Sundance Film Festival Hat Fashion Guide

Director Richard Poplak wearing a red beanie at the last Sundance Film Festival

A Sundance Film Festival Hat with an embroidered logo is not a fashion statement. So what are your choices if you want to bundle up and wear a hat because your head is cold? Up to 10 percent of your body heat is lost through your head, which is why hats are practical and stylish when it’s cold.

For both reasons, the vibe at the Sundance Film Festival is a perfect for actors, directors, producers, and social media influencers in down jackets to wear hat. The next Sundance is Jan. 20-30, 2022 in Park City, Utah.

It’s not just streaming online. It’s happening in real life! It’s cold enough to justify wearing a hat, and since there are cameras everywhere, celebrities tend to captivate the paparazzi with bold selections. 

So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at what the jet set wore to the last event (pre-pandemic). We’re not covering the corduroy strap back Sundance logo festival caps they give out as swag. This is your guide to the most unique and stylish Sundance Film Festival hats. 

What is the Sundance Film Festival?

Robert Redford at Sundance
Event founder Robert Redford at Sundance 2020 (Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb)

Sundance began in 1978 to showcase American independent filmmaking and highlight Utah’s potential as a place to make movies. At the time, it was called the Utah Film Festival. Fast-forward to 1984, and the Sundance Institute, which had long been part of the festival, took over the whole affair.

The Sundance Institute is a non-profit organization founded by former Hollywood cutie Robert Redford in 1981. He named the Institute after his character in the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Redford has been a mainstay of the festival, and the Institute helps filmmakers of all backgrounds realize their dreams of breaking into the industry. 

One crucial aspect of competition is that each movie has to be independent. That means it has to be produced without the funding of the major studio (i.e., Disney, Warner Bros., Universal or Paramount). The have a feature film and short film lineup. So, even though these movies can have some significant talent attached, they’re not financed by studio executives. Film buyers attend and strike distribution deals there now, so it’s become a film marketplace as well. The hottest films get bought by distributors hungry for edgy, indie feature films.

A Brief History of Breakout Sundance Film Festival Winners

  • Reservoir Dogs (1992) – The film that launched Quentin Tarantino’s career
  • Clerks (1994) – The film that launched Kevin Smith’s career
  • Memento (2001) – The film that launched Christopher Nolan’s career
  • Fruitvale Station (2013) – The film that launched Michael B. Jordan’s career
  • Call Me By Your Name (2017) – The film that launched Timothee Chalamet’s career

As you can see, Sundance is a bit of a king making festival, where new stars and directors can make a huge splash. It’s unclear whether hats have been crucial to these career launches. But those who did wear hats to their parties and screenings definitely stood out doing it.

Interestingly enough, because Sundance is a springboard for independent cinema, the organizers are also pro-climate. So they select the merchandise sold at the festival with its carbon footprint in mind. All the logo merchandise, including the festival caps and shirts, are embroidered locally in the USA by Union workers.

Sundance Film Festival Celebrity Sightings

Can anyone go to Sundance? The answer is yes. Anyone can buy a ticket. And yes, mega-stars and Hollywood elite attend these movie screenings, but so does the Average Joe. The price for a single film ticket is just $20.

You can upgrade to the full festival experience for “just” $750. But don’t forget about lodging and other accommodations, which goes into high-season pricing mode. 

These days, Sundance is about as close to the studio system as you can get without being technically part of it. So, you’ll find a veritable who’s-who of: 

  • Social Media Influencers – Sundance is a must-attend event that draws out the best hashtags to accompany all the fashionable winter hats. 
  • Celebrities – The list is far too long to mention everyone. But some notable visitors for the 2020 festival included Kerry Washington, Jaden Smith, Anne Hathaway, and Alec Baldwin. Baldwin is currently being sued by Gloria Allred for shooting and fatally killing the cinematographer on the set of the western film Rust
  • Looking through photos, you’ll see that most celebs prefer comfort to fashion. They wear beanies and other practical winter headgear rather than making a bold, Pharrel-like Mountie Hat statement. 
  • Singers – Taylor Swift rocked 2020s festival, as did Post Malone and serial songwriter Lin Manuel-Miranda (along with his dad Luis). 

Past, Present, and Future Sundance Film Festival Hats

Apologies for the Scrooge reference. We’re not here to talk about Christmas movie hats. We’re here to talk about the stylish hats, let’s dive right in and break down the hats at the last confab. Despite the frigid temperatures, most attendees opted to go au naturel on their heads, but we managed to sniff out some excellent headgear. Here’s what we found: 

Practical Hats

Attendees wearing a standard ski hat beanie and another knit beanie with a pom
Attendees wearing a standard ski hat beanie and another knit beanie with a pom (Cindy Ord/Getty Images)


Practically everywhere you look, most attendees (famous or not) wear practical winter headwear. The beanie is often the star of the show, as illustrated by actors like Christopher Abbott, directors like Richard Poplak. Some of these beanies have poms, and others have bright colors. It helps them stand out against the sea of black, army gray, dark olive, and brown adjustable baseball caps everyone else is wearing. 

Gloria Steinem with Julie Taymor, wearing a Russian fur ushanka hat.
Gloria Steinem and Julie Taymor, wearing a Russian fur ushanka hat (Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for WarnerMedia and AT&T)


One notable “practical” Sundance Film Festival hat was the Russian fur ushanka worn by Julie Taymor, who starred in the biopic The Glorias. If you’re going to keep your head warm, do so in style. So we tip our caps to Mrs. Taymor and her impeccable sense of style. 

Wide-Brimmed Hats

Producer Dede Gardner wearing a mustard yellow fedora at the Sundance Film Festival
Producer Dede Gardner wearing a mustard yellow fedora (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Lyft)


Browsing through the photos of Sundance parties, we noticed mostly two types of hats appeared at the festival — beanies and wide-brimmed hats. These pieces are not necessarily stingy brims or Australian outback hats, but instead, they straddle the line between a cowboy hat and fedora. The breakout star at the last gala was Ethan Hawke’s hat, which stole every photo it was in. Fortunately, Mr. Hawke wore it a lot, so it had plenty of time to shine in the spotlight. 

Ethan Hawke, wearing a wide-brimmed fedora hat
Ethan Hawke, wearing a wide-brimmed fedora hat. (Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)


Another wide-brimmed highlight was Carrie Bernans’ striking red felt fedora hat, which she wore to the SAGIndie Filmmakers Lunch. The hat was a far cry from Bernans’ bald head in the film Black Panther, but the red coloring did resemble the outfit of the Dora Milaje, the member of the king’s guard she played. 

Carrie Bernans wearing a red fedora
Actress Carrie Bernans wearing a red fedora at the SAG Indie Lunch(Fred Hayes/Getty Images for SAGindie)


Sundance Fashion Predictions

Looking back through images of yesteryear, it’s evident that attendees are more practical than anything. It makes sense, too, since the festival is less about looks and more of a launchpad for new ideas. But that’s changing as the importance of performing to a global audience via social media becomes a critical factor to building buzz for films in the competition. Most celebrities will save their showstopper hats for soirées like Jennifer Lopez did with her women’s leather cowboy hat at the Met Gala. After all, that’s where aesthetic extravagance is the main course. 

So, we predict that the next fest will feature bucket hats, wide-brims fedoras and felt cowboy hats standing out amongst the seas of beanies. Expect red under brims and contrasting colored hat brim trim to be big too. Plus, if Tessa Thompson attends again (a likely chance), she’ll undoubtedly wear wide brim that puts everyone to shame. 

The Hat Stops Here

Sundance events are where stars and directors mingle to show off their latest and greatest independent movie. But the festival is also a chance for attendees from warm climates to wear hats. This Sundance Film Festival Hat Guide shows you the types of looks to wear if you want to be part of the in crowd. 

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