The Rich History Behind the Mickey Mouse Ears Hat

History of Mickey ears

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Walt Disney said himself, “it was all started by a mouse.” Inspired by Walt’s acknowledgment of simple beginnings, we, too, want to kick off our inaugural post and start with a mouse. When joining the worlds of Mickey Mouse and Disney merchandise, there is nothing more iconic and at the forefront of Disney merchandise than the Mickey Mouse ears hat. Let’s explore the origins of this famous hat and uncover how it became one of the most universally recognized fashion accessories for children and adults alike.

Today, we know Mickey Mouse ears to be the quintessential Disney souvenir. Whether it’s your first visit to the Disney Parks or one hundredth. Whether you are young or young at heart. Mickey Mouse ear hats captivate unlike any other souvenir. You can wear one to show off your personality, or adorn yourself in the likeness of your favorite character. Maybe your hat is part of how you commemorate a special occasion. But of course, there’s no design as timeless as the classic black Mickey Mouse ears hat. So where did it all begin?

Mickey Mouse Ears FAQ

Who created the Mickey Mouse ears hat?

Roy Williams headshot from Mickey Mouse Club
Roy Williams as he appeared on Mickey Mouse Club

The Mickey Mouse ears hat was created by Roy Williams. Roy appeared on four seasons of the Mickey Mouse Club for in the 1950s as “Big Roy” or the “Big Mooseketeer.” However, Roy’s career with Disney didn’t start in front of the camera. He was personally hired by Walt Disney in the 1930s to be an artist with The Walt Disney Studios. In his time as artist, he worked on many animated shorts. Roy also spent time as a storyman, working on a variety of animated feature films, like The Three Caballeros. Roy’s application of his artistry beyond animation could very well be the reason we are enjoying these trademark ear hats today.

What was the inspiration behind the Mickey Mouse ears hat?

Poster of Mickey Mouse cartoon The Karnival Kid, cited as containing a scene that inspired the Mickey Mouse ears hat
The Karnival Kid poster
Image: Letterboxd

Roy’s idea for the Mickey Mouse hat comes from a gag seen in the 1929 Mickey Mouse cartoon The Karnival Kid. In it, Mickey greets Minnie by tipping the top of his head and ears like one would tip a hat. The scene is striking to see now, knowing that decades later, this image would become an icon.

What’s even more interesting is The Karnival Kid was not the first time Walt Disney deployed this well-mannered greeting gag. In the 1928 Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon Rival Romeos, Oswald greets Ortensia in similar fashion; by tipping his ears like a hat. I guess you could say the Rabbit inspired the Mouse who inspired the Moose!

And now, nearly 70 years after their creation, ear hats have come full circle! Oswald ear hats are now available to purchase in celebration of Disney100 as part of the Disney100 Celebration Collections.

If you’d like to watch The Karnival Kid and Rival Romeos, the videos are at the end of this post.

When did mouse ears make their public debut?

Walt Disney Family Museum display showing Mickey Mouse Ears, Vikin Mickey hat, and Donald Duck hat.
Mickey hats and a Donald Duck hat at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.

The hats were first seen on the television series Mickey Mouse Club in 1955. All the Mouseketeers wore the hats, along with shirts displaying their first names.

With the success of the show came the fans hoping to get their hands on a Mickey ears hat too. Wearing one of these hats became a symbol of admission into a club every kid wanted to be a part of.

How have Mickey Mouse ears hats evolved?

The original mouse ears of the 1950s are nearly identical to the classic Mickey hats you can still purchase today. In the 1980s, the Mickey headband style ears were introduced, which became so popular, a Minnie Mouse style was created that featured her signature polkadot bow.

While the silhouettes of the Mickey hat and Minnie headbands have remained largely unchanges at their core, the multitude of modern styles and designs available has exploded. Designs often feature favorite characters, like Donald Duck or R2-D2. Some hat themes feature designs inspired by rides and attractions, like Tower of Terror. There are even celebratory mouse ear hats you can wear in honor of your birthday or wedding.

There is a design out there for every Disney fan! As a result, it’s easy to start your own collection of Mickey ear hats and headbands.

Disneyland shop with Mickey hats in the window
Image: Cory Doctorow

Mickey Mouse Ears Forever

A cartoon gag that inspired a Disney animator to create what was to become an iconic fashion accessory should come as no surprise since it was born in the world of imagination Walt Disney fostered. From their debut on Mickey Mouse Club in 1955, Mickey ears captured the hearts of Disney fans, and are continuously evolving today with various styles and themes. The wide range of designs allow Disney fans to express themselves and their love for their favorites stories, characters, and attractions. The enduring appeal of Walt Disney’s creation is evident in the widespread popularity of Mickey Mouse ears, making them a timeless symbol of Disney’s charm and imagination.

The History of Mickey Mouse Ear Hats Infographic

Infographic detailing the history of Mickey Mouse ear hats
History of Mickey Mouse ear hats infographic

Where can you buy Mickey Mouse ears hats?



Main Street, U.S.A.

  • Disney Showcase
  • Emporium
  • The Mad Hatter on Main Street, U.S.A.


  • The Mad Hatter in Fantasyland


  • Pioneer Mercantile

Critter Country

  • Pooh Corner

California Adventure

Buena Vista Street

  • Oswald’s
  • Elias & Co.

Hollywood Land

  • Super Store featuring Avengers Campus

Paradise Gardens Park

  • Seaside Souvenirs

Magic Kingdom

Main Street, U.S.A.

  • Curtain Call Collectibles
  • Emporium
  • Main Street Cinema


  • Fantasy Faire


  • Plaza del Sol Caribe Bazaar


  • Star Traders
  • Ursa’s Major Minor Mart


World Celebration

  • Gateway Gifts
  • ImageWorks

International Gateway

  • World Traveler

Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Boulevard

  • Celebrity 5 & 10
  • Crossroads of the World
  • Mickey’s of Hollywood

Sunset Boulevard

  • Legends of Hollywood
  • Tower Hotel Gifts

Echo Lake

  • Tatooine Traders

Animal Kingdom

DinoLand U.S.A.

  • Chester & Hester’s Dinosaur Treasures

Discovery Island

  • Discovery Trading Company
  • Riverside Depot


  • Mariya’s Souvenirs

The Cartoons That Inspired Mickey Mouse Ear Hats

The Karnival Kid

Rival Romeos

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