Is a hat a frivolous accessory or a necessity? When looking into its history it quickly becomes apparent that it has been both. Headwear for women began in earnest during the Middle Ages when the church decreed that their hair must be covered. During the 18th century, milliners took the hat-making art out of the home and established the millinery profession. In the 18th century however, a milliner was more of a stylist.
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A hat is a head covering which is worn for various reasons, including protection against weather conditions, ceremonial reasons such as university graduation, religious reasons, safety, or as a fashion accessory. Some hats have a protective function. As examples, the hard hat protects construction workers' heads from injury by falling objects and a British police Custodian helmet protects the officer's head, a sun hat shades the face and shoulders from the sun, a cowboy hat protects against sun and rain and a Ushanka fur hat with fold-down earflaps keeps the head and ears warm. Some hats are worn for ceremonial purposes, such as the mortarboard , which is worn or carried during university graduation ceremonies.
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A picture hat , also sometimes known as a Gainsborough hat , is an elaborate woman's hat with a wide brim. This is a very broad category of hat; some versions may be similar to the halo or cartwheel hat. This style featured in virtually every decade of the 20th century, and has a history dating back to at least the 18th century. The picture hat was first popularised as a style at the end of the 18th century and is said to have been inspired by the hats seen on portraits of society women painted by Thomas Gainsborough. It was then often known as the Gainsborough Chapeau.