From film noir classics to Hollywood's red carpet, icons onstage and off have worn the famous fedora. Thanks to timeless characters in film and fiction novels, the image of the well-groomed man in a fedora is still a classic symbol of intrigue with a hint of mystery.
Females in Fedoras
Oddly enough, the original character who wore a fedora was a female. In the 1882 play "Fédora," the title role was Princess Fédora Romanoff, who wore a soft felt hat that soon became known as the fedora. And 68 years later, the musical "Summer Stock" highlights Judy Garland in a tuxedo jacket, black fedora and black nylons. An early hat heroine Ilsa Lund, played by Ingrid Bergman in "Casablanca," revisited the daring look for women in the 1940s. Modern-day darling Carrie Bradshaw of “Sex and the City” tops her long locks with a flirtatious fedora for a more relaxed look.
Fedora fashion is usually synonymous with Depression-era gangsters. The much-popularized real-life characters Al Capone, John Dillinger and Bugsy Malone lived up to their silver-screen incarnations of the quintessential mobster: the fedora, pinstriped suit and machine gun. Those who brought justice in the black and white films also favored the fedora. The hat is closely associated with Humphrey Bogart film characters such as bar owner Rick Blaine in "Casablanca" and private investigators Sam Spade in "The Big Sleep" and Philip Marlowe in "The Maltese Falcon."
Fiction and Cartoon Characters
Stephen King’s character Bill McGovern in the novel "Insomnia" had his fedora stolen, leading to his untimely demise. Charles "Fat Charlie" Nancy in Neil Gaiman's novel "Anansi Boys" wore a green fedora hat, which he acquired from his dad. Colorful cartoon detective Dick Tracy wore a yellow one. Kids’ favorite sleuths Carmen Sandiego and Inspector Gadget wore them. Mischievous Chip from Disney's "Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers" wore a fedora as his trademark. In the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" cartoon series, the boys would often wear fedoras and trench coats when going undercover. Even Snoopy’s sibling, Spike, dons the famous hat.
Contemporary Movie Characters
Though off-screen the fedora took a dive in the 1960s, on screen, characters like Ray Dolezal (Willem Dafoe) in "White Sands," Jacob Fuller (Harvey Keitel) in "From Dusk Till Dawn," Stanley in "The Mask" (Jim Carrey) and paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) of "Jurassic Park" fame brought a resurgence of style. Of course, Professor Indiana Jones always preferred his faithful fedora and leather jacket to a stuffy university classroom. Even horror spawned the en vogue freaks, such as Freddy Krueger of "Nightmare on Elm Street" and the gruesome Erik in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s "Phantom of the Opera."
Fedoras as Disguises
Comic strip crime-fighters The Phantom and Clark Kent (a.k.a. Superman) wore the signature trench coat and fedora when trying to blend in with the general public. In "The Spirit," Denny Colt began a life of fighting crime wearing only a small mask, blue business suit, fedora and gloves for a disguise. The "Watchmen" graphic novel features the character of Rorschach wearing a brown fedora, which hides his signature inkblot mask. The DC Comics superhero, the Crimson Avenger, wore a fedora as part of his first costume, as well as crime-buster Midnight. Dark goons like the Mask and the Joker matched their fedoras to the exact shade of the slick zoot suit. Wolverine often wore a fedora when dressed in civilian clothes in the X-Men animated series.