There are several styles of straw hats, but all of them are made of woven straw. Many of these hats are formed in a similar way to felt hats; they are softened by steam or by submersion in hot water, and then formed by hand or over a block. Finer and more expensive straw hats have a tighter and more consistent weave. Since it takes much more time to weave a larger hat than a smaller one, larger hats are more expensive.
Straw hats have been worn consistently in Europe in the Summer since antiquity, and arguably are the least-changed form of headgear, since many medieval examples would draw no special attention if worn today. Many are to be seen in the famous calendar miniatures of the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, worn by all classes, mostly by men. The Middle Ages also produced, among the more fashionably dressed, possibly the most spectacular straw hats ever seen on men in the West, notably those worn in the Arnolfini Portrait of 1434 by Jan van Eyck (tall, stained black) and by Saint George in a painting by Pisanello of around the same date (left). In the middle of the 18th century it was fashionable for rich ladies to dress as country girls with a wide brimmed straw hat to complete the look.