The two most common hats worn in Greece from 1200 to 146 B.C.E. were the pilos (PEE-loss) and the petasos (PEH-ta-sus). Felt, a smooth cloth, was the most common material used to make the hats, but other materials were also used, including leather and straw. Evidence of many different felt hats formed into a cone shape with a small rolled brim has been discovered in many regions of Greece. These hats were worn by working men. In each region, the hats were usually named after the geographic area in which they were worn. Scholars, however, have not been able to distinguish differences among these many different regional hats and have come to call all these felt hats with little brims pilos. The Greek god of fire and metalworking, Hephaestus, is often depicted wearing a pilos.
A larger hat, known as the petasos, protected Greeks from the rain and the heat of the sun, especially when traveling. The petasos was a low-crowned, wide-brimmed hat with a strap to secure it on the wearer's head or to hang it down the wearer's back until needed. The brim of the petasos could be shaped into several different forms. The earliest petasos had upturned brims in the back; later versions had brims cut into decorative shapes. The origin of the petasos is believed to be the Greek region of Thessaly.
The popularity of both the pilos and the petasos spread to other cultures. From 750 B.C.E. to 200 B.C.E. Etruscan men, from the area now comprising central Italy, wore these hats that had been developed by the Greeks. Later, from 509 B.C.E. to 476 C.E. , Roman men also wore hats resembling the Greek pilos and petasos. Serbian hatmakers continued making these hats until just before World War II (1939–45) by rubbing soaked wool fibers together between their palms and shaping them into close-fitting felt hats.
Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume: From Ancient Mesopotamia Through the Twentieth Century. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.
Symons, David J. Costume of Ancient Greece. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.