The Kentucky Derby is known for two things: fast horses and fancy hats. But believe it or not, the nearly 150-year old race hasn’t always been the classy event we think of today. In the race’s first year, organizers worried that upper-class women wouldn’t want to be associated with racing, gambling and drinking, so to address fears that the derby would devolve into a day of debauchery, the first event required "full morning dress.” For men, the dress code meant waistcoats and trousers; for women, it often meant full on formalwear, complete with a hat to shield sensitive skin from the hot sun. Over the years, Derby hats have become a spectacle of their own, with women outdoing themselves to come up with the most creative headpieces.
But even as hats remain a Kentucky Derby tradition, they’ve fallen out of favor for other women over the years. Easter bonnets and even sun hats get less and less attention, so that department store hat sections have become pretty paltry. At least, until now. From humble baseball caps to big straw affairs, hats are making a big comeback this year. Here are some of the best ways to wear them.
Know the rules
For women, fashion hats (like a wide-brimmed fedora or a floppy hat) can be worn indoors at house parties, movies, religious services and even when the national anthem is played at a sporting event. However, baseball caps should always be removed, for men and women, in a host’s home, a church, or during the national anthem.
A fun straw hat can not only complete a cute summer look, it can also save your scalp. Melanoma sometimes presents itself on the scalp, as the delicate skin not protected by hair is often hard to reach with sunblock.
The good news is, a great straw hat doesn’t have to stay at the beach. A straw fedora, or trilby, which is like a fedora with a shorter brim, is a great way to add a bit of tomboyish flare to cuffed jeans and a white tee shirt, but the style can also be super versatile, giving a floral sundress a flirty vintage flare.
Don’t forget about ball caps
One of the hottest accessories for women right now is the humble baseball cap. Celebrities like Rihanna are pairing old-school snapback caps in black or primary colors with everything from leather mini-skirts to high-waisted shorts and relaxed fit boyfriend jeans. For some real 90s throwback credit, pair a snapback with one of those old chokers still lurking in the corners of your jewelry box.
Look, it might feel a little silly to step out of the house in a hat after years of being told hats are over. However, a cool hat can be the perfect way to make a summer outfit look perfectly styled, feel a little fancier, and do your scalp a favor in the process, and that’s a winning trifecta.