- Hats are a timeless fashion staple.
- Since the turn of the 19th century, they have gotten progressively bolder in design.
- Cher and Barbra Streisand are known for their outlandish headwear, and old-time actresses like Audrey Hepburn and Mae West donned enormous hats in their films.
A picture is worth a thousand words, but there’s a lot to be said for a wild hat.
Since the turn of the century, celebrities and models have been getting bolder with their hat choices. Hats made of tree branches, pearls, flowers, and even the cartoon character Snoopy lined the cultural fabric throughout the past century (or two).
Cher and Barbra Streisand are known for their outlandish headwear, and old-time actresses like Audrey Hepburn and Mae West donned enormous, gravity-defying hats in their films.
Keep scrolling to see 15 of the wildest hats in history.
Turn-of-the-century France was known for its bold fashions — tree branch hats included.
This French postcard from the early 1900s depicts a showgirl wearing a hat made of tree branches. The era in which it was taken – called La Belle Epoque (1871-1914) – was known for its fanciful fashion, primarily its over-the-top dresses and huge hats.
At the time, Paris was experiencing an economic boom and one of “commercial and creative vitality,” which may have accounted for the larger-than-life fashions.
Hats like these were often worn by performers, and the more outlandish the better.
Here, a cabaret dancer from Les Folies Bergère in Paris dons a show-stopping ensemble made entirely of fur. The legendaryLes Folies Bergère nightclub is still standing today, though it is now a venue for modern shows.
Silent film star Gloria Swanson wore this intricate circle hat at the height of her career.
Silent films, of course, didn’t have sound – so they had make up for it with visual intrigue. Many actresses of the time boasted intricate costumes and hats, and Gloria Swanson was no exception.
Perhaps most known for her role in 1954’s “Sunset Boulevard,” the actress embodied the extravagance of silent film fashion in that movie. The Huffington Post called her “the original leader of fantasy fashion and haute couture.“
Sultry movie star Mae West wore this epic, pink-feathered hat in her 1934 film “Belle of the Nineties.”
This angular, whimsical topper was included in the autumn collection of designer Edward Harvane of London in 1952.
Popular British women’s hat maker Edward Harvane designed this bird-like number for his autumn collection in 1952. Some of Harvane’s hats are now owned by museums, like the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
In 1954, a model was photographed wearing this avant-garde hat in Manchester, England — but she bought it in Paris, of course.
Like Harvane’s hat, this one experiments with angles and other gravity-defying design features.
Audrey Hepburn turned heads in her famous horse race outfit in 1964’s “My Fair Lady,” which was capped off with a giant, flower-filled hat.
The now-famous scene at the Ascot Opening Race in the 1964 film “My Fair Lady” gained most of its notoriety for Audrey Hepburn’s spectacular outfit. The lacy, black-and-white gown she wore was topped off with a colourful, “enormous” hat, as described by Vanity Fair.
Check out the original costume sketch here.
As mod fashion began to take the ’60s by storm, Twiggy epitomized it with this Snoopy cap.
Mod was a London subculture of the 1960s, know for its minimalist, boxy, and colourful clothes. British “mod” supermodel Twiggy was named the “Face of ’66,” and her first US Vogue cover was taken by Bert Stern in 1967.
Photos from that issue feature Twiggy in a wild get-up: a fur jumpsuit paired with a hat that is a recreation of the “Peanuts” cartoon character Snoopy. She even wears a red plastic Sam Browne belt – a cheeky nod to Snoopy’s dog collar.
That same year, Elizabeth Taylor wore this elaborate headdress replete with pearls, flowers, and spikes.
From her roles in “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” (1958) to “Butterfield 8” (1960), Taylor was known for her style as well as her extravagance – especially her propensity for diamonds.
Barbra Streisand looked fierce in this futuristic cap-and-jacket set in 1969.
No stranger to lavish costumes and hats, living legend Barbra Streisand became known for her fashion because of films like “The Owl and the Pussycat” (1970) and “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever” (1969). This fierce, glossy cap-and-jacket set came from the latter film, which was shot in New York City in 1969 and epitomized the diva’s daring style.
Pablo Picasso’s youngest daughter, Paloma Picasso, is known for her zany fashion sense. She donned this capricious head piece in 1978.
The youngest child of artist Pablo Picasso and painter Françoise Gilot, Paloma Picasso is a style icon in her own right. The now 69-year-old is a fashion and jewellery designer for Tiffany & Co. and Yves Saint Laurent, and she was a street-style maven of the 1980s. She rocked the look above in Paris around 1979, and topped it off with a huge but delicate feathered hat.
Josephine Baker, a Parisian star of the 1920s, donned this unbelievably tall, fluffy blue number during a cabaret act in the ’70s.
Josephine Baker was a singer and entertainer who “symbolized the beauty and vitality of black American culture, which took Paris by storm in the 1920s,” according to Britannica. Her nightclub act became an instant sensation at the Les Folies Bergère, and Baker continued to perform up until her death in 1975.
This photo of her rocking a massive, fluffy blue hat was snapped during one of her shows in 1974.
Cher collaborated with costume designer Bob Mackie to create countless legendary looks, like this Egyptian-inspired hat she wore in 1988.
Costume designer Bob Mackie has worked with many famous names over the years – Judy Garland and Carol Burnettt, to name a few – but perhaps his most famous collaboration is with singer and actress Cher. He’s responsible for most of her iconic looks, like this Cleopatra costume and hat, worn at a Halloween party in 1988.
On the impact of his working relationship with Cher,Mackie told Interview magazine: “When Cher first came on the air, I had friends in fashion who said that you could not sell a halter dress – that you couldn’t give one away. But all of a sudden, after Cher was wearing one every week, you had designers doing halter dresses all over the market.”
New wave band Devo took the ’80s by storm with their “energy dome” hats.
Known for their 1980 smash hit “Whip It,” new wave band Devo was also known for their unusual stage presence and costumes. Their iconic “energy dome” hat – the red, plastic, dome-like head piece – became synonymous with the band, and set the tone perfectly for the ’80s style that followed.
In an interview with Pop Candy, USA TODAY journalist Whitney Matheson asked Devo’s lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh how the hats came to be: “We designed them, Jerry and I. We were influenced both by German Bauhaus movement and geometric fashion, and Aztec temples. We just liked the look,” Mothersbaugh said. “It looked good, and it didn’t look like any other bands out there. We weren’t interested in wearing groovy hats or groovy clothing,” he continued. “We kind of looked like Lego toys or something by the time we got those on our heads, and that was a positive thing.”
And you can always count on England to supply some truly stunning toppers.
This bright, gargantuan flower hat was pictured at the Royal Ascot in the ’90s. Britain’s propensity for hats has bled into the 20th and 21st centuries, too, as best exemplified by royals like Princess Eugenie and Queen Elizabeth II.
- Read more:
- The most iconic hat from the decade you were born
- Princess Eugenie is famous for wearing wildly over-the-top hats – here are 20 of her most extravagant looks
- 30 photos of Princess Beatrice’s wildest hats that prove she’s the reigning queen of head wear
- The wildest hats guests wore to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal wedding