What is a Pork Pie Hat?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

A pork pie hat is a men's dress hat that resembles a fedora, but has a thinner brim and a short, flat-topped, round crown with an indentation all the way around. Most of these hats are felt, but straw styles also exist. They are available in nearly any color imaginable, as well as in patterned styles, although black, grey, and brown are most common. As with many men's dress hats, a broad ribbon around the crown and a feather on the side are common accessories.

Businessman giving a thumbs-up
Businessman giving a thumbs-up

The pork pie hat originated in the mid-19th century, when it was commonly worn by American cowboys before the Stetson hat became popular. However, the term originally referred to a women's style of the same era. The hat is so named because its shape resembles a pork pie.

Certain subcultures are associated with the pork pie hat, notably the rude boy culture that originated in 1960s Jamaica, and ska, the type of music that grew out of it. Jazz and blues musicians and fans may also sport the style. Thelonius Monk, Lester Young, and Andre 3000 of Outkast have all been known to wear this style of hat. Musician Charles Mingus wrote a saxophone piece dedicated to the memory of Lester Young entitled "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat." It is also a common fashion accessory for anyone with a retro style, often worn with a suit or a bowling shirt.

In the early 20th century, the pork pie hat, along with the newer fedora, was a more widely popular style, as headwear in general was more of a staple of men's fashion. Silent film star Buster Keaton often appeared in this type of hat in his movies. In the 1940s, it became associated with physicist Robert Oppenheimer, who helped develop the atomic bomb, so much so that a picture of the hat atop physics equipment appearing in a 1948 issue of Physics Today was understood to refer to him.

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


I have to say that although I've never been one of those that can pull off a pork pie hat (or a felt hat or fedora hat, for that matter), I really admire those who can.

There's something about a nice felt pork pie hat that just lends an air of dignity to a man, I think. And if you want to go for a casual, yet still funky look then you can't go wrong by buying a straw pork pie hat.

I think it's a shame that the whole practice of wearing hats kind of went out of fashion; I'm glad that people who can wear them and not look ridiculous (not like me) are starting to do so again.

Long live the pork pie hat!


So this may be a little silly, but I had always known about pork pie hats (my brother went through a period of wearing a pork pie straw hat around, it was terrible, but that aside), but I had never really given much thought to where they got the name.

I mean, it's not like we've got pork pies just floating around a lot in the States, right?

I finally figured it out when I went to the UK to work and saw actual pork pies in the grocery store. In case you've never seen one, it's kind of odd...to me they look like breaded Spam, or, well, pork in a pie. But not like a pot pie, like an actual pie or tart. I don't usually see any liquid coming out of them like you'd see in a pot pie.

Anyway, the hats really do look like pork pies sitting on a plate -- but I would have never gotten that if I didn't see a pork pie in real life first.


No way -- cowboys used to wear pork pie hats? Well, that totally changes my conception of the old west!

Now every time I watch Lonesome Dove I'll be thinking about people in felt pork pie hats...

Oh, and by the way, I'm really glad you mentioned the song Good Bye Pork Pie hat -- I had heard of it before, and had a vague understanding of what it was about, but knowing a little more of the backstory was very interesting.



A pork pie hat is also known as a trilby.

Post your comments
Forgot password?