Trilby Hats

The Trilby really is a hat for all seasons, be it smart or country, worn as a safari hat, a sturdy winter hat if lined, or a summer hat if not. Like the Fedora, it serves as a very good travelling hat and in many cases can be crushable or folded.

Trilby

A trilby hat (or simply trilby) is a soft felt men’s and women’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.