The classic hats and types that our grandfather used to wear are coming back into fashion. After a period exposure in popular culture thanks to series like Downtown Abbey and Brideshead Revisited, Sometimes they’re in, sometimes they’re out; sometimes they’re worn by a particular entertainer, subculture or David Beckham.
None of that matters much if you want to wear a hat, wear a hat. They’re comfortable, practical, and a good way to add a touch of personal style to your outfit. A high-quality hat is a fantastic addition to any man’s wardrobe, classic or contemporary. If you are looking to get ahead today, then you most certainly have to get a hat, and with so many styles to choose from, here is a lowdown on the head masters of accessory.
This is what most people will see when they first think of classic men’s hats. It’s such an iconic style that any and every designer replicates today; they will call just about anything with a brim and a fixed crown a “fedora,” regardless of validity. For the traditionalist, though, a fedora is a felt hat with pinched sides and a lengthwise crease down the crown. That gives the front a roughly wedge like shape, though it can be moulded by hand to the wearer’s taste.
One of the big advantages of a fedora is the wide, flexible brim. Fedora brims are flat, with no constructed edge or curl, and can be bent up or down as the wearer pleases. The flexible brim gives the fedora a little more versatility than a stiffer style. It can be tilted down over the eyes for a hidden, mysterious look, or angled slightly upward for a more open profile.
The trilby is a remake of the fedora, but shortened and angular (it is sometimes called a “crumpled fedora,” although the term is old-fashioned now).The trilby has the same crown shape as a fedora, but the back is shorter than the front, creating an angle.
They are typically worn with the brim snapped downward in front and upward in back, adding to the impression of a narrowing angle at the back of the hat. The brim is smaller than on a fedora, usually only an inch or so wide. The style dates back to the turn of the 20th century, but in the 21st century it saw a revival as a youth style, particularly in music culture with bands like One Direction.
The fedora’s smarter city-like cousin, the homburg is a great style for a formal business look. It has the same creased crown, but without the pinches at the sides, and the brim is stiffer and has a slightly upturned lip all the way around. This is still the first choice dress hat of businessmen, politicians, and other gentlemen in the western world.
A shorter style (and therefore a good one for men who are already tall), a porkpie has a flattened top without a crease down the centre. The porkpie hat is pinched at the sides like a fedora, creating a slightly triangular or wedge-shaped front. The brim is usually small, and turned up around the edge. It is considered to be a retro staple, especially around London.
5. Bowler or Derby
These two names mean the same thing: a stiff, rounded dome of a crown with no creasing or pinching, and a short brim curled up at the sides. Thanks to modern mis-conceptions, culture has made the bowler hat into a stuffy but iconic British icon, however, its origins are working-class, and it is considered less formal than styles like the fedora.
6. Western Hats
Generally speaking, Western hats are high crowned and wide brimmed. The most common style have a “double crown,” where the felt is stiffened with a crease down the centre and a dimple on either side of the crown, but other shapes are possible as well. The origins of the style are practical, but these days’ fine felt cowboy hats (with the original Stetson brand still achieving a cult status) are just as much a fashion piece as anything else because of their macho, American and less formal styles.
7. Panama Hats
Panama hats come from Ecuador (they were shipped to Panama to be sold to sailors and workers on the Panama Canal in the early 20th century, and the name stuck). Many fashionistas consider the weaving to be an art form, and a true Panama hats cost hundreds or pounds.
Most Panama hats are shaped like fedoras or trilby’s, but they are made from woven palm leaves or straw instead of felt. The flexible weave can be crumpled or rolled up and still retain its shape, and unlike most straw hats it can endure many soakings and dryings without distorting in shape. Panama hats are slightly more relaxed than their felt alternatives, but that makes them ideally suited to the lightweight styles and loosened formality in dressing.
Flat-topped straw hats with a wide brim, boaters are mostly comedy items these days, but are still considered appropriate and desirable attire for rowing and regatta events. Many barbershop quartets wear them, as well as actors and occasionally, musicians. It is very uncommon to see boater hats outside those settings, however in certain circles, they are technically still a perfectly acceptable summer alternative to a fedora or a homburg.
9. Top Hats
The only modern use for a top hat outside the theatre, is as the accompaniment to morning dress or white tie events. Morning dress, the daytime formal standard, calls for a light-coloured hat which is normally dove grey, while the white tie option is worn at night with a black hat. So, unless you happen to attend a lot of formal events, it is very unlikely you should bother investing in one.