Movies and books have made a variety of traditional sea and sailor hats popular as symbols of pirates, but not all would be considered practical and some may wonder if such hats were really worn by real pirates. Whether for historical knowledge or curiosity, or for assembling an authentic pirate costume, knowing the proper hat styles will improve your general pirate knowledge.
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The tricorn hat style featured a round, dome-like cap that fit over the head and a wide brim extending out from the dome cap that was molded into a triangular shape. The brim was pressed up to the cap on three sides, forming the triangle, and the rounded edges were sometimes decorated with gold stitching, fluffy feathers, a mixture of both or any number of fancy designs to add to the appearance and style. This is the most common hat identified as a pirate hat for costumes and is a clear symbol of pirates in old movies as well.
The bircorn hat, as the name would indicate, is similar to the tricorn hat, but instead of the brim pressed up on three sides, the bicorn hat's brim is pressed up on two sides. Usually this hat was worn by navy admirals or other important people at sea, with the pressed up sides worn on either side of the head and lavish decorations adorning the edge of the brim. Pirates in old movies are sometimes portrayed wearing a bicorn hat worn the other way, with the pressed-up sides on the front and back of the hat, and a skull and cross bones -- a "jolly roger" -- on the front.
Historians suggest that some pirates simply wore hats with a small brim as a more practical option. Sometimes these small-brimmed hats were formed into mini-tricorn styles, which are common in costume shops for pirate costumes and accessories as well. The hats served their purpose, protecting the head from rain or sunshine.
Perhaps the most classic pirate head adornment was the scarf, simply tied over the hair in skull-cap fashion. Keeping the head protected, at least from sunburns, and keeping the hair, if long, out of the pirate's face. The scarf also served to keep sweat from getting into the pirate's eyes while working hard on board the ship. Additionally, some pirates would wear a scarf with a hat over it. This style can be seen as practical since hats sometimes had to be removed or risk being blown away with strong winds at sea.