History’s coolest fads: No 3 — The cloche hat

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The cloche hat is one of the most iconic and beloved fashions of the Roaring Twenties. Although invented in 1908 by French fashion designer and milliner Caroline Reboux, the popularity of the cloche (which is French for bell) didn’t catch on until some years later–but when it did, it really did.

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The tight-fitting cloche became the preferred style in the late teens, and the large and extravagant hats of the previous decades soon became unfashionable (and as a consequence, the hatpin business took a hard hit). During the 20s, the cloche not only become a fashion staple, but it also inspired women to cut their hair in order to better suit the hat–resulting in the equally-iconic bob haircuts, such as the Eton crop, that symbolize the flouting of social norms and rebelliousness that we associate with the 20s today.

Louise Brooks Cloche hat

Cloche hats were usually decorated asymmetrically in an Art Deco style, with small pins, feathers, or jewels attached to one side. Some women even used a system of colored ribbons as a form of coded communication–certain ribbons would indicate that a woman was, for example, single and looking.

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By 1933, the popularity of the cloche faded, and it would not be worn again until fashion revivals in the 60s, 80s, and 2000s. However, its impact on society and value as a fashion icon will not be forgotten.

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