15 greatest hats of the world

15 greatest hats of the world

The fez vs the sombrero vs the bowler, and many more; which headgear rules?

Hats can tell us a lot about people: what they do for a living, what team they support, what they feel about going bald.

Cultures all over the world have generated an incredible array of headgear, and each boasts outstanding and unique characteristics. But in the interests of generating arguments, it's time to proclaim the finest way to cover your noggin ever.

Read on to discover the headgear to be worn above all others.

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15. Beret

BeretThe French thinking cap.

It's a key aspect of French culture, meaning it can be magnificent (when worn by Foreign Legionnaires) but also irritating (it's the official hat choice of mimes).

14. Akubra/Aussie bush hat

AkubraAussies choose function over fashion.Not to be confused with its “fashionable” cousin, the cowboy hat, the Akubra is more of an outback tool than a trendy statement.

A real felt fur Akubra is waterproof and surprisingly comfortable in the hot sun.

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13. Cowboy hat

Kid Rock cowboyYou can't pull this off unless you can at least lasso a donkey.Let's face it: without the hat, the Marlboro Man is just a dude with severe emphysema.

Sadly, while it looks amazing on the rugged outdoorsman who lives in the saddle, when placed on city folk the message it sends goes from “I’m a man’s man, even if I’m technically a woman” to “Why yes, I am a jackass.”

12. Fez

Fez"Sorry, only one tassel per hat."The round felt hat with a tassel associated with the Mediterranean isn't the most practical piece of headgear, but when it looks so inspiring on Shriners International members as they zip around in those little cars, who cares?

11. Greek fisherman's cap

Greek fisherman's capGive peace, and this hat, a chance.Made of wool and fully lined for warmth with a brim to protect your eyes, it was a staple in Greece, then achieved international fame partly thanks to John Lennon sporting one as Beatlemania hit … only to lose much of that renown as Lennon moved on to other looks.

Did Yoko have anything to do with it? Maybe.

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10. Karakul

 KarakulThe Naomi Campbell of presidents.
World leaders attack Afghan President Hamid Karzai for everything from corruption to incompetence, but there's never a word about his fashion sense.

The downside? It's made from lambs' pelts, for any of you with issues about killing adorable baby animals and sticking them on your head.

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Jamaican tamWho knew the Scots got to tams before Rastas?Drawing its name from the poem “Tam o' Shanter” by Robert Burns, despite its Scottish roots it may be most appealing when sported by Jamaicans seeking a bit of dreads containment.


SombreroA young boy waits patiently for his mustache to arrive.In terms of sun protection, you'll do no better. Unfortunately, unless you're Mexican (preferably with a mustache), if you put this on you'll look like you work at an unusually offensive Taco Bell knockoff.

7. Turban

TurbanThe only "hat" you won't lose in a wind storm.Coming in an array of sizes, shades, and colors to reflect different regions, the main objection is that the turban is an unusually labor-intensive form of headgear for anyone yet to master wrapping.

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6. Rogatywka

Polish soldier hatRogatywka is the only military hat that commands the two-fingered salute.The caps sported by military officers around the world inevitably command respect, but the Poles perfected the look with this square effort.

You will not find an item of headgear that is more striking and sinister all at once.

5. Conical Asian hat

Conical Asian hatDoesn't have the same party-feel as the sombrero.

Worn by Asians from various nations, the conical hat provides protection from both the rain and the sun for farmers laboring all day in the rice paddies. (Consequently, they're often called “rice hats.”)

The style is periodically appropriated by international retailers, whose idea of price structure differs markedly from many Asian traders.

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4. Amish straw hat and bonnet

Amish coupleThe hat and bonnet make it easier to cruise with the top down.

There are barely more than 200,000 Amish, yet they produced an iconic look for men and a second iconic look for women, with the straw hat and the bonnet.

When you look this good already, who needs buttons?

3. Baseball cap

baseball capThe international sign of low-key.

This American headgear contribution is far more democratic than the cowboy hat, as non-baseball players can put it on without looking ridiculous.

Indeed, it may be too democratic: George Clooney wouldn't have the same mystique if he went everywhere in a Yankee lid.

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2. Ushanka

UshankaReal soldiers don't need ear flaps.

Russia’s frigid winters can be made manageable, even welcome, with the ushanka.

These are as practical as they are stylish, with earflaps to keep you warm that can be folded back up should you want pretend you're a Soviet leader (preferably Brezhnev).

1. Bowler

bowler"It's as quintessentially British as I."Today the empire on which the sun never sets is largely limited to a rainy island, meaning there are days it is a kingdom on which the sun fails to shine.

That said, Britain can still be proud of the bowler, which makes a man look sophisticated, practical, and playful all at once and hence works for Charlie Chaplin, Jude Law's Dr. Watson, and Alex from "A Clockwork Orange" in very different ways. Britons, as Tom Jones once declared, you can leave your hat on. 

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First published January 2012, updated December 2012

Sean Cunningham has written and edited for a variety of publications and websites. He's also a playwright of works including the Drama Desk-nominated musical God Hates the Irish, described by one critic as the "most foul-mouthed play ever staged Off-Broadway."

Read more about Sean Cunningham