Hat Types: The Tam

While the Queen is in residence at Balmoral this month, we’re going to look at several Scottish hats.

History: Named for the eponymous hero of the 1790 Robert Burns poem, the tam o’shanter is a flat men’s hat, traditionally made of hand-knitted wool that is stretched on a wooden disk to give it a distinctive flat shape, then felted. From the late 1500s through the 1800s, these “Scottish bonnets” were widely worn; similar to other flat bonnets common in northwestern Europe during the 170s, the tam o’shanter was distinguished by the wool pompom (known as a toorie) placed at the center of the crown. Prior introduction of synthetic dyes in the mid-19th century, these bonnets were made in only in colours possible from natural dyes, especial woad and indigo, which provided the widely used nickname of “blue bonnet” for this style of hat.

In 1915, the tam o’shanter was adopted by Scottish infantry serving on the Western Front and given the military abbreviation “ToS.” Today, regiments in Scotland, Canada and Australia continue to wear the ToS as part of their military uniform.

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Based on the tam o’shanter, the tam emerged as popular women’s hat in the 1920 thanks to its compatibility with short hairstyles and the soft versatility of shape, which could be draped in different face-framing ways. A resurgence of tartan and checked patterns in the 1930s kept the style popular, albeit in a less voluminous silhouette. After this extended time en vogue, the hat style was solidified as one that would stay. It experienced another circle through popularity in the 1970s and early 1980s.

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Tams for women in the 1920s (left) and 1930s (right)

Characteristics: A soft, voluminous round hat, usually with a round seam that joins the flat crown to the sides (some tam crowns have triangular pie-shaped seams. Tams often have a band around the bottom that gathers in the voluminous crown and secures the hat to the head of its wearer. A traditional tam has a pompom placed on the center of the crown and is made of felted wool but today, they are made in any number of fabrics, usually without a pompom!

How a Tam and A Beret Differ: Look for crown volume and seams! If either are there, it’s likely a tam. A band around the bottom of the hat is another indication it is a tam. Tams are always made of fabric and are not blocked.

Royals Associated with this Hat Style: It’s no surprise that the royal family of the United Kingdom, which includes Scotland, are the bunch most seen in this hat style. A tam’s ease of wear makes it an accessible style for all ages.

Royal Tams:


 What do you think of this Scottish bonnet?!

Photos from Serge Lemoine, Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive, Mike McLaren/Central Press, UK PressAnwar HusseinBert Van Den Broucke/Photonews, Tim Graham Photo Library, Bettmann, PA Images, Getty Images, Tim Graham Photo Library PA Images, Ray Bellisario/Popperfoto, Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive, Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty; Ron Bell/PA Archive/PA Images;  Max Mumby/Indigo,  Hulton Archive via Getty

Hat Types: The Halo

Characteristics: A brimmed hat that when worn, the brim underside creates a circular halo shape around the face. The halo effect is created by placing the hat toward the back of the head and brim shape, which usually curves upward, off the face toward the hat’s crown (often to a greater extent in the front) without touching it. Halo hats cover a wide range of sizes and proportions, some with shorter brims that hug the head like a bonnet and others with wider brims that create a larger circle around the wearer’s head.

History:  This millinery style first appeared in popular fashion in the 1880s known as an aureole, which means ‘a circle of light or brightness surrounding something’. The style reappeared in the 1930s, its open, off-the-face shape a welcome departure from the over-the-brow cloche shape that dominated millinery fashion in the 1920s. Two famous royal faces helped the style gain popularity- the Duchess of York appeared in one at a charity event in 1933 and Wallis Simpson  famously wore a halo hat made by Parisienne milliner Caroline Reboux for her wedding to the Duke of Windsor in 1937.

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Halo hats experienced a decade-long revival in the mid 1960s and again in the late 1980, when oversized versions were trendy into the early 1990s. These days, it is a style we seldom see.

Royals Associated with this Hat Style:  During each period of popularity this style was widely worn by royal women at the time, as you’ll see below. Queen Elizabeth included numerous halo hats in her 1977 Silver Jubilee wardrobe and wore several larger scale designs during the early 1990s.  The Duchess of Cornwall’s wheat feather wedding headpiece in 2005 also followed a halo shape.

Royal Halo Hats:

Queen Elizabeth, April 1940; Princess Marina, July 1949; Princess Elizabeth, June 1951; Princess Sofia,1961

Princess Grace, 1966; Princess Margrethe, June 1968; Duchess of Kent, July 1969; Princess Margriet, August 1970

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Princess Margaret, June 1969; Queen Juliana, April 1971, Queen Elizabeth, March 1972, Princess Michiko, May 1973

Princess Anne, June 1972; Queen Elizabeth, June 1976; Queen Mother, June 1977; Queen Elizabeth February 1977

Duchess of York, Sep 1988; Princess of Wales, June 1990; HGD Maria Teresa, July 1993; Queen Elizabeth, March 1994

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Princess Marilene, August 2005; Princess Caroline, November 2011;
Princess Margriet, May 2014; Princess Michael of Kent, November 2015 

I arranged the hats above in roughly chronological order so we could see the slight tweaks in shape and proportion between each of this hat’s trends back into popularity. While halo shaped bandeau headpieces are very popular now, we don’t see many full-on brimmed halo hats- what do you think of this millinery shape?

Photos from Paul Popper/Popperfoto, Lisa Sheraton/Stringer, Keystone, KeystoneMondadori, Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix, Jeff Goode/Toronto Star, George W. Hales/Fox Photos, Fairfax Media Archives, Lichfield Archive, Ray Bellisario/Popperfoto, Anwar Hussein,  Tim Graham Photo Library, Serge LemoineTim Graham Photo Library, Leo Mason/Popperfoto, Reuter Raymond/Sygma, John Shelley Collection/Avalon Michel Porro, Stephane Cardinale – PLS Pool, and Michel Porro, via Getty

Hat Types: The Homburg

Homburg | Royal Hats

History: The Homburg hat was a formal men’s daytime hat that emerged in the Bad Homburg vor der Höhe region around Hesse Germany in the mid 1800s. The style flew to mainstream popularity in the 1880s after King Edward VII paid a visit to the area and brought back a hat. He was thrilled when it was replicated and his aids, wishing to further flatter his vanity, further encouraged milliners to copy the style.

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British Prime Minister Anthony Eden embraced this style and when, as a young politician, his dapper dress sense brought him to prominence, he started a resurgence of popularity for the homburg as well. This renaissance is oven attributed to Winston Churchill, who also wore this style but the hat was so connected to Anthony Eden that by the end of the 1930s, Savile Row referred to it as “The Eden”. Still popular in the early 1950s, US President Dwight Eisenhower broke with tradition at his 1953 inauguration, wearing a black homburg instead of a top hat.

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Like other daytime hats worn by men, the homburg fell into obscurity during the second half of the 20th century (except for a brief comeback in the early 1970s after Al Pacino wore one in the film The Godfather). Today, the style is seldom seen outside of Orthodox Jewish communities.

Characteristics: A formal felt hat with a “gutter crown” – a single dent running down the center of the crown – and a stiff bound edge brim shaped in a gently upturned “kettle curl”. Unlike a fedora, a homberg does not have any ‘pinches’ at the front of the crown- the crown sides are smooth with that signature dent and resulting humps on top.

Royals associated with this style of hat today:  Worn by many male royals in the early 20th century, these days we see an occasional variation of the masculine shape on royal ladies. Much less popular than a fedora (which seems like a more flattering shape for a women to wear), we seldom see a homburg on a contemporary royal head.

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Queen Elizabeth in Rachel Trevor Morgan November 21, 2013; Queen Margrethe on April 8, 1970;
Countess of Wessex in Philip Treacy April 20, 2003;

 July 1923 | Royal Hats  Mar 14, 2018 in FD | Royal Hats

Queen Margrethe on May 9, 2007; Duke of York (later King George VI) in July 1923;
Queen Mathilde in Fabienne Delvigne
March 14, 2018;

May 1969 in John Boyd | Royal Hats Embed from Getty Images

Princess Anne in John Boyd May 1969 and March 14, 2014

It’s not often that a new style of hat becomes popular from its association with a particular royal wearing it- that makes the homburg notable for me. What do you think of this traditional and distinguished hat shape?

Photos from Getty as indicated; Mark Cuthbert, Holton Archive, Photonews and Terry Disney/Stringer via Getty

Hat Types: The Boater, Sailor and Matador

History: In the nineteenth century, European sailors wore straw hats with flat crowns and brims. As the design was phased out for military wear, it gained popularity in the late 1800s and early 1900s as a men’s formal summer daytime hat (worn with a suit) particularly at sailing events. The name “boater” was adopted as the hat took off in popularity.

Around the same time, a similar hat for late Victorian era women and children, known as the “sailor” was widely worn. With a larger brim size than its male ‘boater’ counterpart, sailor hats were  trimmed with a dark hatband that extended to ribbon streamers trailing down the back. Women’s sailor hat designs often featured flowers around the base of the crown as well.

Difference Between a Boater and a Sailor: Both hats have a completely flat crown and brim. Traditionally, boater hats are made with stiff straw and are trimmed only with a hatband (in solid or striped grosgrain ribbon). The brim size of a traditional boater is modest- noticeably smaller than a the brim on a sailor hat. Historically, sailor hats have wider brims than a boater and were made of all kinds of weights of straw and felt. 

Difference between a Boater and a Matador: They are also the same basic shape- both hats have a flat crown and brim. A Matador crown is visibly taller and the hat often includes a chin strap. The name is confusing as most Spanish matadors actually wear a traditional Iberian “Montera” hat as part of their bullfighting costume, a hat that looks completely different!

Characteristics: A boater has a perfectly round crown and brim, both of which sit horizontally flat.

Royals Associated with this Hat Style: Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands has long been a boater wearer, as has Queen Elizabeth. Princess Beatrice of York has also embraced boaters in recent years.

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Queen Elizabeth on May 16, 2017; Princess Beatrice on June 16, 2016

Princess Beatrice, June 17, 2017; Princess Tsuguko, August 19, 2013

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Queen Elizabeth, March 24, 2016

Princess Beatrice at Ascot, June 18, 2019; The Duchess of York in July 2021

Boaters are seeing an upswing in popularity and I suspect we’ll see them appear on more royal heads- what do you think of this hat style?

Photos from Getty as indicated and Samir Hussein via Getty; The Asahi Shimbun; Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty; Misan Harriman 

Hat Types: The Trilby

Trilby | Royal Hats

It has been a long while since I added hat types to our glossary- I’m going to start some additions today with a hat I get lots of questions about. Hopefully, this will clear up some confusion!

History: In the early 1989s, actress Sarah Bernhardt brought the fedora into great popularity when she wore it on the London stage. Several years later when George du Maurier’s 1894 novel Trilby was adapted for the stage, a hat similar to the at-the-time popular fedora but with a lower crown and shorter, downward brim that turned up in the back was worn in the first London production of the play. This hat promptly was named “a Trilby hat”.

The style reached mainstream popularity in the 1960s thanks to low head clearance in American automobiles which made it impractical to wear a hat with a tall crown while driving. Like all other styles of headwear worn by men, the trilby faded into obscurity during the 1970s and 1980s. In recent years, the style has returned to popularity as a trendy accessory for millenial men and women. Originally made from rabbit hair felt, contemporary trilbys are now often made of other materials including tweed, straw, wool and wool/nylon blends.

Characteristics: Like a fedora, trilbys usually have a crease down the center of the crown with visible “pinches” in the front on both sides. A trilby brim, however, is shorter than a fedora, angled down at the front and turned up at the back (whereas a fedora brim is more flat) Traditionally, the crown of a trilby is also slightly shorter than the crown on a typical fedora.

Royals Associated with this Hat Style: Not widely embraced by royals, we see them on a mix of people. The recent surge in popularity has been embraced by several younger royals.

Countess of Wessex, Dec 29, 2013 in Jane Taylor | Royal Hats Princess Eugenie, Dec 25, 2009 | Royal Hats Queen Margrethe, Oct 1, 2013 | Royal Hats

Countess of Wessex, Dec 29, 2013; Princess Eugenie, Dec 25, 2009; Queen Margrethe, Oct 1, 2013;

Mike Tindall, Aug 28, 2016 | Royal Hats Autumn Phillips Mar, 12 2014 | Royal Hats Princess Tsuguko, Jan 26, 2016 | Royal Hats Princess Anne, Dec 4, 2012 | Royal Hats

Mike Tindall, Aug 28, 2016Autumn Phillips Mar 12, 2014; Princess Tsuguko, Jan 26, 2016; Princess Anne, Dec 4, 2012

Zara Tindall, March 13, 2008 | Royal Hats Princess Grace of Monaco, 1970 | Royal Hats Duchess of Cambridge, Dec 25, 2011 in Jane Corbett | Royal Hats

 Zara Tindall, March 13, 2008;  Duchess of Cambridge, Dec 25, 2011; Princess Grace of Monaco, 1970

What do you think of the Trilby as a hat style?

Photos from Max Mumby/Indigo and Chris Radburn/PA Images via Getty; Nils Meilvang via Berlingske; Tim P. Whitby  and Max Mumby/Indigo  via Getty; Motoo Naka/AFLO/Nippon News/Corbis; Max Mumby/Indigo via Getty; Press Association; Popperfoto and Chris Jackson via Getty