Know Your Boater Hats

Summer images include a long road trip, a day at the pool or beach, an elegant evening under the stars, a garden tea party, and a riverboat trip. And boater hats are undeniably cheerful and ideal for sunny days.

Furthermore, you can convey your sense of style in any way you want for all these events, and wear an amazing boater hat to top off your outfit – it will make you look glamorous even if you are casually dressed and going into town to run errands.

Read on to find out what this hat is and how to wear it with style as a distinguished and classic warm-weather hat.

What Is a Boater Hat?

A boater hat, also known as a basher hat, cady hat, skimmer hat, somer hat, Katie hat, or sennit hat, is a type of hat initially associated with boating and sailing. It is usually made of sennit straw and has a soft or stiff brim, a flat crown, and a ribbon around the crown in the colors of a rowing crew, school, or other institution.

Boaters were famous as summer hats in the late 1800s and early 1900s and were reportedly worn as unofficial uniforms by FBI agents during the pre-war years. Today, they are only seen at sailing and rowing events, musical and period theatrical performances, such as barbershop music, or as part of an old-fashioned school uniform, like at Harrow School. Americans sometimes use inexpensive plastic or foam skimmers at political rallies.

The boater is still a widely accepted part of the school uniform in many boys’ schools in New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. The Madeira Carreiros drive the traditional wicker toboggans that transport guests from the parish church at Monte down to Funchal center, where you can find Boaters.

The boater is a relatively formal hat, comparable in formality to the Homburg. Therefore, wearing a blazer or in the same circumstances as a Homburg, such as a black-tie or smart lounge suit, is appropriate.

Boater Hats: A Brief History

Interestingly, women and children wore boaters as early as the 1860s, but the hat wasn’t adopted as a menswear staple until about 20 years later, in the 1880s. Much like the fedora, the boater was originally a woman’s hat. When it was ushered into a man’s wardrobe, it quickly gained popularity as a formal summer hat, a warm-weather alternative to the Homburg.

Boaters have also been spotted in a variety of other settings. For example, because FBI agents such as Melvin Purvis were often photographed sporting boater hats, they developed a reputation as an unofficial FBI uniform before World War II. This has been immortalized in films such as “The Sting.”

The boater has also been a part of the Princeton University band’s uniform since 1952. This can be seen on the October 1955 Sports Illustrated magazine cover.

Straw Hat Day

Straw Hat Day was the event when men switched from felt hats to straw hats, seen as the start of summer back when it was good etiquette for all gentlemen to wear hats anytime they were out of doors. Of course, the actual date of straw hat day may differ from location to location.

As you might expect, its cold-weather counterpart, Felt Hat Day, occurs in most places in September or October. In some cities, groups of rowdy young men would confiscate and destroy any straw hat worn after Felt Hat Day.

This destructive habit would lead to the Straw Hat Riot in New York City in 1922, which involved a mob of about a thousand hat destroyers, lasted eight days, and resulted in many injuries and arrests. As you can see, hats were much more serious back then than they are now.

Styles and Materials

a young woman wearing a lopsided straw hat with the sea at the back

Originally, the boater hat was made entirely of woven straw. However, it can also be made of more fashionable materials like raffia, lace, or canvas.

Choose the classic straw version for a laid-back or romantic look; pair it with floral prints, short dresses, and flat sandals. Choose a delicate lace version for a more preppy look; you could even try colored raffia. Choose leather, high heels, and clean-cut pieces for these styles.

How to Wear a Boater Hat

Boater hats are best reserved for bright days. Wear it a little tilted to one side or the other. This gives it a more contemporary feel.

When it comes to your hair, the boater hat looks great with short hair or an up-do. Consider a low ballerina bun for the strict-chic look or a slightly messy look for a more casual look. The boater hat also looks great with a cute braid over one shoulder.

How to Style a Boater Hat

Wear It in Summer and Spring

While you can wear a boater hat during other seasons these days, it used to be frowned upon to wear one after September. They are a spring/summer hat ideal for tropical vacations or warmer weather.

Consider Going Nautical

If you’re new to wearing a boater hat, there’s no better style to start with than a nautical one. You can go full sailor chic with a sailor collar, although even simple sandals, a navy dress, or a striped top will help you achieve that nautical look and complement the hat perfectly.

Flowy Dress

Because men originally wore this hat, it is a perfect feminine/masculine combination paired with a very feminine dress. Consider flowing dresses contrasting with the hat’s structure, ruffles, and florals—very feminine clothes.

Choose the Brim That Works for You


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A specific structure and material distinguish a hat as a “boater” hat; any other material or structure is simply a different type of hat. However, boaters come in various sizes; the traditional boater has a fairly small/narrow brim.

The narrow brim is probably the easiest to wear and most popular, and it’s a good place to start if you’re a first-time boater. If you can try on hats in stores, experiment with various brims until you find one that fits you best.

Go Back in Time

Because this hat style first appeared over a century ago, it goes well with vintage-inspired outfits. It’s best suited for 1920s-style clothing because that was its heyday, but it also works well with Edwardian-inspired looks and 1950s gingham dresses.

Style It Higher on Your Head

Wear it at an angle or even further back on your head to become more comfortable with this hat and to appear less severe. Allow it to rest slanted across your brows rather than straight across.

Begin wearing one and see what works best for you! Finally, if boater hats are a new style for you, these tips get you started; once you gain confidence, experiment and figure out how you like to style yours!