Before I begin, I must apologize. The title for the over all document implied that this was going to rely solely on the material as found. However, since actual mediaeval hats are really rare, I have to supplement the whole with some material from non-archaeological sources.
I've heard it said that the greatest failing in modern "medieval costuming" is that while levels of accuracy are acceptable in the middle, they are lacking at both ends. What this means, of course, is that while the bulk of the costuming may be accurate, less attention is paid to the head and the feet. Hats and shoes are perceived, at least, as being major areas of costuming often overlooked by both men and women. I have addressed the point of shoes, in some detail, elsewhere, and so now we turn to the other end, the Headgear of the Middle Ages.
Foremost, why don't people wear hats? The reasons that people have expressed are quite simple -- people don't know anything about hats, our culture doesn't encourage hats as items of apparel, they are hard to make, they are expensive, they are inconvenient, they are hot, they are uncomfortable, or they are going to be embarrassing to wear because they are really ugly. While I might argue these, I can't deny that these are things that people really believe, and I am only too aware that trying to change people's subjective perceptions is a pointless task. Therefore, this document shall set out to demonstrate that there are some factual errors in some of these beliefs: I will try to show some basic information about hats, illustrate that hats need not be hard, expensive, or even require obscure skills to make. As for their convenience, fashion, and so forth, that is up to each person to work out for themselves.
I am certainly not an expert on Hats, simply someone who has done some research and made a few hats. If, after you have read what I have to say, seen what I have to show you, you still disagree, please write to me and let me know your thoughts, the results of your research.
This document is specifically aimed at headgear worn by people in the European Middle Ages; however, I do feel that much of what appears here is also applicable to headgear worn in other places at other times.
This page was last modified 20 November 2002
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Some Clothing of the Middle Ages -- Headwear, by I. Marc Carlson. Copyright 1996, 1977, 2002