Once a required item, now the hat is just for fun.

Share story

Until World War II, most American men wouldn’t think of leaving the house bareheaded.

With the loosening of etiquette that took place in the second half of the 20th century, however, the hat fell out of fashion little by little, and those who persisted in wearing homburgs, fedoras or trilbys began to look eccentric.

But a funny thing happened once hats were no longer a required item: Men began to wear them for fun, as a casual adornment. Think of Woody Allen’s adoption of the bucket hat in the 1970s, Michael Jackson’s habit of wearing a black fedora in the 1980s and Samuel L. Jackson’s making the flat Kangol cap a staple in recent years.

Nowadays, stylish men are going with everything from the boater to the beret. Models in the fall 2016 Prada show were outfitted with sailor caps, and men walking the runway for Dior Homme wore knitted beanies.

“It really depends on the lifestyle of the guy,” says Eric Jennings, the men’s fashion director and vice president at Saks Fifth Avenue. “At a store like Saks, we’re going to go for the guys who have the designer taste as well as the classic and functional tastes.”

Last year the store revamped its hat department, which provides an expanded offering this fall.

J.Crew has a new hat available in tweed, which it has been having trouble keeping in stock.

“We love taking traditional topcoat fabrics and using them in different pieces,” says Frank Muytjens, the head of menswear at J.Crew.

And when the next inevitable polar vortex arrives, a fur trapper or shearling-lined aviator cap may be just the things.

“Now is a time for hats,” Jennings says. “There really is a hat this season for every guy.”