Men’s hats have played a significant role in shaping Italy’s fashion aesthetic and identity, and their evolution over the 20th century reflects changes in society, culture, and taste.
In the early 1900s, men’s hats were a symbol of social status, with different styles denoting different classes. The well-heeled would wear a bowler hat, for example, while the flat cap was associated with the working class. The fedora, with its wide brim and indented crown, was a popular choice for men of all classes, and it became a classic symbol of Italian style in the 1920s and 1930s, thanks, of course, to the vision of iconic brand Borsalino, a company founded in 1857 that could be easily hailed as the king of hat-making in Italy – and the world at large.
In the post-war years, hats continued to be an important accessory for Italian men, albeit in a slightly different form. As the country emerged from the devastation of World War II, a new style emerged, characterised by a focus on practicality and simplicity. This gave rise to the popularity of the baseball cap, which quickly became a go-to accessory for young men across the country.
The sporty model was not the only one to gain popularity during this time, however. The 1960s saw the rise of the Italian panama hat, a lightweight and breathable hat perfect for hot Italian summers, made from straw or other lightweight materials, and frequently worn with casual clothing like linen shirts and shorts.
The decade also marked the transformation of the hat into a pop culture token. Beloved film stars such as Marcello Mastroianni and Vittorio Gassman made hats a part of their signature style, elevating them to the status of fashion must-haves; and were soon joined by famous women too, from Sophia Loren to Monica Vitti.