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Southwesters and other rain hats

When you think about rainwear you will most likely think about a raincoat first with rainboots coming in at a close second. Unfortunately it stops there for most people as they see their rainwear outfit mostly as just practical or even an evil necessity without looking further how to make it more practical, comfortable, and simply fashionable. One accessory you could consider adding to your rainy days outfit would be gloves, as discussed previously. And another item that is much more prominent, but at the same time very much overlooked, is a rain hat. Besides that a rain hat is practical and comfortable, it can also give that extra twist of cuteness to your outfit while keeping your face and hair dry in the worst of weathers. Let’s dive a bit deeper into the options available to keep your head out of the rain while simultaneously complementing your outfit.

grundens rainwear raingear southwester

The obvious choice to protect your face and hair during a downpour would be to simply flip the hood attached to your raincoat over your hat and be done with it. Assuming you have a hood attached to your coat, as most modern raincoats have these days. While this is the easiest choice due to the readily available hood, it does not always have to be the best choice.

guy cotten pvc rain hat southwester sou'wester

One downside of using the hood to protect you is that the protection is quite limited. While most of your hair and neck will stay dry, very important because rain dripping into your neck is not the most pleasant feeling, your face will often still end up cold and wet. Besides that, wearing the hood while performing activities or participating in traffic can be much more problematic because your field of view will be extremely limited like a horse wearing blinkers to not get distracted. Add the sound of the rain splashing on your hood and it is hard to hear cars coming up to you from behind and turning your neck will only show your raincoat lining.

southwester SBR macintosh

These two problems have been recognized by manufacturers who have come up with several solutions which all help a bit but are not be-all-end-all. The funniest solution for the limited field of view I could find is shown in the historical cover of Elle magazine from 1965 shown below. By adding a little window on the sides of the hood you can peak left and right to avoid ending up under a bus.

raincoat hood hat elle magazine 1965 rainwear cover

Another solution is to add a little visor to the front of the hood, giving some extra protection against the rain falling right in your face. This little visor has been available mostly on long women’s raincoats for decades now, and due to its simplicity and practicality you can still find this added to modern raincoats like the retro-raincoat shown below from the Farmerrain rainwear brand.

farmerrain retro raincoat with visor

Finally there is the option to invent your way out of the problem, which is what the French brand Guy Cotten did with their MAGIC hood system that makes the hood move along with your face meaning your field of view is dramatically increased compared to regular hoods. Is does require you to pull the hood tightly around your face meaning more risk of rain drops splashing in your face and less comfort of wearing. Picture below coming from Voile et moteur.

guy cotten pvc rainwear magic hood

The simple solution to effectively tackle both the problem of a limited view and imperfect protection of your face would be to have a separate rain hat. It would give you a complete free view all around you while protecting your hair, neck, and face from and rain falling from the skies. And besides the practical advantages of wearing a rain hat, you could also see it as the perfect accessory to complete your rainwear outfit or make it stand out even better.

pvc rainwear raingear rain hat fashion combination

The concept of a rain hat is easily over a hundred years old already and was born out of necessity when the heavy oilskins worn by fishermen did not have a hood attached. The only way a fisherman could keep his head dry and stop rain from entering his protective clothing by the neck was by wearing a rain hat.

sou'wester southwester rain hat

The picture above shows a Southwester rain hat dated to the early 1880’s which is now part of the collection of the National Museum of American History. The material of this rain hat is similar to the material used for raincoats and rainpants in those days making it one matching set for foul weather. This particular type of rain hat is a Southwester, or Sou’wester, and the name refers to the south-western winds bringing rain and storm on the North Sea. The rim at the back of the hat is therefore larger as the fishermen would stand with their back to the wind when pulling the fishing nets aboard. Obviously there is a strap that goes under the chin to keep the hat in place during strong winds and some models have flaps to protect the ears which are mostly handy in colder climates. The picture below shows these flaps almost covering every part of the face while not limiting the field of view which is very important during a dangerous job like fishing at sea.

southwester SBR mackintosh

And while the southwester has been in use for well over a century they are still available from several brands with some aiming at the professional fishing sector while other brands have them in their regular rainwear collection for a broad audience. Most are marketed towards children but hopefully the demand for adult rain hats and southwesters will increase over time as I think it is a great accessory everyone should consider. Let’s get over some details on what to look for and how to combine it with your current rainwear outfit.


One of the most important things to getting a great match is to match your rain hat with your raincoat material wise. When you got a glossy raincoat you don’t want to combine that with a matte rain hat, and a PVC raincoat goes best with a PVC rain hat. The easiest way to get matching materials is by buying your rain hat from the same brand as your raincoat. Even when you buy a rain hat in a similar color and of similar material, there can always be a slight difference in looks under different light circumstances when you combine the two together. The picture below, from the now defunct website 123rubberboots.com, shows that a hat and coat that might seem to match well can have slight color differences breaking the unity between the two items.

pvc raincoat and southwester rain hat in yellow


To make a successful combination between coat and hat it is important to match the colors. That does not mean both coat and hat have to be of the same colors, in some cases the contrast can be an interesting feature to play with. Especially in the case of rainwear that already attracts a lot of attention, like bright yellow, you can tone it down by adding a rain hat in another color instead of using the hood and being drowned out by all the yellow around you. The picture below shows a combination of a yellow raincoat and a dark blue southwester, and this combination works very well because the lining of the raincoat matches the color of the hat.

pvc raincoat friesennerz southwester

Another option is to purposefully get a rain hat in the same color as another part of your rainwear outfit to turn it into a complete outfit. Previously I mentioned combining different colors of rainpants and raincoats when looking at the farmerrain website, and by having your rain hat match the color of your rain pants you reinforce the color bringing the whole outfit together. For example by adding a yellow rain hat to a combination of yellow rainpants and a blue raincoat. The picture below (from classygirlswearpearls) takes it a step further but brings back the same idea: by adding the southwester you can complete your outfit.

orange pvc rainwear and southwester


Finally there is a variety in sizes and shapes to pick from, from relatively small like the Stutterheim Beckholmen rain hat shown below to much larger models giving you some decent protection in any type of weather.

stutterheim beckholmen rain hat

The size of the hat will basically determine how much protection you will have: the larger the rim around the hat the less you will be inconvenienced by rain hitting you in the face. But to make a successful combination with your raincoat you should pay some attention to the overall style of your coat; when your raincoat has a very snug cut that accentuates your figure you should pick a rain hat on the smaller side to match this. Similarly if your raincoat is relatively bulky giving you more freedom to move you can also opt for a larger rain hat giving optimal protection. The picture below shows a combination that does not work too well for me: the overall cut of the raincoat is relatively large and the rain hat looks too small here.

southwester SBR macintosh

The next picture shows a very similar raincoat but now combined with a rain hat that looks bigger which gives a much better total image where the face isn’t been drowned out.

SBR macintosh rain hat


Hopefully this write-up sparked some interest in rain hats as I think they are a great, but unfortunately often overlooked part of rainwear that can really give something extra to your outfit. I must confess that I barely looked into them until recently because I normally love the sound the rain makes when hitting my hood, but they now have my attention and are added to my shortlist for when I make a next purchase.

p.s. I have trouble finding the original source of several of the pictures used above, especially of the black SBR coats and southwesters. My best bet, based on the quality of the pictures and the limited number of suppliers, is that these pictures come from either one of the following British companies making these items: gekkorainwear.com or weathervain.com

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Edward Dunne December, 2019, 5:23 pm

    Thank you for another enjoyable article, love your sense of humour thrown in. Have you got any southwesters, What do you think of the normal raincoats from Farmerrain?

    Best wishes from Ireland to you and your family for Christmas and the New Year, looking forward to more interesting articles from you,

    • admin December, 2019, 9:22 am

      Thank you, happy holidays to you also.
      I plan on redoing my article on farmerrain now that they have updated their website completely, its such a great initiative that they have their own line of rainwear and I hope that bringing it under the attention of as many people as possible can incentivise them to continue being one of the most complete rainwear stores online. It is in the planning, i just need some time and energy.

  • Paul Bilson December, 2019, 1:22 pm

    I totally agree that a Sou’wester is the ideal rain hat for very heavy wet weather.
    But people think that they are rather old fashioned and are not for everyday wear.
    As for colour matching rainhats. Whilst again I agree that outfits should be the same colour sometimes that it is not possible.
    I have ordered rainsuits and then wanted to order a sou’wester afterwards. Thinking that there was one to match. Thinking that other companies colours were the same. Oh no this is not the case!
    One companies “Fluro Yellow” is not the same as anothers!

    You just have to be aware of this fact when ordering!

    • admin December, 2019, 9:52 am

      Thanks for your reply Paul. I think its a missed chance people don’t consider adding a rain hat to their outfit, and I always wonder if its because they are barely on offer which is why nobody wears them, or nobody wears them and thats why they are barely on offer (chicken-egg).

      For some reason they do seem to be popular in the line-up of kid’s rainwear so parents must think its a cute item (assuming the kids don’t buy their own clothes at age 4).

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