Trilby/Fedora Hats

Probably the hat style that comes to mind instantly.  It’s a shape successfully worn by both women and men; sophisticated and dapper. Take the brim as wide as you dare!  We have a very broad range of this classic shape, with varied style nuances. Dress it up or down. Wear with a suit and coat in winter, with jeans and a jacket at the weekend, or pick one of our relaxed country styles. Ladies could wear theirs indoors – glamming up a jumpsuit or with a dress. The world of looks is vast, like our selection of colours and options.

The Trilby / History

A trilby hat (or simply trilby) is a soft felt man’s hat with a deeply indented crown, and a pinch at the front. The brim is narrow and often sharply upturned at the back known as a Snap-Brim. Traditionally it was made from rabbit fur felt (Fur felt), but is now sometimes made from other materials, including Tweed and Wool. Later versions from the 1920s and 1930s tended towards a wide brim, better known as a Racing Trilby. The Trilby is softer than the Homburg, and have a flexible brim instead of a curved one. Trilbies are similar to the Fedora, which can be seen as an American version with a wider brim. The hat’s name derives from the stage adaptation of George De Maurier”s 1894 novel Trilby; a hat of this style was worn in the first London production of the play, and promptly came to be called ‘a Trilby hat’. The Fedora, as opposed to the Trilby, comes from the title of an 1882 play by Victorien Sardou, “Fedora”, written for Sarah Bernhardt and performed in 1889. So you see that the Trilby/Fedora argument is a Transatlantic one, more potato/potata one than any one defining feature.

The Trilby were widely worn from the late 1920s onwards, initially as a casual sporting hat, primarily at the races. By the end of World War II, it had largely supplanted other hats such as the Homburg and Bowler for wear with a suit or more casual country wear, although it never replaced the Flat Cap. It continued to be commonly worn until about the mid 1960s.
The Trilby really is a hat for all seasons, being smart or country, worn as a safari hat, a sturdy winter hat, if lined, or a summer hat if not lined. It is a very good travelling hat and in many cases can be crushable or folded. As a walking hat you see many examples.

The hat has been associated with Jazz, Ska and soul musicians, as well as members of the Indie, Rude Boy, Mod, Skinhead and 2 Tone subcultures, with a Stingy-Brim or Porkpie Trilby style. Brit Rock, making a resurgence in the 1980s and and 90s and again thanks to the Chap culture, vintage hats and the rise of the Dandy Hat and gentlemen’s hat coming back into fashion now. At a recent Goodwood Revival, I could see a sea of Trilby hats with 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 1960s suits, as well as with country suits and shooting suits in wide-brim, short brim, down-brim and even Tyrol Hat style; all come under the broad Trilby style.

The Trilby was a staple of the British movie industry from 1930 onwards, worn by Trevor Howard in Brief Encounter, and is essential as a film noir accessory and hat. Later it was known, in tweed incarnation, as an old geezer hat/grandad hat. It is the stereotypical hat of the British Police Inspector and of their 80’s nemesis Arthur Daley. As a Don Draper hat, from Mad Men, the trilby has been very popular though Americans might call this a fedora.

More recently the Trilby, in black, has been the staple headwear of Pete Doherty who has almost single handedly started a revival for the Trilby. We also supply more recent hat wearers like James Bay, Tom Hardy.
As a hatter, the trilby is still requested for dressing as a gangster, particularly from The Godfather, and Al Pacino is famous for wearing a Homburg in Godfather, which gets requested a lot.


The Fedora / History

A fedora is a felt hat that is creased lengthwise down the crown and pinched in the front on both sides. Similar hats with a C-crown, open crown or teardrop crown (an indentation for the head in the top of the crown) are occasionally called fedoras, rather than a trilby. A Trilby is very similar and the two are fairly interchangeable, though occasionally thought to have a smaller brim to the wide brimmed Fedora, this is actually a myth. Often the Fedora will have a turned brim at the back of the Crown, and this is given as a distinguishing factor; and this may hold more credence, know as the snap-brim, but can also be down-brim too in safari hat or country hat style.  Though there is little definitive evidence, the Fedora generally seems to be the American term for the Trilby, more commonly known in England.

The term fedora was in use as early as 1891. Originally a women’s fashion into the 20th century, the fedora came into use in about 1919, as a man’s accessory for the middle classes; its popularity soared.

The word fedora comes from the title of an 1882 play by Victorien Sardou, “Fedora”, written for Sarah Bernhardt. The play was first performed in the U.S. in 1889. Bernhardt played Princess Fédora, the heroine of the play, and she wore a hat similar to a fedora. The fedora became a female fashion, which lasted into the early part of the twentieth century, when the fedora became a male fashion.

The Fedora became very popular in both town and country for it’s stylish durability and head protection in all weathers. Some could even be rolled up or be a Crushable Fedora Hat. Richard Davy was said to be the first wearer of the Fedora in New York.

Since the early part of the 20th century, many Haredi and other Orthodox Jews have worn black fedoras and continue to this day.

Popular stars in the 1950s such as Gene Kelly, often wore fedoras in their movies, like Singin’ in the Rain. Hollywood movies in the 1940s, often cast the Fedora as the pivotal wardrobe accessory for the Private Detective or Gangster. These were “tough guy” roles, coupled with a trench coat; think Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca or Warren Beatty in Dick Tracey. The fedora is widely recognized with the characters of The Blues Brothers, Freddy Kruger and especially Indiana Jones. The fedora is also closely associated with Film Noir. In England, the Fedora, or Trilby, was very popular in film, most notably Trevor Howard and later Sid James wearing the classic Porkpie Trilby. Dick Tracy wore a yellow Fedora, and there has been a massive resurgence thanks to Mad Men and the Don Draper Hat. Everyone asks for

In the late 1950s the hat began to lose favor on the west coast of the United States, which is known for its more casual clothing. The late 1950s switch from large lapels and ties to thin ones resulted in shorter-brimmed hats, and this likely played a role in the fedora eventually being deemed a non-essential item. Also playing a part were the shrinking automobiles of the mid-1950s, which often made it difficult to wear a hat while driving.

In the 1960’s JFK took the presidency and in a move to leave the old, war era behind, was never seen wearing a hat, and throughout the 60’s saw the hat’s decline.

By the early 1970s, the fedora was seen as a dead fashion, typically only worn by older and/or more traditional men.

Now thanks to the Chap and Vintage Hat fashion, they are popular again. More and more people wear a fedora including James Bay, Pete Doherty, Tom Hardy amongst many. Film and TV is a massive influence, but people still ask for gangster hats or Godfather hats in store.

Never forget how practical a hat is as a sun hat, or winter hat, to take as a Safari hat or Country Hat the fedora now comes as a crushabkle or rollable hat, ideally suited as a travelling hat.