SFO Showcasing Vintage Women’s Airline Caps


SAN FRANCISCO – A new exhibit at San Francisco International Airport featuring airline uniform hats from throughout the 20th Century is now on display as part of the airport’s museums program, officials said this week.

The “Hats Off! Women’s Airline Uniform Caps” exhibit will feature about 35 hats ranging from the “haute couture-inspired” 1940s airline hats to the modern 60s and 70s hats, according to officials. Retro-influenced styles from the 80s and 90s will also be included in the exhibit.

Airlines began creating the uniform caps after the first female crewmembers were hired in the 30s, according to the airport Web site. Female flight attendants were required to be registered nurses, so they wore hats that resembled nurse’s short caps with their uniforms, the site stated.

Hats became military-inspired in the 40s when flight attendants, then known as stewardesses and airhostesses, were no longer required to be registered nurses, according to the Web site. Fashion designers moved into the practice of designing hats in the 40s and onward, when “trends in popular culture were vividly displayed in the air,” the Web site stated.

“While gloves, shoes, and handbags were once carefully coordinated accessories for the airline uniform, it is the cap that has always been the foremost signifier of its wearer’s career identity,” the site stated.

The “Hats Off! Women’s Airline Uniform Caps” exhibit, open to any airport visitors free of charge, will run through April 11 and is open 24 hours a day. The exhibit is located before airport security screening on the Departures/Ticketing level of Terminal 1.

The airport museum program was created in 1980 and the museum was granted accreditation in 1999 and 2005 by the American Association of Museums, according to officials. Galleries’ rotating collections are placed throughout the airport in addition to the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library and Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum, a permanent collection.