Tinhat is a fannish term for a fan who believes that the people or characters they ship together are really a couple, but are being forced by The Powers That Be to keep their relationship a secret. Tinhats and tinhatting are usually associated with RPF fandoms, but tinhatting in fiction media fandoms (film, television, etc.) also happens. A lot of tinhat theories are based on fantasies of closeted celebrities (usually actors) who are unable to be open about their relationship in their profession. However, tinhatting of different-sex pairings does occur (and predates the term itself).
The term itself is derived from the stereotype of conspiracy theorists and other paranoid people wearing tinfoil hats to protect themselves from telepathic, microwave or radio transmissions by aliens, the government, or both.[note 1]
The term can refer to the stylish accessory or, by metonymy, to the fan who wears it. It can also be used to refer to any fans who deliberately ignore parts of a canon they dislike in order to continue enjoying the media, for example bad writing, questionable relationship choices, etc.
The phrase "tinfoil hats" has been widely used in pop culture since at least the 80s, with the characters in Signs wearing them to protect aliens from reading their minds. In general use, the term "tinfoil hats" is used derogatorily towards individuals who believe in wild or outlandish things.
Thus, when the DomLijah tinhatters began to be seen as a problem by others in their fandom, they were referred to as the "tinfoil hat crowd." In April of 2003, cesare asked DL-anon for "a snappy sobriquet for the hardcore tru believas" who claimed that the The Lord of the Rings movie actors Elijah Wood and Dominic Monaghan were secretly in love. In a thread under the post, Versaphile and phosfate had the following exchange:
I'd suggest "Asshats" but that's really too generic.
which is the first known usage of "tinhat" in the way this page describes. More recently, however, the term "tinfoil hat" has been truncated to "tinhat" within the popular culture.
General Use of "Tinhat" in Fandom
After Domlijah, the term tinhats was adopted by fans in many fandoms to describe similar conspiracy theorists and believers. The term is more likely to be used by nonbelievers than the fans in question, though it depends. Fans sometimes use the tinhat terminology ironically or self-deprecatingly; when they are squeeing especially loudly over some piece of celebrity gossip or a new leak of an upcoming season, they may type *dons tinhat* or *polishes tinhat*. These fans seldom mean they really believe that their preferred OTP is a couple in real life.
The term is not synonymous with being an RPF shipper, despite many people's misconception that it is, as most RPF shippers of non-canon celebrity pairings do not believe that the ship is real. Many RPF fanfic contain an explicit disclaimer in the header emphasizing that the story is fiction and denying any implication that the writer thinks the people in question are actually a couple. It's actually considered poor etiquette in many RPF fandoms to mention the topic of shipping, in order to preserve the fourth wall, which is why tinhat is often considered a derogatory term. And, independent of the fourth wall, some fans consider the term to be objectionable on the grounds that it is often accompanied by negative perceptions about those suffering from clinical paranoia, persecutory delusions, or anxiety. Others disagree, pointing to tinhats' long history of being used to describe conspiracy theorists and firm believers in non-proven, fictional or far-fetched theories, and is not used to describe mental health difficulties. 
Much as tinhatting in an RPF fandom often involves the narrative of celebrities being forced to be closeted, tinhatting in fictional media such as TV and film is most often the result of fans buying into queerbaiting subtext and declaring it to be text. This is also true of het pairings where fans will read romantic subtext into relationships between characters and then declare those ships to be real.
Tinhats and the Fourth Wall
The fourth wall is important in any fandom, but it's especially important in RPF fandoms where it's considered taboo to talk about shipping to the people involved. The problem with the Fourth Wall in relation to tinhatting is two-fold: there are some tinhats who make no effort to hide their beliefs or attempts to spread "the truth" and there are creators who make no attempt to hide their derision for fans.
See Tinhats and the Fourth Wall for more.
Examples of Popular Tinhat Ships
RPF Femslash Ships
- Taylor Swift's friendship with Karlie Kloss has caused a lot of people to ship Kaylor; many of them have tried to prove that they're actually dating.
- Similarly to Louis Tomlinson and Harry Styles, Fifth Harmony singers Lauren Jauregui and Camila Cabello have suffered a lot of grief due to the Camren ship.
- Spice Girls Mel B and Geri Halliwell (Mel B/Geri) are popularly tinhatted to be in a relationship. Meri tinhatters were later given the juicy tidbit of a lifetime when Mel B revealed that she and Geri actually had a fling together.
- Many Fans would be delighted if actors Lupita Nyong'o and Janelle Monáe would turn out to be a real-life power couple after they were witnessed being "very chummy" at the 2019 MET Gala. Lupita's Instagram post "did nothing to squash the rumors."
Fictional Media Femslash Ships
- Many fans believe that Captain Marvel shows Carol Danvers and Maria Rambeau in a lesbian relationship - Carol Danvers/Maria Rambeau.
- The main characters of Rizzoli & Isles, a ship called Rizzles, was notorious for the queerbaiting leading to tinhatting.
- Even though Supercorp fans can be tinhatt-y, they also got one of the worst reactions to a ship from the show's cast.
RPF Slash Ships
- Domlijah can be considered the quintessential tinhat ship, being as it's the origin of the phrase itself.
- Actor Orlando Bloom marrying Miranda Kerr caused some gnashing of teeth among the remaining Tinhat fans, who continue to believe that he is hiding his gay love for Viggo Mortensen. Kerr and Bloom divorced after three years of marriage, with Bloom now dating and later marrying Katy Perry. Mortensen is in a relationship with actress Ariadna Gil since 2009.
- Adam Lambert and Kris Allen (dubbed Kradam), who appeared on season 8 of American Idol, were definitely the subject of some tinhatting.
- The Glee actors who played Kurt Hummel and Blaine Anderson, Chris Colfer and Darren Criss, were subject to much speculation about their relationship due to them playing a very convincing gay couple on Glee and Colfer being gay. The pairing is known as CrissColfer.
- Tinhatting of Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles (J2), who play the main characters on Supernatural, is so pervasive that there's an entire comm dedicated to discussing their secret relationship. Cockles, which pairs Ackles with Misha Collins, is also a fairly common subject of tinhatting.
- Tinhatters of Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson, members of the popular band One Direction (given the pairing name Larry Stylinson), were so intense that Louis has implied that they ruined the pair's friendship. When it was announced that Louis was having a baby with a stylist, many who believed that Larry Is Real had doubts, and skepticism about Babygate persists years after the baby was born. Zayn Malik and Liam Payne (Ziam) is also a subject of tinhatting though not quite as prevelent.
- Dan Howell and Phil Lester, YouTube entertainers, are known as Phan, and have whole communities dedicated to obsessively documenting their entire relationship. Both Dan and Phil came out in 2019 but their relationship status is unclear.
- Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (Freebatch) - including loquacious disbelief in the Cumberbatch Baby
- Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet, stars of Call Me By Your Name, have encountered problems with tinhatters asking about their relationship. After the complaints and accusations against Hammer, some fans deleted their statements and avoided addressing the topic.
- Some people in the Hockey RPF fandom believe Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin to be a real-life ship.
- The prevalence of stage gay in bandom has caused a lot of tinhatting, from the whole constructed lore of Summer of Like to Ferard. Ryden fans are also known to be quite tinhat-y.
- During the filming of The Untamed, a series of close events led some fans (tinhats and not-tinhats) to speculate that the actors Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo they had a relationship short of friendship. Comments were even disseminated on public and private websites, stating that they were both dating and that their co-worker, Meng Ziyi would be "getting in the way of the ship", which ended up harming his career. Fanfics were even produced, and one of them was reported to the Chinese government, which led to the banning of AO3 from the country. Some fans claimed that after the imbroglio, the actors began to behave more discreetly, avoiding appearing together in order to avoid further comments. See more in Wang Yibo/Xiao Zhan.
Fictional Media Slash Ships
- John Watson/Sherlock Holmes led to The Johnlock Conspiracy, an entire conspiracy theory about Johnlock becoming canon. Shippers were so convinced that Johnlock would be canon that there was an entire sub-theory about a secret fourth episode where the ship would be made canon.
- There are many fans who believed Destiel would either become canon or was already canon.
- Enjolras and Grantaire (Enjoltaire) are the subject of much canon vs not debate. Actor George Blagden, who played Grantaire in the 2012 Les Miserables movie, is a huge proponent of the ship. He implied that he played the charecter as if Grantaire was in love with Enjolras and even went so far as to record a cover of "I'll Follow You into the Dark" where the lyrics have been reworked to refer to the ship.
- Sterek shippers were such tinhatters that people who got into Teen Wolf because of people declaring it to be canon were left sorely disappointed. It was so pervasive that a Daily Dot article was written about the tinhatting.
- Klance was an early ship that gained traction and had many shippers insisting it would become canon. Those shippers got serious with their tinhatting when they blackmailed the animation studio of Voltron: Legendary Defender and demanded that Klance become canon.
- Sheith reached this status after season 6 portrayed a series of strong emotional moments between Shiro and Keith, coupled with the staff's ongoing praise for fanworks of the ship and admissions to enjoying the idea of it. Extreme Sheith fans composed meta and evidence master posts detailing why Sheith could and would be endgame for them both.
RPF Het Ships
- X-Files RPF had many believing the relationship between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, known as Gillovny, was real and any evidence to the contrary was lies. There's even a term in X-Files fandom for this type of tinhatter: Snogger.
- Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart actually dated in real life, but Robsten tinhats believe they never broke up even though Kristen Stewart has come out as lesbian and they had an incredibly public breakup in 2013. There are whole blogs dedicated to the supposed manufacturing of their current relationships.
- Some fans believe that the Scandal actors Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn are "secretly" a couple and that Goldwyn fathered Washington's child.
- Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe have such good on-screen chemistry in Outlander that there's lots of tinhatters who have compiled evidence that SamCait is real.
- Castle stars Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic have a lot of shippers. Some of those fans would say Stanathan, as the ship is known, is real.
- VirtueMoir, the Canadian Figure Skating RPF pairing of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, has the whole of Canada tinhatting their relationship. There are also allegations that the pair have secret children.
- Bones stars Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz have a history of tinhatters, thanks in part to their baiting of fans.
- Fans of the relationship between Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni, called Chriska, can get tinhatty thanks to the pair's constant teasing and great friendship.
- Thanks to their chemistry in Titanic, many people ship Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Kleo fans run blogs dedicated to the pairing and make much of the ring that Leo gave Kate.
- Game of Thrones co-stars Kit Harrington and Emilia Clarke have been teasing the Kemilia shippers are constantly squeeing about new promo photos and what it means for their potential relationship.
- Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans are sometimes shipped together and the tabloids are always trying to figure out if they're dating.
- Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski of Chuck aren't necesscarily a super popular ship but there have been constant rumors that they were dating, which allows fans to don their tinhats.
- Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson were shipped by the more extreme Harry/Hermoine shippers in the Harry Potter fandom, with an image manip of a pregnant Emma being caressed by Dan even popping up at some point.
Fictional Media Het Ships
- Korra and Mako (Makorra) were the subject of much tinhatting, including the famous we poppin the BIGGEST bottles post and the Handmaiden and Feudal Lord meme.
- Their predecessor ship Zutara was the subject of similar tinhatting, especially close to the finale when hints began to drop that both Zuko and Katara would end up with other people.
- So many people shipped Caitlin Snow and Barry Allen, despite WestAllen being textually endgame, that Snowbarry fans started the Westallen vs. Snowbarry war.
- The IchiRuki vs IchiHime war had both sides donning their tinhats to prove their ship is real. The IchiRuki side had more severe and documented cases of it, however, even as the manga went on to hint heavily at Ichigo/Orihime and Renji/Rukia. When the manga ended with those two ships canon and more materials came out to cement them, IchiRuki fans sunk deeper into denial as well as anger, including the claim that Kubo originally planned to add "a little romance" for their ship (it was a heavily mistranslated line). 
- A thin line between fantasy and delusion by esorlecar (224 comments) (February 2003)
- Further thoughts on tinhatting and fannish history by fitchersvogel (2013)
- j2/larrie shipping by anotherexlarrie (2016)
- Fifty Shades of Yellow, an article about RPF Tinhatting.
- One Direction, Fake Babies And The Problem With Celebrity Conspiracy Theories
- Why do we have to justify who we ship with meta and conspiracy theories?
Notes and References
- In October 2005, a group of MIT students ran a series of tests that seemed to prove tinfoil hats actually amplify radio waves and thus would be no good against mind control transmissions. Other scientists dispute this finding.
- Scene from Signs. Accessed March 29 2019.
- What does tinfoil hat mean? Accessed March 29 2019.
- "cesare at dl_anon: What's in a name? JournalFen ..." Archived from the original on 2013-01-16.
- What are Tin Hatters? Posted May 26 2016. Accessed March 28 2019.
- I was a hardcore tinhat for a few horrifically embarrassing months in 2009 and proudly identified as such (we all had tinhats on our icons D:). Anon comment in Fail fandomanon, 19 July 2014. (Accessed 27 July 2014)
- Fandom and abelist language, Archived version
- Tinhat is not abelist, Archived version
- The only people saying it’s ableist are Larries, Archived version
- PROOF: Taylor Swift and Karlie Kloss 100% In a Relationship. Accessed March 29 2019.
- Camren Exposed by exposing-5h. Posted April 18 2016. Accessed March 29 2019.
- "Facts" tag on scary-ginger. Accessed March 29 2019.
- Mel B Says 2 Became 1 With Fellow Spice Girl Geri Halliwell Back in the Day. Posted March 25 2019. Accessed March 29 2019.
- [https://www.autostraddle.com/are-janelle-monae-and-lupita-nyongo-dating-or-just-canoodling/ Are Janelle Monáe and Lupita Nyong’o Dating Or Just Canoodling!!???Posted May 11th 2019. Accessed May 13 2019.
- ‘Captain Marvel’ Is Extremely Gay, It’s Basic Physicame="supercorp" s. Posted March 12 2019. Accessed March 29 2019.
- "Rizzoli And Isles" Is The Gayest Non-Gay Show On Television. Posted April 22 2013. Accessed March 29 2019.
- Supergirl Fans Are Rightfully Angry With the Cast’s Flippant Dismissal of Kara/Lena Luthor Shippers. Posted July 24 2017. Accessed March 29 2019.
- Kradam Is Real. Posted Sept 16 2013. Accessed March 28 2019.
- Why CrissColfer Is Real by timeforcriss. Accessed March 28 2019.
- Ok guys so I have finally decided to talk about why I am fucking obligated to know think Cockles is real. Post May 04 2014. Accessed March 28 2029.
- Louis Tomlinson Confirms That Larry Shippers Ruined His Deep Friendship With Harry Styles. Posted July 24 2017. Accessed March 28 2019.
- This is something that I’ve known for awhile (not too long, though) and that I’ve been hiding from you because, first of all, I haven’t had the time to type the post until now, and second of all, I’ve been building up the courage to tell you all. Accessed March 28 2019.
- Tumblr Post by johnlocked-in-portland. Posted Nov 22 2018. Accessed March 28 2019.
- Ask answered by videoqueen65. Posted June 16 2015. Accessed March 28 2019.
- Armie Hammer responds to fan who wants him to be gay with Timothée Chalamet on ONTD. Posted March 23rd 2018. Accessed March 28 2029.
- Sid/Geno fic. Posted Feb 23 2013. Accessed March 28 2019.
- When a Man Loves a Vulcan. Posted Feb 24 2017. Accessed March 28 2019.
- "Destiel is real" tag on Tumblr. Accessed March 28 2019.
- "Destiel is the real" tag on Tumblr. Accessed March 28 2019.
- "Destiel proof" tag on Tumblr. Accessed March 28 2019.
- "Destiel is canon" tag on Tumblr. Accessed March 28 2019.
- "Evidence for Destiel" tag on Tumblr. Accessed March 28 2019.
- I love this comm already. May 28 2008. Accessed March 28 2019.
- ExR Interview With George Blagden. Posted Oct 19 2015. Accessed March 28 2019.
- Discussion of Secret #6 on Fandom Secrets. Dec 25 2012. Accessed March 28 2019.
- why klance is gonna be canon even after s6: a long ass thread. Posted June 25 2018. Accessed March 29 2019.
- Voltron: Legendary Defender 'Fan' Blackmails Studio to Make a Gay Ship Canon on the Show. Posted May 29 20229. Accessed March 28 2019.
- Fail fandomanon comment thread starting at "The Lesser Spotted Tinhat" thread on Fail-Fandomanon. Posted July 19 2014. Accessed March 29 2019.
- Kristen Stewart Monologue - SNL. Posted Feb 5 2017. Accessed March 29 2019.
- Pattinson: Why He Really Dumped Kristen Stewart — Final Blowup Revealed. Posted July 6 2013. Accessed March 29 2019.
- Does Kerry Washington have something going with Scandal co-star Tony Goldwyn? Posted June 22 2013. Accessed March 29 2019.
- Lindsey (ltoiaivao). ALL OF THE EVIDENCE: OUTLANDER'S SAMCAIT by ltoiaivao. Accessed March 29 2019.
- SYMBOLS IN SHIPPING page on Outlander Anti-Bullying]]. Accessed March 29 2019.
- "Stanathan is real" shirt on Redbubble. Accessed March 28 2019.
- Why people can’t stop shipping Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir
- Old Lies. Posted Nov 10 2013. Accessed March 28 2019.
- Bones' David Boreanaz Proposes To Emily Deschanel At Comic-Con!! See It HERE! Posted July 19 2013. Accessed March 28 2019.
- Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni Have a 'Law & Order: SVU' Reunion. Posted Dec 21 2016. Accessed March 29 2019.
- Cute or Creepy: Leonardo DiCaprio Gives Kate Winslet a "Friendship" Ring. Posted May 26 2009. Accessed March 29 2019.
- Ask on fuckyeahkitandemilia. Accessed March 29 2019.
- Evannson tag on AO3. Accessed on March 29 2019 with 38 works.
- Why People Think Scarlett Johansson Is Dating Chris Evans. Posted on March 17 2017. Accessed March 29 2019.
- works tagged Zachary Levi/Yvonne Strahovski on AO3
- After divorcing Missy Peregrym, is actor Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski Dating? Rumors of Dating Yvonne Strahovski-Know about his Past and Present Relationship. Updated Sept 8 2018. Accessed March 29 2019.
- "lipstickalley: Is anyone else pissed about bleach ending spoilers for manga chapter …". Archived from the original on 2022-05-22.