and 40s.

Characteristics:  You can pick out a pork pie hat a mile away from the shape of the crown- a round, recessed dome that looks like the crust of a traditional English Pork pie. Made of wool or straw, pork pie hats are now usually worn on the top of the head, although we do see them worn tilted backwards from time to time. The brim on a pork pie hat is traditionally the same width all the way around the hat.

Royals Associated with this Hat Style: Queen Margrethe, Japanese Imperial Royal Family. It’s not a hat shape we see often on royal heads.

Queen Margrethe, November 15, 2004 | Royal Hats  Queen Margrethe, September 2, 2013 | Royal Hats Queen Margrethe, April 11, 2017 | Royal Hats

Queen Margrethe in November 2004, May 2013, June 2013 and April 11, 2017

2006-12-09  Princess Grace| Royal Hats Queen Elizabeth, Aug 20, 1995 | Royal Hats

Crown Princess Masako, Apr 30, 2013; Princess Grace of Monaco in the early 1980s, Queen Elizabeth, Aug 20, 1995

   Princess Hanako, Jan 16, 2017 | Royal Hats Princess Alexandra, July 15, 2016 | Royal Hats

Princess Alexandra of Luxembourg, Jun 23, 2016; Princess Hanako, Jan 16, 2017Princess Alexandra, Jul 15, 2016 

What do you think of this hat with the most interesting of names?

Photos from Taylor’s Butcher; Toshifumi Kitamura via Getty; Abaca via PurePeople; Martin Høien via Billed Bladet Henning Bagger/Scanpix via Kongehuset;Pool/Reuters via Corbis;  unknown; Tim Graham via Getty;  The Catholic Church of Luxembourg; The Asahi Shimbun via Getty; Craig Hayes/3 Rifles

12 thoughts on “Hat Types: The Pork Pie

    • Respectfully, I disagree. The top of a pillbox hat is characteristically flat- that is what makes it a pillbox! Perhaps we can agree to consider these pillbox-pork pie hybrid hats?

      The point of this post was to show what a traditional pork pie hat is and to explore how variations of it appear in royal hats. We see very few traditional pork pie hats in royal millinery today but the influence of this style is evident with the hats seen here (arguably, all are variations of a pork pie). This, I think, is valuable to notice.

      • I stay with my opinion.
        this is a good question for your query – brimless pork pie hats or pork pie style pillbox hats?

  1. I had an eccentric uncle who use to wear a pork pie hat with a brim and a wing collar. It was quite a look! I like the shape as a change from simple pillboxes, fedoras and bowlers. I favour Queen Margrethe’s versions and especially like the “tartan” one with the coordinating flowers. In fact, I like all these versions – neat but not showy, everyday but not Ascot. .

  2. Can we truely say that similarly shaped hats from traditions other than American / European origin are “pork pie?” Or was there an adoption of the style in Japan from America?

    • Western style of dressing was adopted in Japan from Britain and America from Victorian times onwards (across the board – including men’s suits), so the mode of dress we see on Japanese royal ladies is entirely derived from a non-Japanese source, although of course in modern times Japan has had its own fashion designers etc. So the influences on this style are undoubtedly Western.

  3. To me, it’s not a pork pie hat without the brim. I’m not sure what to call the brimless examples, but in my mind I guess I file them under “variations on a pill box”.

    • Caroline, I was having that discussion in my head.I looked back at the actual pork pie image, and then thought I guess that’s the real shape. However I find it quite ugly. When a brim is added I give it a pass. I like some height too, so really I then go into the realms of not really a pork pie. But then when I go back and scan the examples, my best is Princess Benedikte. There goes my brim argument. So now I think it needs to be deep in height and placement is important – the Japanese versions are too low on the brow for me. I guess it just isn’t a favourite shape for me.

    • My instinct is to agree with you, Caroline! The brimless ones I think of as being more pillboxy. I suppose one can define them as having a pork pie crown. Still, I think Hat Queen is right that they generally are more successful interpretations of the style these days.

  4. I’ve been using a pork-pie tip a lot this year.  It’s a very refreshing alternative to the saucer hat and adds a bit of interest to a shallow crown on a large-brimmed hat, don’t you think? (see attached fotos)   Rita Crosby Hats by rita 134 Callaghan Ave. San Antonio, TX 78210

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