May 16, 2023
Real History Makes Indiana Jones’ Hat A Lot Less Cool
Indiana Jones’ accessories are almost as famous as the man himself, but the real history behind Indy’s famous headgear isn’t as well known. While Indiana Jones ’ trademark fedora has become emblematic
Indiana Jones’ accessories are almost as famous as the man himself, but the real history behind Indy’s famous headgear isn’t as well known.
While Indiana Jones’ trademark fedora has become emblematic of the adventure hero, its real history is not quite as glamorous. A character’s design in a film or TV show is one of many defining elements that help make them memorable. The silhouette of Indiana Jones is a strong example of this, in no small part due to Indiana's trademark hat and whip, which make him instantly recognizable in all of his films and merchandise.
The Indiana Jones movies follow Indy as he liberates treasures from ancient hiding places and keeps them out of the hands of those who would use them for ill. There are five installments in the franchise, in all of which Harrison Ford's character keeps his distinctive look with his hat and whip. Both are important parts of his image. This is especially true for the fedora, which is integral to Indiana’s personality and backstory, even if the item itself is not as unique as the movies make it out to be.
Although Indiana Jones’ hat is now synonymous with the iconic character, it was actually very common during the time period depicted in the films. This is especially true for the first three movies, which are all set in the 1930s. At this point, the fedora was relatively common and lauded for its soft texture and distinctive shape. After its earliest use in 1891, fedoras were used as a symbol for the women’s rights movement, and then further popularized when Edward, Prince of Wales, later the Duke of Windsor, began to wear the hat in 1924. This only increased the fedora’s ubiquity, especially as hats were a fashion staple in the early 20th century.
Meanwhile, the fedora got its share of exposure in films and culture of the period, especially in detective noir movies set in the 1930s and 1940s, in which the heroes often donned the hats. It was also part of the image of Hollywood superstar Humphrey Bogart, who sported a fedora in 1940s classics like The Big Sleep, Casablanca, and The Maltese Falcon. Fedoras also became popularized in the public imagination during this period, as they were heavily associated with gangsters during the Prohibition era. This time span coincided with both the fedora's fashionable peak between the 1920s and the 1950s and the setting for the Indiana Jones movies.
But while the fedora itself was relatively common during the time period for the Indiana Jones movies, how Indy got his hat wasn't a trivial moment in the least. In fact, it was a defining point in his youth. The fedora is directly related to his inspiration to become an archeology professor and treasure hunter in his later years. The Last Crusade depicts this critical encounter when a young Indiana Jones stumbles upon a group stealing a golden crucifix.
In the movie, Indiana gallantly attempts to retrieve the crucifix, gaining his trademark whip in the process to fend off a lion. Although Indy is eventually caught and loses the treasure, his adversary, a man Jones calls "Fedora" due to his hat, respects the boy’s efforts and leaves him with his cap, telling Jones that he lost today, but that he doesn’t have to like it. This served as a turning point for Indiana Jones’ career and his trademark aesthetic.Indiana JonesIndiana Jones