The hat wearing requirement from previous decades was drastically subsiding in the 1960s. For the young, the formal hat was seen as old and outdated, a throwback to a more conservative time with a lot of rules that no longer applied to them. Therefore, most dressy hats in the 1960s were worn by mature women who embraced the traditional etiquette rules of wearing hats to match the occasion.
Young women and trendy fashion followers did wear some hats, usually with two piece suits or wool dresses in winter. Summer sun hats and straw hats were also still fashionable for all ages.
Hat styles in the 1960s mimicked hairstyles: large, bouffant, round shaped, oversized cloche hats that stood up tall on the head. Small hats such as the pillbox and non-hats like the net whimsies continued to be worn throughout the decade. These small hats hinted at the idea of a dressy hat, yet they worked with 60s hairstyles instead of suppressing them.
New textured fabric and straw manipulation created dramatic hats out of unusual materials. Flower petal hats are one iconic example. Shaped like upside down flower pots covered in bright petals, they were perfect Easter hats. Feathers, net, marabou, and other puffy materials were sculpted into unusual hats.
The peak of hat fashions were in 1964, the same year My Fair Lady was released. The film sparked a fad for wide brim picture hats. Vogue reported
“Paris is riddled with pretty hats this spring; Never have we seen so many-and never, never, never have we been more tempted. ”
By the mid 1960s, most women were reducing their hat fashions and increasing their clothing budget. The affordability of clothes made buying multiple hats to accessorize small wardrobes a thing of the past. Women were now buying multiple dresses, suits, and casual sets, with only one or two hats for the entire year.
The fast-fashion youth purchased cheap hats for certain outfits and tossed them away when the next fad came along. They favored colorful vinyl bucket hats, cloches, and rain hats. In winter it was the knit beret, oversized newsboy hat, Dutch boy, or Russian Nureyev cap that put them in gender bending casual looks.
The 1920s revival made the cloche hat new again. The bell shape and minimal decoration fit well into the ‘simple is modern’ philosophy. It perched higher on the head, unlike the 1920s cloche hats, so as not to compress the hairstyles.
1960s Hats from Sears
At a glance here are fashionable women’s hats as seen in Sears catalogs in the 1960s.
1960s Hats Styles by Name
Vintage hat collectors often ask what certain hat styles were called. Names of hats varied by designer or advertiser. A cloche for one brand could be called a turban or toque by another. That being said, these hat names are fairly consistent:
Pill Box Hats
The Jackie O’ Hat of the 1960s was small, round, and plain – perhaps with a bow or small net veil. It paired well with sheath dresses and suits, just like Jackie wore, as well as for flight attendants. Pillbox hats could be placed anywhere on the head so long as it didn’t disturb the hairstyle.
Even more popular than the cloche because of its dramatic round shape, the roller hat was woven in straw and left unadorned. Similar styles were called a Breton and bowler.
A toque hat has a general definition of a high crown brimless hat. It could come in an assortment of shapes and sizes, often very similar to other hats of the 1960s.
The cloche was a mainstay hat of the 1960s. Inspired by the 1920s cloche hats, it was taller and simpler, with a narrow brim that circled the forehead or temples. The crown could be round or flat and the brim wide or narrow. Most cloche hats were a single color with a contrasting ribbon or trim.
The swagger hat was initially a fedora style hat, but the name could be applied to any hat worn at an angle with (usually) an asymmetrical balance.
Whimsies, Half Hats
The early 1960s continued the non-hat and half hat styles of the 1950s. The non-hats were called whimsies. They were bits of net, straw, bows, and flowers that attached with a hair clip. Half hats were similar: small hats that covered only half the head. Small hats like the pillbox may have been combined with netting or veils, too.
Feather, Flower, Fur Wig Hats
The early 1960s also saw an all-feather covered hat called a “wig.” It was designed to look like a short pixie or swept bouffant hairstyle made out of feathers, flowers, or petals. In winter, there were also bouffant and beehive shaped fur hats that achieved the Wig look.
Fur hats came in an assortment of shapes for winter. Cloche, turban, toque, pillbox, wig, and Cossack to name a few.
The tambourine hat made of marabou feathers was another furry looking winter hat.
The “Jungle look” used the leopard print fur on nearly all kinds of winter hats. They looked best in pillbox, cloche, bowler, wig, and Jinnah shapes. The Jinnah cap was a traditional hat of Pakistan usually made of curly sheep’s wool. It became popular after Jackie Kennedy’s trip to Pakistan, where she was seen wearing one.
The knitted winter cap, always a classic, had a very late 60s shape. Young women loved chunky knits, slouchy berets, and tight knit caps with chin straps. Hats were also knitted into turbans, jockey caps, cloche, pillbox and pixie shapes in the first half of the decade.
Berets and Newsboy Hats
Beret hats were made of woven fabrics, too. They were large and loose, almost like a Gatsby hat, but pinned to the back of the head, drooping off one side or circling the entire head and ears. They were very trendy with the young kids, hippies, and mods – with each having a preferred variation. White was the best beret color, while brown tweeds and herringbone wools gave them a masculine look.
White and tweeds were used on the similar Newsboy cap, also based on the 1920s men’s 8-panel golf cap. Oversized, they fit like a floppy beret but had the triangle piecing of a golf cap.
The classic turban hat was a sophisticated choice for women in the 1960s. It was made of velvet or taffeta in gathered pleats or with the wrapped scarf effect. Turbans could have structure like a large pillbox or be loose like a headwrap. They crossed over into late afternoon and evening attire when made of rich fabrics.
In summer, a wide brim sun hat, picture hat, or cartwheel hat had women shaded in bright colors. Crowns were tall and brims were wide, but the hats were light and sheer. Some brims dropped to a floppy shape going into the 1970s.
The bucket hat and floppy rain hat were other spring time hats. Simple, casual, and cute, they fit perfectly into the “Little Girl” aesthetic.
Yes, the 1960s had a plethora of more styles. I highlighted the most common ones. Search Etsy or eBay for vintage 1960s hats and see many more unique styles.
If you are going to a 1960s costume party, adding a hat to you outfit can be a wonderful accessory. Here are my suggestions:
- Mad Men/Jackie ‘O style – Choose a pillbox hat
- Summer Dresses – A straw bowler/Breton/roller shape
- Mod or Teen – Newsboy, beret, caps, or a cloche hat
- Evening – Turban hat or whimsies
- Hippie – Knit beret, straw sun hat, floppy bucket hat
- Grandma or something funny – Choose a flower petal hat
- Pinup – Wear a leopard print hat
Many of these styles can be found new at lower prices than real vintage hats. Here are some 1960s style hats you can buy online:
Debbie Sessions has been teaching fashion history and helping people dress for vintage themed events since 2009. She has turned a hobby into VintageDancer.com with hundreds of well researched articles and hand picked links to vintage inspired clothing online. She aims to make dressing accurately (or not) an affordable option for all. Oh, and she dances too.