Many years ago, and before my time I might add, the hat was an integral part of almost every human being’s attire. Many of the pop noir styled movies lately such as sin city and the spirit have made me wonder. What the heck ever happened to our love of hats? Hats, by and large, are very fashionable yet functional pieces of clothing. Until the 1960s, hats were very popular with both men and women, so much so that, for a man, going out in public without a hat was seen as a bit like going out without shoes. It would seem that sunglasses are the real culprit.
In 1929, Sam Foster, under the trade name Foster Grant, began selling mass-produced sunglasses in Atlantic City. They were known before then, but somewhat expensive and had a somewhat negative association with spectacles for poor eyesight and dark glasses for the blind. Soon, the US military commissioned Bausch & Lomb to create glare-reducing sunglasses specifically for pilots. But in 1936, Ray Ban created the classic Aviator sunglasses for pilots, a design that became standard for pilots a few years later during World War 2 because of its use of coating that blocked glare from polarized light. Wartime photos of dashing aviators wearing sunglass without hats (hats being rather impractical in an aircraft) greatly influenced the American public. Still, it took a number of years for sunglasses to make hats seems old-fashioned. And a Foster Grant advertising campaign in the early 1960s sealed the fate of the stodgy formal hat.
Hats haven’t completely gone away, of course. The American love for sports and for looking young has especially kept alive the baseball cap, once worn only by players and little boys. Meanwhile, the infinite styles of women’s hats, along with the fedora, the homburg, the derby, the top hat, the driving cap, and the pork-pie hat have largely gone the way of the powdered wig. Even that quintessentially American hood ornament, the cowboy hat, has been relegated to actual cowboys, who themselves are fading away.