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Hats Worn in Italy: 5 Interesting Facts

By Taylor James


Updated on

There are many different hats that originate from Italy such as the boater and cappola. The cappola is a recognizable flat tweed fabric cap that is known as a driving cap. These hats are normally worn while driving a car.  In Italy, hats were historically used as symbols, however, nowadays are usually just used as a fashion statement and as sun protection. Today, casual wearing of hats like baseball caps is becoming more commonplace. 

Here are 5 interesting facts about Italian hats:

  1. Gondolier hats are called Canotier hats. 
  2. Some of the first hats were worn by freed slaves in Rome.     
  3. Italy invented felt. 
  4. Italians wear hats casually nowadays. 
  5. The boater hat was derived from the canotier gondolier hats

Some hats worn in Italy have not evolved much over many centuries. Other hat wearing traditions, however, have disappeared or shifted. Below are the explanations about the five facts regarding Italian hats. 

1: Gondolier hats are called Canotier hats.

Normally, these hats are made out of straw and have a grosgrain braid. These hats are elegant but simple and serve the purpose of sun protection. Gondoliers have been active for over 1,000 years in Venice. Check out this popular Italian-made gondolier/boater hat on Amazon.

Man wearing a canotier hat
@elmoz4me via Twenty20

2: Some of the first hats were worn by freed slaves in Rome. 

The Pileus was a simple skull-like cap that freed slaves wore in Rome. The heads of the slaves were first shaved, then, they were touched with a rod called a vindicta and pronounced to be free. The pileus was placed on their head. Both the rod and cap represented the goddess of liberty. Read more about hats worn in ancient Rome in this article.

3: Italy invented felt.   

Italy accidentally invented felt. St. Clement, later becoming the fourth Bishop of Rome discovered the new material by filling his sandals with flax fibers while trying to improve their comfort. After stomping around with the flax fibers and combining his pressure with the moisture of the ground, a cloth was produced. St. Clement put together workers to perfect this process and was later called the Patron Saint of hat makers. 

4: Italians wear hats casually nowadays.  

Like the U.S. many people in Italy simply sport a baseball cap with their favorite sports team’s design on it. Other than this, many people in Italy do not wear a hat often and if they do, it will likely only be for style or to keep cool from the sun. 

5: The boater hat was derived from the canotier gondolier hats. 

The boater hat is still worn to this day and has roots from Gondoliers. The boater hat has gone on to be functional, stylish, and serve as a part of school uniforms in the UK, Australia, and South Africa. The boater was also the centerpiece of “Straw Hat Day” in which men switched from wearing winter hats to summer hats. Read more intriguing facts about boater hats in this article.

About Taylor James

As Philip Treacy once said, “How a hat makes you feel is what a hat is all about.” And on that note, I hope you enjoy your hats and find the site useful. Learn more about Hat Realm's Editorial Process.