Men’s Hats in the News

After years of seeing men wearing the ubiquitous baseball cap – usually worn backwards, it is refreshing to observe some celebrities such as Brad Pitt, embracing the stingy-brim trilbies.   The straw trilbies with a 1-½ inch as opposed to the 2-½ inch brim have breathed new life into men’s hat manufacturers.  Many hatters could not sustain the long drought but those who survived, have enjoyed strong sales of straw trilbies this spring and summer.  Fashion houses like Marc Jacobs and J. Crew have picked up the slack, offering their own versions of brimmed hats.  

In 1787 the first beaver-fur hat was introduced by British haberdasher, John Hetherington.    Because of its extreme height, his creation reportedly got him arrested for disturbing the peace.  After his release, the top hat became all the rage.  In the nineteenth century, new styles were introduced.  The straw Panama hat took prominence, gaining its name from the newly established Panama Canal (even though the hats were manufactured in Ecuador).  The Panama was adopted by the U.S. Army for the troops during the Spanish-American war and the Gold Rush prospectors used the hats to protect them from the sun.

In 1850, a prominent landowner commissioned a London hat shop to design a hat for his gamekeepers to wear to protect their heads from low tree branches.  The result was the bowler, which was quickly adopted by men from all socio-economic backgrounds.  The fedora was introduced in 1889 and remained popular through the 40’s and 50’s.  From that time forward, hats for men lost popularity.  Some have attributed to “Hatless Jack” (John F. Kennedy) the demise of men wearing hats.  Whatever the reason, men have generally gone hatless since the 60’s.  

Today, top designers are adding hats to their collections and models are sporting hats on the runways.  Rock stars and celebrities have picked up the trend as well.  Although trilbies are designed to be worn down on the forehead, just above the eyebrows, runway models and celebrities may feature the hat back on the head with some hair showing or on the forehead and tipped at a jaunty angle.  Whatever the angle, I find this more formal look most appealing.  The hat, itself, calls for a more dressed up look.  How refreshing after years of baggy “T” shirts and cargo shorts!  Let’s hope this trend continues.


Source:  Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2009

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