Guide to New Orleans Jazz Fest Hats

New Orleans Jazz Fest Hats

Since 1970, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival has been one of the cultural cornerstones of the Big Easy. 2022 marks the return of this event post lockdown and this year, the festival runs from April 29th to May 8th at the Fair Grounds Race Course and Slots. Headliners are Lionel Richie, Death Cab for Cutie, and Ceelo Green. 

Music legends have worn some incredible New Orleans Jazz Fest hats over the years, both at the event and abroad. And since music festivals like this one, Stagecoach and Coachella are finally returning after the lockdown, here’s a look at the famous New Orleans Jazz Fest hats worn by headliners and their side men over the years so you can pick up a cool hat to protect you from the sun before you go. 

Jazz Fest Hats for Aspiring Cats

Louis Armstrong listens to a young fan play the trumpet
Louis Armstrong, the trumpet player who largely developed the origins of American jazz music, with a young fan Enrico Tomasso, wearing a straw trilby, 1970 (Evening Standard/Getty Images)

Only a handful of jazz cats are as world-famous as Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. Born in 1901, Armstrong is New Orleans’ favorite son, with many a street, building, park, or square named after him. His career spanned five decades, but sadly, he didn’t get to perform at the Jazz and Heritage Festival before his death in 1971.

Count Basie, also known as “Captain Basie

Count Basie wearing a black captains hat in 1973
Count Basie wears a black captain’s hat at a show in 1973 (David Redfern/Redferns/Getty Images)

Count Basie was born William James Basie in 1904 in New Jersey. He championed big band swing jazz and headlined Jazz Fest in 1978

In this photo from 1973, Basie wears a black captain’s hat. The hat has a boating insignia, a flat front brim, and a relaxed wool crown. 

Duke Ellington (1899-1974) Brings a Touch of Class

Black and white photo of Duke Ellington in a top hat
Duke Ellington wears a black top hat in this 1935 portrait (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Duke Ellington, another big band swing legend, played at the inaugural Jazz and Heritage Festival in 1970.

More than half a decade before the Slash top hat, Ellington was among the first musicians to make popular the top hat. This one has a five to six-inch high flat top crown and a 1.5-inch brim. The coachman-style brim curves up on either side, creating a less formal, more dashing silhouette.

Wynton Marsalis in a Stunning Panama Hat

Jazz musician Wynton Marsalis in a Panama Hat in 1993
Wynton Marsalis wears a Panama hat at a Jazz Festival in France, 1993 (David Redfern/Redferns/Getty Images)

While some musicians like to stick to a single genre, others like to wear as many hats as possible (pun intended). Wynton Marsalis, son of legendary jazz cat Ellis Marsalis, has done just about everything imaginable. A trumpet player, he’s played and composed symphonies, tap dances, classical music, jazz, and he’s the director of jazz at The Julliard School. 

In this shot, he brings the thunder with this stunning white Panama hat, which resembles a fedora. However, this hat is made of woven fibers from the jipijapa plant. It has a four-inch teardrop crown with a front pinch and a black ribbon hatband.

Aretha Franklin Brings the Shade

Music legend Aretha Franklin wears a white sun hat
Aretha Franklin wears a white straw sun hat at a White Party in 2004 (Brad Barket/Getty Images)

Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,” has played the Jazz and Heritage Festival multiple times and headlined in 1994. 

In this photo, Franklin wears a white straw women’s sun hat with a flat crown and a five-inch brim rolled up on the edges. Although this hat shields the wearer from the sun, it could barely contain Franklin’s star power. 

Lauryn Hill Felt This Fedora

Singer Lauryn Hill at the Jazz Fest in 2011
Lauryn Hill wears a white felt fedora at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, 2011 (Erika Goldring/WireImage/Getty Images)

Lauryn Hill’s solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, was one of the top-selling records of all time. She made her debut at the Jazz Festival in 2011, wearing a brilliant white felt fedora. This particular model has a telescope crown with no pinch, and she wore it with a lace hatband. She also snapped down the four-inch brim in front.

Sonny Rollins Shows Off New Orleans Jazz Fest Hats

Jazz musician Sunny Rollins in a canvas bucket-style hat
Sonny Rollins wears a white canvas hat, not unlike the bucket hats that are popular today at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, 2011 (Rick Diamond/Getty Images)Ja

Walter “Sonny” Rollins is one of the oldest living jazz legends. Much of his skill came from learning from the best, including Thelonius Monk, Charlie Parker and Coleman Hawkins. 

During the event, Rollins gave Hill a run for her money with his white canvas bucket hat predecessor. This jazz musician hat has a floppy, downturned brim, and thin black piping sewn around the hatband area. The headpiece also has two metal eyelets on either side to keep this hat cool.

Ellis Marsalis Takes it Back With a Straw Boater

Ellis Marsalis plays the piano at Jazz Fest in 2009
Ellis Marsalis wears a straw boater hat at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, 2009 (Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

Jazz music can sometimes run in the family, as evidenced by the legends of the Marsalis family. Pianist and acclaimed jazz educator Ellis was another child of the Big Easy. This is why he’s played at the Jazz Festival, including in 2009.

That year, Marsalis wore a straw boater hat with a three-inch telescope crown. The 3.5-inch brim has a pencil curl brim and a colorful fabric hatband with tropical colors that stand out.

Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown Adds Some Giddyup to the Festival

Jazz musician Clarence Brown plays the guitar at Jazz Fest
Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown wears a black cowboy hat at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, 1982 (David Redfern/Redferns/Getty Images)

Although Clarence Brown was born in Louisiana, he spent much of his life in Texas. As such, his music blends a variety of genres and styles. So does his attire. 

In 1982, Brown brought a little bit of Texas to his performance, wearing a black felt bull rider cowboy hat. The hat has a 4.5-inch crown with a brick crease. The 4.5-inch brim turns up on the sides and down in the front and back. This hat also has an insignia of a blue eagle carrying a guitar. 

Walter Washington is a Leatherhead

Jazz musician Walter Washington plays the guitar in a white leather hat
Walter “Wolfman” Washington wears a white leather motorcycle cap at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, 2006 (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Closing out our list is another NOLA native, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, the pride of his hometown who plays the Jazz Fest regularly. 

In 2006, the Wolfman decided to wear a white leather cap. This hat has a floppy crown with horizontal ridges. The cap also has a short, stiff front brim. 

New Orleans Jazz Fest Hat Drop

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival returns, and we expect the hats in 2022 to be just as remarkable. Look for fedoras with hat brim trim and red bottom brims. These hats were big in Europe late last year, and are likely to be the hot hat at Jazz Fest. Check out some of the best New Orleans Jazz Fest hats of yesteryear. Hats worn by legends of the craft, including Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Pick the style that’s right to keep you cool and comfortable at this year’s festival.

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