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What is a Duckbill Hat?

By Sonal Panse
Updated May 21, 2024
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A duckbill hat is a cloth hat with a peaked brim that is shaped rather like a duck's beak. This hat developed in design from the popular British flat cap in the nineteenth century, and it is similar to a duckbill ivy hat. The difference between the two is that duckbill ivy hats have flat brims, button snaps or running stitches at the top and generally roomy crowns. Duckbill hats, on the other hand, have bent downward and inward folded brims, and more form-fitting crowns that are stitched to the brims for a streamlined look.

Duckbill hats were once worn largely by working class men in the USA, UK and Ireland, and by upper-class men for sporting or countryside occasions. In modern times, these hats are favored as utilitarian or fashionable wear by varied social sections, including women. They may be worn in the usual way or may be worn back-to-front. There is usually a belt or strap at the back that allows for different head size adjustments.

Compared to full brim hats, duckbill hats are generally more convenient as they take up less space, especially in a crowded interior setting. With their short brims, they are also less likely to get tangled up with shrubbery, low branches and so on when worn outdoors. A duckbill hat works well as a sun protection hat, guarding the eyes and the face from the direct glare of the sun; the underside of the hat is often made of a dark material so as not to reflect the glare. The small brim also offers a good buffer against strong winds.

Duckbill hats are extremely versatile because they can be worn in all sorts of weather in different climate zones. The hat has an insulated neck flap that protects the ears and the neck from the chill in cold areas. In hot weather, this neck flap can be turned up and away. The crown may have an inside fleece lining fleece to keep the top of the head warm.

It is possible to get these hats in a variety of materials, patterns and linings. Popular materials include tweed, leather, and fleece for winter wear hats, and cotton for the summer ones. A duckbill hat is usually quite easy to maintain. It can be hand-washed and hung up with a clothespin to drip dry. It can also be machine washed, and dried in a dryer.

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Discussion Comments

By John57 — On Nov 22, 2011

I think my husband has as many hats as I have pairs of shoes. Sometimes I am a bit embarrassed by the hats he wears - especially if he wears his safari hat very often.

Most of his hats are duckbill hats that he buys almost everywhere we go. It is rare to see him without some kind of hat on his head.

The easiest way I have found to keep these hats clean is to put them in the top rack of the dishwasher.

They get clean this way, but still keep their shape.

By cloudel — On Nov 22, 2011

I think that duckbill hats improve a man's appearance, regardless of his facial structure. I have known both wide-faced and narrow-faced men who have worn these hats, and they instantly look cooler once they put them on.

One of these guys usually wore a regular old baseball cap. It kind of dulled his appearance and made him look generic. Once he put on a duckbill hat, he immediately looked stylish and more attractive.

Some men with narrow faces can add interest to their look with one of these hats. The width and flatness of the hat evens out the long, slender face, and it helps it look fuller.

By seag47 — On Nov 22, 2011

@Oceana - I love how portable duckbill hats are, as well. I travel a lot with the band I am in, and I have some crushable felt hats that I love to wear on stage. I never have to worry about them wrinkling or breaking in transit.

I have black, burgundy, and gray felt hats to match different clothes. I can rest my clothes on top of them, or I can put them near the front of the suitcase. Wherever I decide to place them, they will be okay.

These duckbill hats are a great addition to a warm wardrobe. They trap body heat very well, since you lose most of your heat through your head. I always take them with me wherever I go during the fall and winter months, and I stay cozy that way.

By Oceana — On Nov 21, 2011

Duckbill hats are so much easier to pack than most other types of hats. I am glad that my husband favors this kind of hat, because we have to travel a lot for work, and his hats take up minimal space in our luggage.

We own our own company, and our atmosphere is casual, yet stylish. So, he can get away with wearing these hats at presentations.

He used to work for a corporation that required him to wear a suit and tie, and he wasn't allowed to wear a hat of any sort. He is self-conscious about his bald head, and he hated not being able to cover it up.

Once he began working for himself, he started wearing the duckbill hats all the time. He always tosses a few into the corners of our suitcase around our clothes, and they tuck away so neatly.

By TreeMan — On Nov 20, 2011

@jmc88 - I think that you may be looking too much into the matter. I think that the younger generation sees fedora's and duckbill hats as being a bit of a neat looking hat, that is a little out of the ordinary and this is why they choose to wear it.

Wearing a hat is a matter of expression and baseball caps are usually the most common form of hats worn by younger people. by wearing something that looks different they are standing out from their peers.

I say all of this off of experience and the fact that I know of no one that has worn a fedora or duckbill hat to be rebellious. They only did so because they really liked the hat and thought it looked both exotic and neat on their head.

By jmc88 — On Nov 19, 2011

I have always seen duckbill hats as something that people associate as being a funny hat. I do not know why I think this, but I think it may be do to the cultural differences associated with this hat and how it is mainly popular in England, but historically has not been so in the United States.

I will say I see these types of hats in the United States a lot more often than I did about fifteen years ago, but I still feel like their association with England gives it a novelty feeling in the United States and that this is one of the main reason that people choose to wear the hat.

I think that fedora's are the same way and that the younger generation nowadays see this hat as being associated with being funny and out of place and choose to wear it to somewhat rebel against the social structure.

By Emilski — On Nov 19, 2011

@jcraig - I have also noticed that only an older generation used to wear these hats and they have now become popular with some demographic of the young population. In fact, I have seen that these hats are usually stylized to fit younger people's clothes and many variations of a duckbill hat exist coinciding with the fashion of the time.

I saw a person wearing a duckbill hat the other day that was wearing all black and had a duckbill hat with metal rings in it and a big skull on the hat. This would have never been seen in decades past when this hat was worn, and you probably would not have seen a younger person wear this type of hat very often.

By jcraig — On Nov 18, 2011

I have always seen duckbill hats as being hats for older, elderly people. When I was a young kid I never saw anyone under the age of forty wearing these hats and those adults that did looked very odd and out of place.

This could be because I live in the United States and grew up in the 1990's, and these hats just were not popular then. However, I have noticed that these had must be having some type of resurgence, because I am not only seeing elderly people wear these hats, I am also seeing younger people, even high school students wear these hats.

I find this very odd and interesting at the same time considering the era that I grew up in and never seeing these hats being worn except for a certain demographic.

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