Hats Off to Sci-Fi & Fantasy: Exploring the Craze for Out-of-This-World Headwear

When it comes to headwear, the world of sci-fi and fantasy has brought to screen some of the most memorable characters adorned with jaw-dropping masks and helmets. From Sub-Zero’s subtle mask in Mortal Kombat and Maleficent’s impressive horns in Sleeping Beauty to Darth Vader’s striking helmet in Star Wars and the elaborate respirator worn by Immortan Joe in Mad Max: Fury Road, eye-catching headwear is often an inseparable part of cinematic characterization.

Masks and helmets have very few creative limitations, in the sense that the designers can be as imaginative as possible because they rarely have to follow any traditionally accepted headwear outline. Helmets can do without the conventional rounded edge, and masks might be more about symbolism than anything else.

Popular Hats

Although the same rules also apply to hats, the layout is highly unlikely to go beyond the conventional design standards. Let us take the ubiquitous top hat as an example; Mad Hatter from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland and J. M. Flagg’s Uncle Sam wear two distinct top hats – with the former being more heavily ornamented – but they are essentially the same shape and form. And in case you don’t remember, Willy Wonka also wears a similar thing. It is pretty much the same case with wizard hats, which are almost always depicted as long cone-shaped pointy headdresses worn by magic-wielding characters. There can be some distinguishing features like colors, bands, patterns, or symbols, but the general configuration has remained unchanged forever. Thankfully, there are quite a few exceptions where characters from sci-fi and fantasy don some of the most iconic hats ever:

Razor-Rimmed Hat – Kung Lao (Mortal Kombat Series)

Fantasy Headwear

In a game loaded with out-of-this-world headwear and accessories, your hat must be nothing short of spectacular to be even noticeable, and Kung Lao’s Razor-Rimmed Hat makes the distinction. It is a hat, a trademark, and a lethal weapon at the same time.

Mario Cap – Mario (Super Mario Series)

Fantasy Headwear

As far as fantasy hats are concerned, Mario’s cap is arguably the most recognizable one in the history of video games. It is the headwear that helps define Mario as an everlasting prominent gaming icon.

Holographic Cap – Marty McFly (Back to the Future II)

Sci-fi hats don’t achieve as much as praiseworthiness as Marty McFly’s holographic cap. While not as famous as the hoverboard and the self-tying shoes, the cap is without a doubt an unforgettable fashion item. The otherwise simple cap doesn’t look very much different, at least in terms of form and shape, from any ordinary cap. However, the highly reflective surface gives the cap its distinctive color-changing property.

Tricorne Hat – Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean)

Fantasy Headwear

Jack Sparrow never thinks of his tricorne hat merely as headwear but as an essential symbol of his authority as Captain of the Black Pearl. Both the character and his fashion sense have somewhat established the image of how a real pirate must have looked in everybody’s mind.

Fedora, Indiana Jones (Indiana Jones Films)

Fantasy Headwear

Regardless of the action and chaos, Indiana Jones shall never be without his beloved fedora. The character came into existence in a period when it was considered indecent for a man to be seen without a hat. As it turned out, the image of Indiana Jones donning a fedora has exerted so much influence on cinema.

Cosplay Craze

Sci-fi and fantastical headwear are pretty impressive thanks to their unusual designs, fascinating color scheme, and sometimes fictional powers. Once again, hats are somewhat left behind in the imaginative department and they lack the “element of surprise” factor. With only a few exceptions, sci-fi hats are nothing more than a fashion statement. For instance, in the superhero realm, Green Arrow’s hat is nothing when compared to Iron Man’s helmet or Batman’s mask.

A hat might not be as mysterious or imposing as a helmet, but the simplicity also means that it is accessible, for fans and especially cosplayers. Think of the Predator’s mask in Predator; the mask appears to be made of metal and has a complex geometry. A 1:1 replica of the headwear would cost considerably more than an exact copy of Kung Lao’s razor-sharp hat. Both pieces are mostly metal, but the hat’s shape is nowhere near as elaborate as the mask. At the very least, the simplicity of a hat opens the door wide for cosplayers to experiment with all sorts of ornaments and additional details without having to build the headwear from scratch. Cosplayers can purchase ready-made generic top hats, fedora, newsboy caps, or tricorne, and decorate the headwear as they see fit.

When a sci-fi and fantasy character is supposed to wear a hat, more often than not the hat becomes the most distinguishable and recognizable element of the outfit. Mario is just a plumber without the red “M” cap; Kung Lao is a Shaolin monk without the razor-edge hat; and Gabriel Van Helsing is a Hugh Jackman in a period costume. Thus, the craze about sci-fi and fantasy hats (or any headwear for that matter) is very much justifiable. It only makes sense that cosplayers pay a great of attention, time, and effort to make their headwear look just right (and then some) without obscuring the identities associated with the hats.

We think cosplaying is a hobby to some, but it might be a lifestyle to others. Whether or not you have participated in cosplaying of any sort, you cannot deny that it has become a prevalent industry in modern society. For the uninitiated, cosplaying is dressing up as Gandalf on Halloween; on the other hand, the real enthusiasts are willing to spend money and effort to practice the art and immerse themselves as the characters they want to personify.

Which sci-fi and fantasy characters have the most recognizable hats? When you are cosplaying, do you prefer a ready-made or a DIY hat? We’d love to hear from you.

Other things you might want to know:

Who is credited as the first cosplayer?

Although it is generally accepted that “cosplay” is an invention by the Japanese, the first cosplayer was an American named Myrtle Rebecca Douglas Smith Gray Nolan, also known as Morojo. During the

first World Science Fiction Convention (1939) in New York City, she wore a green cape and breeches based on an artwork by Frank R. Paul and the 1936 sci-fi film H. G. Well’s Things to Come.

What is the largest cosplay convention in the world?

It is difficult to pinpoint the single largest event ever, but there are always massive gatherings of cosplayers at various events such as the Comic Market in Japan, San Diego Comon-Con, New York Comic Con, and Los Angeles Anime Expo, every year. Japan Expo (in Paris) is the biggest in Europe.

What are the most popular characters to cosplay?

Anime characters remain the dominating sight in cosplay events. Characters from well-known series like Naruto, Sailor Moon, Attack on Titan, and My Hero Academia are always present in just about every cosplay event. Harry Potter and Star Wars series are also popular among cosplayers, followed by characters from DC and Marvel Comics. It shouldn’t be surprising to see people dress as figures from Game of Thrones and Disney as well.

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