Fashion has a habit of repeating itself, which is why many centuries after they were popular, feathers in hats are again making a comeback. Only used by the royalty in their ceremonial headgear in recent history, you will find many contemporary men and women sporting feathers in their hats.
While some five centuries back, feathers in hats were principally a symbol of bravery, nowadays, it is merely a decoration for lifting the style quotient of the hat wearer. However, the Aztecs used feathers in their headdress as religious symbolism rather than to indicate achievement or bravery. However, they had complicated laws regulating who were eligible to wear feathers, an indication of their status in society. Of course, you must not forget feathers in headgear signified the tribal status of Western Indians in addition to the bravery they have displayed in battle.
One of the chief uses of feathers in headgear in war and tribal conferences was indicating the status of the big chief and his military lineage. Feathers in tribal headgear also provided an easy method for the tribes to figure out the wearer’s identity because every tribe had a distinctive identification. However, nowadays, a feather in a hatband is only a fashion accessory, albeit a unique and distinctive one. It is a throwback to medieval times when feathers served to brighten up the boring apparel.
Use of Feathers in Hats in Modern Society
Germany: Regardless of whether they are Bavarian, Austrian, or Alpine, these German hats all have their origin in Tyrol, where they became popular in the 19th century. The use of these feathers in hats had no other purpose save making the hats, and the wearer, look better while keeping the person warm on a typically cool day.
Military: The military has had a long association with feather-decorated hats for a long time. According to Legion Magazine, the headdress represented their collective identity. Primarily used for decorative purposes, the type of feather also indicates which unit the wearer belongs to. However, in the Mayan society, only the nobility was permitted to wear feathers in their headdress, and anyone else, even if they belonged to the military, could be punished with death for wearing a feather-adorned hat. The Musketeers of the Guard, an elite military branch set up by Louis XIII made feathered hats a part of their uniform to distinguish themselves from the rest of the armed forces.
Cowboys: By convention, cowboys do not wear feathers in their hats. However, the ones putting feathers in their hats are likely to be dressing up their hats to add to their looks or sensing out a subtle signal that they are free to go wherever they want. Often, cowboys put feathers on their leather cowboy hat bands if they had received it from their girlfriends as a token of their love. However, the most common reason for cowboys to put feathers in their hats was to dress up for social occasions and fun.
There is no single type of feather identified for use in cowboy hats. This lack of convention allowed the cowboys to use whatever they could lay their hands on as long they were attractive. Typically, the feathers of native birds like canaries, pheasants, turkeys, etc., were commonly used. More than the type of feather, their looks and durability were more of a concern to the cowboys. The key to making the feathers last long on the hat is to attach them properly.
Best Ways of Attaching Feathers to the Hat
While there are quite a few methods of attaching decorative feathers to your hat, the most popular one is glue. The reason is the glue is usually invisible and does not clash either with the color of the feather or the hat. However, it is important not to use superglue as the bond is so strong that it does not allow the feather to move in the wind, which makes them break off. Instead, you should apply good-quality glue with the help of a glue gun. You must not overuse the glue and let it dry fully before you use the hat. You can also use a hatpin to secure the feathers on the hat. It may take a few attempts before you get it tight. Perhaps the best way of attaching the feathers is to insert them between the hatband and the hat and sew them with invisible thread. Alternatively, you can sew the feathers on the hatband.
The use of feathers as an embellishment on the hat is a well-accepted practice. While it acted as an indicator of status or the affiliation to a particular tribe or military unit in many ancient civilizations, the most common use in contemporary society is as an embellishment for the hat to look better. Using feathers in your hat is optional and typically used by those feeling adventurous.