Sometimes one piece is so transcendent as to set the tone for everything else worn with it. A case in point is the top hat. Elegantly unadorned, this black hat with the high crown and small, upturned brim has been a classic for men almost since its inception in 1797. A powerful fashion element, it’s a dress hat that instantly adds a touch of formality to any attire.
Debuted by the top hatter of the time, John Hetherington, as he walked out wearing a version of the top hat known as a stove pipe hat, the top hat drew such a large and raucous crowd as to get Hetherington arrested for “disturbing public order.” Ironically, the incident became the catalyst for other manufacturers to imitate and sell topper hats as well, creating myriad styles, from the traditional ornament-laden steampunk hats to the extremely tall Victorian hats, among a variety of styles. The result was the labeling of the nineteenth century as the “Century of the Top Hat.”
Classy & Elegant Toppers - Formal Hats
Over time, both the contour and the height of these hats fluctuated with the fashions of the time. With the crowns rising to previously unknown heights, a bit of ingenuity was used. French hatter Antoine Gibus, for instance, created the collapsible cylinder hat, enabling those who wore this extremely high-crowned top hat to fit it into cloakrooms and other tight spaces. Meanwhile, financier J.P. Morgan, an ardent aficionado of the high hat, ordered a customized limousine with a high roof to enable him to continue wearing his top hat as he rode.
Today, these high hats have a matchless cachet, due in part to actor Fred Astaire’s dapper appearance, wearing black silk top hats in the Hollywood musicals of the 1930's. Emulating his suavity, men who sought to present an image of high class adopted the top hat as their own, forever solidifying the hat’s association with gentlemen of distinction. Now, top hats remain the standard formal hat for lofty events, including opulent weddings, grand balls and upscale horse races.
While contemporary society is considerably less formal than the era in which the top hat was first worn, opulent weddings — particularly large, elaborate weddings where formal attire is expected — are among the occasions that retain the grandeur of that bygone era. Selecting a wedding hat in the form of a sophisticated top hat such as the Walrus Hats Sir Winston Wool Felt Top Hat, for example, is the popular choice to accompany the striped trousers, morning coat and waistcoat of morning dress, worn by men in the wedding party of a daytime wedding. If you are a guest, make a strong fashion statement of your own with a similar hat, perhaps in classic black such as the Scala WF567 Black Wool Felt Top Hat. Ultimately, there’s just something strikingly alluring about a well-dressed man in morning dress and top hat that creates an image not soon forgotten.
Everyone loves a ball. Redolent of fairy-tales and happily-ever-after endings, grand balls provide entree onto a world of glitter, glamour and high fashion. Of course, it presents an ideal opportunity to don your finest evening wear. For men, this frequently includes a dashing black top hat to accompany formal black-tie attire or the even more formal white tie. While your top hat affirms your nod to formality, why not inject a fun and jaunty note into your overall look with a hat that features a slightly different element such as the Scala WF571 Black Wool Felt Top Hat, a mad hatter with an eight-inch crown? It’s a great way to display your personal sense of style.
Upscale Horse Races
Since the excitement of the most notable horse races is equal parts racehorses and chic fashion, spectators arrive for the annual event in their best apparel accompanied by stellar hats. Take a cue from the looks worn at Royal Ascot, an event attended by the British royal family and other high society, where the top hat is the preferred choice for gentlemen. With grey being the color for daytime, consider pairing a hat such as the Scala WF567 Grey Wool Felt Top Hat with your racing finery for the Kentucky Derby. You’ll be adding an extra dash of elegance along with a bit of joie de vivre to your formal looks, which is precisely what top hats do.