Hat of Authority

There's a reason you people all have fancy hats. Earn them.
Gilgamesh Wulfenbach, Girl Genius

As it happens, in a hierarchical organisation, especially of a military or religious nature, it's often easy to tell who's in charge by comparing the size or overall grandiosity of their hat (or other headgear). If only one person has a hat, that one is definitely the leader. Conversely, if every member has a hat but one, the bareheaded one is the leader, because Helmets Are Hardly Heroic.

Certain hats always convey authority:
  • Cool Crown
  • Commissar Cap
  • Top hat or stovepipe hat
  • Sufficiently fancy turban
  • A chef's hat, or toque, at least within the kitchen

In military groups where everyone has a helmet (except any protagonists), the leader's will be marked out in some way, probably by being a special color such as red or gold, and it will have extra doodads on it to boot.

Subtrope of Nice Hat. A hat of authority may or may not also be a Hat of Power.

Examples

Anime and Manga
  • Zeff of One Piece is the head chef and owner of the floating restaurant Baratie, and his chef hat is so ridiculously tall that its tip often cannot be seen.

Comics
  • In the Marvel Universe, Master Mold can be distinguished as the leader of the Sentinels by his oversized, crown-like forehead.
  • In the Knights of the Dinner Table Hackbeard campaign, a pirate's hat size is directly linked to their level of authority. Sara gets in trouble when she turns up wearing a larger hat than the captain.

Film
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean, when Jack Sparrow offers to serve under Barbossa as Commodore in exchange for remaining captain of the Black Pearl, one of the things he offers is to buy him a big floppy hat. (Jack himself is also very fond of his own hat for what it symbolizes.)
    • The design team very deliberately gave Davy Jones the biggest hat on the Flying Dutchman. It also has devil horns.
  • This was very apparent in Gangs of New York. You could tell the person's standing in a gang by the size of their top hat. Bill "the Butcher" Cutting had the tallest stovepipe hat of all.

Literature
  • On the Discworld
    • In Going Postal Moist von Lipwig learns that the office of Postmaster comes with a hat, a golden one with wings no less. It also comes with a pair of winged sandals and a fig-leaf thong (basically a costume of Fedecks, messenger of the gods), which Moist passes up in favor of a golem-tailored gold suit. In Making Money the chairman of the Royal Bank also has a hat, in this case a rather frayed top hat. Moist immediately festoons it up with glitter and gold leaf.
    • The Archchancellor of Unseen University has the sole right to wear the Archchancellor's Hat. Originally it contained the knowledge of all the Archchancellors to have come before; that hat disappeared (much to the relief of the wizards, since past Archchancellors are just as opinionated as current ones) in Sourcery, and the current version is just a Very Nice Hat, but still symbolically important. When in Unseen Academicals the Dean leaves to become Archchancellor of a rival university, there is friction between him and Ridcully over who gets the Hat, because there can be only one Archchancellor. Vetinari suggests they play football for it.
  • In The Wheel of Time, Aes Sedai wear colour-coded shawls to indicate their status. Their leader, the Amyrlin Seat, and her Number Two, the Keeper of the Chronicles, each wear a stole, the former in all seven colours.
  • In Gods of Mars, the Therns wear yellow wigs as a sign of office (and to hide the fact that they're all bald.)

Live Action TV
  • On Are You Being Served?, one episode centered around that Mr. Rumbold was allowed to wear a top hat, but Captain Peacock, who worked under Rumbold, couldn't. However, Captain Peacock could wear a bowler, but the sales clerks somewhat under him couldn't, even one who was older than Peacock. They could wear caps.
  • The Syfy adaptation of Dune, having an incredibly low budget, made extensive use of elaborate hats to denote ranks and factions.

Music

Newspaper Comics
  • When Calvin and Hobbes attempt a venture to the Yukon, Calvin claims leadership by dint of his snazzy commander helmet. Hobbes decides to remedy this and takes the helmet, whereupon Calvin declares mutiny and storms off.
    • An iffy case is the duo's wearing of paper hats during meetings of club G.R.O.S.S. Because they're the only members the hats don't have unique significance, but are said to represent their holding various titles within the club.
  • Ray Billingsley draws Curtis attending church services, and commenting on the elaborate hats that the church ladies wear, which puts his little brother Barry in stitches. It's inferred that these hats denote their social standing, with the most ostentatious hat marking the Queen Bee.

Pinball
  • Hook never depicts Captain Hook without his large and ornate feathered hat.

Tabletop Games
  • Warhammer40000, aside from giving us the Commissar Cap has a number of other examples. For instance some Inquisitors have a fondness for high peaked and wide brimmed hats with the Inquisitorial "I" on the front, such as the Witchhunter from Dawn of War 2, as seen here (that Ork's hat probably counts too).
    • How commissars show authority.
    • The Inquisition hats started life on Empire Witch Hunters in Warhammer before migrating over. They have since disappeared from the original miniature range, though they still exist in Warhammer Online.
    • Empire unit leaders in Warhammer still tend to be identified by having fluffier or otherwise snazzier hats than their compatriots.

Video Games
  • In De Blob Comrade Black's Commissar Cap is bigger than the helmets worn by his underlings. He makes sure not to lose it, even when deprived of all his other clothes, possibly because he would be indistinguishable from any other Inky without it.
  • Certain hats in Puzzle Pirates can only be worn if the pirate in question is an officer (or better) in their crew, and only the royals of a flag are allowed to wear crowns.
  • Interestingly, Jack wears one of these in Cave Story.
  • Hot Tin Roof The Cat That Wore A Fedora: Overlapping with Fedora of Asskicking and Nice Hat, hats are a big deal since only detectives from the Depot can wear fedoras. Franky is the first cat to join the Depot, thus making her The Cat That Wore A Fedora. Franky's fans even wear cardboard fedoras.

Webcomics

Western Animation
  • In The Fairly Oddparents, Doug Dimmadome, Owner of the Dimmsdale Dimmadome, is ostensibly one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in town. Accordingly, he wears a Stetson that is so tall it usually stretches out of frame.
  • The Fat Controller from Thomas the Tank Engine wears a black top hat complete with his black suit and grey trousers, which goes well with him being named Sir Topham Hatt. He is also the owner of the North Western Railway and serves as the stern but fair Father to His Men to his engines.
  • Parodied in Spongebob Squarepants during "Squid's Day Off", when Squidward gives Spongebob a "promotion" so he doesn't have to do anything. This is marked by Spongebob now wearing two hats.

Real Life
  • As mentioned above, hats are indicative of ecclesiastical as well as secular ranks. In most religions there are a handful of basic hat designs that only clergy can wear. Christianity, meanwhile, goes for the gusto with variations, from the galero and mitre worn by popes and bishops, to the more impractically ostentatious Papal tiara, to the capirote which has been supplanted in American understanding by the abuses of the Ku Klux Klan.
    • Moreover, among churchgoers, hats are often an indicator of social status, especially among women. In this case, both size and detail help to establish the pecking order in these social gatherings.
  • Abraham Lincoln is known for his tall stovepipe hat, which he used to carry his papers.
  • In various wars, officers in authority took to not wearing a distinct uniform and/or hat because the enemy was Dangerously Genre Savvy and would target said fancy hat-wearing people as a priority.