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Head covering of any of various styles, used for warmth, fashion, or religious or ceremonial purposes, when it often symbolizes the office or rank of the wearer. In the West, through the Middle Ages, men wore hats in the form of caps or hoods, and women wore veils, hoods, or head draperies. The silk top hat originated in Florence c. 1760. The derby (bowler) was introduced in 1850. The cloth cap with visor was for decades the international standard for workingmen and boys. Women's hats went through periods of astonishing ostentation, the last being the years preceding World War I. Since c. 1960 the wearing of hats by both men and women has greatly declined in the West. With 15th-century origins, the broad-brimmed sombrero is still popular in Mexico and parts of Latin America. The people of East Asia have devised head coverings as simple as the near-ubiquitous one-piece flattened cone used when working outside, and as elaborate and decorative as the Japanese cap-shaped kammuri of black lacquered silk decorated with an upright streamer and the imperial chrysanthemum crest. In India the Gandhi cap, fez, and turban are in general use. In regions where the Ottoman Empire ruled (including the Balkans and North Africa), the traditional headgear of the fez and tarboosh remained popular for men until the 20th century. Farther east, from Iran to South Asia (as well as in parts of coastal Arabia), various types of turbans have been worn by men. In the Arabian interior, the Levant, and parts of Syria and Iraq, the kaffiyeh (sometimes called a ghutrah), a wide cloth held in place by a camel-hair cord ('iqal), remains customary, even for men sporting Western attire. In Israel the yarmulke is common, particularly among observant Jews.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on hat, visit Britannica.com.