A fedora is a soft felt hat that is creased lengthwise down the crown and pinched in the front on both sides. Similar hats with a C-crown (with an indentation for the head in the top of the crown) are occasionally called fedoras. The brim goes all the way around, and often there will be a hat band as well. A trilby hat is somewhat similar to a fedora, but typically has a shorter brim, and the back of the brim is distinctively more sharply upturned as a result.
The term fedora was in use as early as 1891. Beginning in the 20th century, the fedora came into use as an upper-class clothing accessory. Hats that resemble the soft felt version are often called fedoras even if they are made of straw or twill. Fedoras did not start to become widespread until the late 1910s. Its popularity soared, and eventually it eclipsed the similar-looking Homburg by the 1930s. Fedoras can be found in nearly any color imaginable, but black, grey, and tan/brown are the most popular.
The word fedora comes from the title of an 1882 play by Victorien Sardou. Princess Fédora, the heroine of the play, wore a hat similar to a fedora. In the early part of the twentieth century, the fedora was popular in cities for its stylishness, ability to protect the wearer's head from the wind and weather, and the fact that it could be rolled up when not in use. Since the early part of the 20th century, many Haredi and other Orthodox Jews have worn black fedoras and continue to this day.
The hat is sometimes associated with Prohibition-era gangsters and the detectives who sought to bring them to justice. In Hollywood movies of the 1940s, characters often wore a fedora, particularly when playing private detectives, gangsters, or other "tough guy" roles. A trench coat was frequently part of the costume, a notable example being Humphrey Bogart's character in Casablanca. The fedora is widely recognized with the characters of The Blues Brothers, Indiana Jones, and Freddy Krueger. The fedora is closely associated with film noir characters. In the case of action/adventure films, such as old "B"-movies, and the Indiana Jones series they inspired, the fedora served the practical purpose of hiding the face sufficiently to allow doubles to perform the more dangerous stunts seamlessly.
Like the bowler hat, the fedora fell out of usage and popularity during the late 1950s and early 1960s. The hat began to lose favor even earlier on the west coast of the United States, which is known for its more casual clothing. The early 1950s switch from large lapels and ties to thin ones, resulted in shorter-brimmed hats, and this likely played a role in the fedora eventually being deemed a non-essential item. Also playing a part was the shrinking automobiles of the mid-1950s, which often made it difficult to wear a hat while driving. By the early 1970s, the fedora was seen as a dead fashion, typically only worn by older and/or more traditional men. However the fedora has seen a revival in recent fashion seasons. Instead of the tradional grays, browns, and blacks, the fedora now comes in many colors and patterns, the most popular being plaid, but black with white pinstripes are also common. Though the hat was originally for men, it is now more popular for teenage girls.
On January 20, 1961, President John F. Kennedy supposedly chose not to wear a hat to his inauguration. However, There is ample photographic and journalistic evidence that President Kennedy indeed wore a top hat to his inauguration ceremony, only removing it when he gave his speech.