The trapper hat, the aviator hat, the bomber hat – they’re all easy to spot. They have a rugged, "outdoorsy" look with those signature ear flaps to keep you warm in the harshest of weather – combining both versatility and practical elegance.
Proof of the hat’s effectiveness lies in its long and storied history.
Mountain men, frontiersmen, lumberjacks, hunters, trappers, cross-country skiers have all relied on the trapper hat for comfort and survival. Really, it’s the only hat that provides the necessary protection for your entire head, including ears, chin, and nape of the neck.
In the 20th century, the trapper hat took on a new form during World War I, becoming the "aviator hat." Fighter pilots wore them in the open, unheated cockpits of biplanes. During World War II, the trapper hat became the "bomber hat." It was worn by B17 and B24 crew members to stay warm at extremely high altitudes in unpressurized cabins on long missions.
And the popularity of the trapper hat, as well as the aviator hat and bomber hat, has only grown . . . right up to the present.
What Is a Trapper Hat?
But just what is a trapper hat (you ask)? Well, let’s take a look.
Also known as a trooper hat, this hat is, as we mentioned, probably the perfect headwear for keeping your head and ears warm – and for doing it with style. So let’s turn to that ultimate outdoor authority, Field&Stream, to find out more . . .
"Trapper hats were designed as hunting headwear for those stalwart souls who tamed the American frontier. Winters were harsh in many parts of the frontier, and keeping one’s head warm was critical to surviving to see another spring. Originally made of leather or fur and lined with fur, at the time they were seen more than a necessity than a fashion statement.
"Now, however, the trapper hat is popular with fashion-conscious individuals from teens to septuagenarians. And while not worn for hunting as much anymore, the hat is still very popular for skiing and other cold-weather outdoor sports."
When it comes to the actual construction of these hats (aviator hats and bomber hats), the two key elements are the tough outer layer and the soft, warm lining. Originally, they were made of tanned animal skins, with the leather side out and the fur in. Today, you’re more likely to find them made of something like a polyester-wool blend and faux fur made of quilted polyester.
But, really, it’s the ear flaps that make the hat what it is. These long ear flaps (that can even cover your chin) can be tied or snapped together on top of the hat so that you can choose to use them or not.
Another distinguishing characteristic is the long nape to keep the back of your neck out of the elements and warm. And there’s the stylish element of a fur flip-up in the front.
Types of Trapper Hat
You don’t have to be a mountain man or lumberjack to wear this hat and enjoy the style and comfort of this essential piece of winter headwear. This is readily apparent in the myriad types available today.
The possibilities are nearly endless, but here are a few to get you started.
And just as there are many types of these hats, there are also as many uses (as well as trapper hat accessories). Whatever you intend to use your hat for, you can find one to meet your needs – including protection, comfort, and style.
Consider these possible uses . . .
Walking across campus
Basically, whatever you use your hat for, it all comes down to warmth and style.
Trapper Hat Brands
And there’s no shortage of brands to choose from, either. Some of the top, proven brands are . . .
What to Look for in a Trapper Hat
So now that you know what this hat is, the many types, the uses, and brands, you should also be aware of three key things to look for when considering a particular style or brand of the hat. Again, we turn to Field&Stream.
The Outside Material
These special hats are, of course, made from a variety of materials today, but much less often leather and fur. Wool, polyester blends, and cotton are now more common for the exterior material. (Remember that plaid, cotton hat Elmer Fudd wore in the cartoon?) Typically, the synthetic (e.g., polyester) blends are better at keeping the elements (especially moisture) out.
The trick in selecting the right outside material is in carefully considering how you’ll use the hat and when and where you’ll wear it. "Matching the exterior material to the weather conditions at hand will nearly always help you make the best selection."
The Inside Material
Fur was once the norm simply because it was the warmest thing available at the time. These are still available, but not as popular as formerly, having given way to man-made materials. Today, you can choose from cotton, faux fur, and a variety of synthetic materials.
When making your choice, just keep in mind that "[a]ll have ups and downs related to comfort and warmth. Some trapper hats even feature polyester blend materials on the interior for wicking sweat away from the head to keep you warmer in very cold weather."
Although the color is pretty much a personal subjective matter, it’s still an important consideration. Here’s what the pros advise regarding color . . .
"Bright, primary colors are typically considered more casual and favored for leisure activities like skiing and snowboarding."
"Red plaid is a perennial favorite worn both casually and for outdoor work."
“Earth tones are very popular colors for trapper hats, with browns, greens, and grays available."
"The ubiquitous black trapper hat is seen as stylish and classy, and can be worn well with a full-length coat in cold-weather situations where more formal attire is needed."
"For hunters, trapper hats also come in camouflage and hunter orange."
Where to Purchase Trapper Hats
Just as with types, uses, and brands, there are plenty of places you can purchase a hat. You can get your hat online, at a big-box store, or the local mom-and-pop shop. The options are so many that it gets confusing to know where to turn.
With that in mind, here are a few of the top wholesalers and retailers we recommend. . .