A fedora is traditionally a soft dressy hat made out of felt with a pitched crown, wide brim and a ribbon. It might come as a surprise to some that the hat, which is usually associated with masculinity, started its story from the head of a woman. And not just any woman, but the famous actress Sarah Bernhardt.
In 1882, Bernhardt played the title role of Princess Fédora Romanoff, in “Fédora” play by the French author Victorien Sardou. In it she wore a centre-creased, soft brimmed hat which immediately turned into a popular fashion for women and especially for women’s right activities as Sarah Bernhardt was quite influential in the women’s movement, known for cross-dressing and scandalising the Victorian audiences by playing male roles
The name of the hat took on the play, where Fedora was used as the feminine version of the Russian proper name Fedor, which derived from the Greek word theodoros, literally ‘gift of God.’
The Fedora craze was born, followed by the first featuring of the dressy hat in English print, in a 26th September 1883 issue of The Sun: “I will present for your favorable consideration a new and perfect soft felt hat… The ‘Fedora’! “
Advertising campaigns (28th January 18834, Rocky Mountain News: “Buy the new ‘Fedora’ hat at Weber, Owen & Co.’s.)” tried to push the hat to men’s heads as well, but it took until the 1920s the fedora hat to turn into a symbol of masculinity, often associated with Prohibition and gangsters.
The golden age of Hollywood firmly established the fedora hat as an icon of manliness, worn by emblematic actors as Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra on the stage.
A man without a hat was like a half-man at the time, taking into account the bold advertisement for the Stetson Whippet hat producer which appeared in a 1949 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, featuring actor John Payne: “The hat is part of the man.”
The 60s saw the decline of the fedora popularity as more casual styles took over. The hat made some reappearances in trend in mid-1970s and again in 1980s and in 2000s.
And while the 21st century sees a new revival in interest in the fedora hat, most fashion critics see the hat as way too formal and sophisticated to match well with modern fashion.
Picture Johnny Depp and his huge range of stylish fedoras…yeah, you might say that he is simply trying too hard, yet do not rush to declare the fedora dead.