08. Renaissance

man with hatThe felt hat triumphs in the 15th Century as head dress par eccellence.

The aesthetical style that distinguished the renaissance society was present in every aspect, and clothing became elegant and refined. Soft velvet, sometimes embroidered with golden threads, was used for capes trimmed with fur. Large stuffed caps, that were usually black, began to be preferred by the wealthy that adored the elegance that arrived from France where the felt hat spread faster than in Italy.

Charles VII was one of the first to wear a fine beaver fur felt hat, a sign of distinctive nobility preference from the wool felt hat. Jean Fouquet portrayed him so in a famous painting preserved in the Louvre Museum.

The magnificent renaissance clothing that dominated in Italy up to the first half of the 1500’s was testified by the portraits that the Court patronage donated in abundance and which offered splendid examples of head dress styles.

During the first half of the 1500’s, sovereign Francis I and his retinue heavily influenced fashion. The French wore large brimmed felt hats decorated with buckles and feathers and flat black velvet caps decked with a feather.
In Germany, wool felt hats had a tight lifted brim, while the English, not fond of novelties from abroad, remained faithful to large caps and classic tall and medium felt hats. The Spanish preferred conical hats with tall crowns. In fact, it was Spain that set the preference in style so much that even in Italy the cloak became quite known; a short cape thrown over one shoulder in order to reveal a puffed sleeve. With it, a wide brimmed felt hat decked with a feather.

While princes of the Renaissance enrich their hats with ribbons and lace, the Muslims spread their felt head dress, called Fez, in the south of Europe. The hat used by nobles as a sign of rank begins to spread even among the poorer ranks, at first round with the brim turned downwards, and then in other shapes. It was called the wheel hat.1

The end of the 1500’s was characterized by wars, famine and devastations. The craft guilds went through rough times and the trading routes became dangerous and difficult. Still with a Spanish accent, fashion felt the effects of this crisis even if only slight. Hats shrunk to a small crown with a turned up brim. Feathers and banquettes remained, where hats were a must, as the paintings of that period confirm.

1. A. COLONETTI G. SASSI M. M. SIGIANI, op. cit., pg.18 27