The Great Hat Comeback

Hats became fashionable for men during the 14th century. At that time, they were used for both formal and casual occasions and were made of several kinds of material, such as velvet, silk, taffeta, beaver fur or felt. Of those options, felt is the modern fabric from which many kinds of men’s hats are made, most notably the fedora. By the time the 1920s rolled around, the fedora all but replaced Great Britain’s one-time favorite, the bowler, when Prince Edward became partial to a more elegant look. However, as wearing apparel changed from decade to decade and became increasingly casual, hats for men lost their appeal—but Hollywood came to the rescue.

Lids for Celebs

Buster Keaton wore his trademark pork pie fedora

Buster Keaton in a pork pie fedora.

Silent film star Buster Keaton wore his trademark pork pie fedoras in many of his pictures, crushing them into a shape that was perfectly flat on top. In the 1940s and ‘50s, heavyweight actors like Humphrey Bogart and Frank Sinatra were wearing fedoras both in real life and in their movies. Moving forward, Harrison Ford’s character, Indiana Jones, performed all manner of death-defying feats wearing his somewhat battered fedora. Today a younger generation of actors and musicians has helped to revive the wearing of good-looking hats, especially the Trilby fedora with its narrow brim that can be turned up all the way around in a jaunty, casual manner.

Making the Right Hat Choice

Depending on your personality and comfort level, there are many styles of men’s hats from which to choose when you decide it’s time to wear something on your head other than a baseball cap turned the wrong way:

  • Fedora: A handsome felt hat with a pinched crown, ribbon band and wide brim that is often angled down in front, giving the wearer an air of mystery and sophistication
  • Trilby Hat: A hat fashioned much like the traditional fedora but with a narrower brim, which makes it sportier and easier to wear with casual outfits
  • Pork Pie: Another form of fedora, the pork pie is so named because of the way the crown is pinched around the edge like the pastry entrée you actually bake
  • Flat Hat: Worn often in Great Britain, this cap is flatter, not as rounded as the newsboy cap, and just a bit more versatile; in leather, it can be worn with dressier attire, for example
  • Homburg: Think Al Pacino in “The Godfather”; a hat worn with suits and even more formal attire
  • Bowler or Derby: The sturdy, prim-looking hat with a rounded look worn for decades in Great Britain and European countries; looks great with a bow tie and dark suit

How to Store Your Hat

The thing to remember is that you want your hat to retain its shape, so when you take it off, set it upside down on its crown. This will keep the brim free so that it will not flatten out. You can also put your hat on a peg, but remember not to leave it there for long or gravity from hanging will cause it to change shape. A hat box is the ideal storage container. Keep it in a cool, dry place and add some cedar chips to the box. Not only do they have a nice, rather masculine scent, but cedar is very helpful in keeping moths away.

Keeping Your Hat Clean

A good hat is an investment, so you will want to keep it in great shape. This begins the moment you remove it from your head: Lift it by the brim, not by the crown. This way, you enable the crown to hold its shape. Keep in mind also, that the oils and dirt from your hands can be transferred to your hat, so handle your new chapeau with clean hands. You can remove loose dirt from your hat with gentle brushing; a horsehair brush is recommended. Dust can be wiped away using a slightly damp cloth. There are professional cleaners that are made for hats, but if your felt fedora suffers a smudge or stain, you might first try cleaning it with the help of a makeup sponge or gum eraser.

See our infographic on How to Clean a Hat.

Feeling Like New

People will definitely take notice when you appear in a good-looking hat or flat cap, and you will feel like a new person. A new fedora or homburg may emphasize your manliness and a pork pie may draw out your playful personality. There are many choices to consider, any of which will put you squarely in the midst of the great hat comeback.

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