In 1797, the Englishman John Hetherington went for a walk with an accessory never seen before. It was a tall hat with a narrow brim and made of a shiny material. The man was arrested for disturbing public order, from which he escaped after paying a 500-pound fine. That was the revolutionary beginning of the top hat.
Royal men like Abraham Lincoln or Prince Albert of England were in love with top hats. At the beginning of the 20th century, its use was relegated to bowler hats and other more practical and consistent types of hats. The top hat then began to be used in formal events, a use that continues today.
Before you take to the streets with a top hat, it is worth knowing a few things about it.
Size (and material) does matter
It is convenient to know what the particularities of this hat are. To stick to the authentic Mens top hats, they should measure between 11 and 14 centimeters in height. The most common material with which they are made is with black or gray hair, wool and silk. Prince Albert of England popularized this last fabric.
Do not wear with casual attire. Icons like Monopoly, bombastic wizards, and even rock figures like Alice Cooper make it essential to stick to the label to be taken seriously. If this is your intention, you should only wear a top hat with a tailcoat, or tuxedo.
When to wear and when to take it off?
Unlike other types of headdresses, the top hat can be worn during the day. It is common for men to take it to the horse races. However, if we talk about incorporating it into the female wardrobe, it should be limited to weddings. While in the case of hats and headdresses, these should not be removed even during the banquet. As dictated by male protocol, the top hat must be removed when entering the church and worn on the waist.
It is another great difference with respect to other types of hats and headdresses whose use means that we can find them in a wide range of prices and in countless types and colors. The top hat is still an exclusive accessory with a very traditional cut, whose manufacture is only dealt with by specialized brands or old workshops.
Taste for height
Throughout the centuries, the fashion accessory that gave height and verticality to the figure has always enjoyed good acceptance, whether in the form of a headdress, hat or footwear. Surely, the human being has an inherent taste for being tall, or appearing so.
In addition to the reasons for protection, shelter or ornament, the hat and the headdress have symbolized social status and power. Its use, therefore, has been favored as an element of communication in the rites, protocols and ceremonies of society.
Top hat for women
The influence of equestrian activities made women adapt their clothing to a simpler and more masculine style from the beginning of the 19th century. The first women’s top hats were adorned with a very wide veil. The top hats were taking the current form. They were also made in black, beige or gray silk plush.
Its use was so widespread that in Great Britain it was also carried by coachmen and servants. However, towards the middle of the 19th century, the urban bourgeoisie began to alternate its use with the bowler hat or “mushroom hat”, as it was more comfortable and cheaper.
An anecdotal item
At the beginning of the 20th century, the use of the top hat began to be more limited. It was worn as a complement to the masculine gala suit (tailcoat) – accompanied by gloves and a cane – and it was used with the daytime or evening ceremony suit (morning suit).
After World War II, it stopped being used in a common way and entered a gradual disuse. Currently it is only required to accompany the male dress suit in certain formal acts and, by tradition, it is worn in horse races in the British town of Ascot.
When we think of the top hat, a hat model like the one used for magic tricks comes to mind. In fact, this masculine accessory, also called a tall top hat, has a cylindrical, tall, rigid and flat top. Moreover, its wing is narrow. Like many other items of clothing, the top hat has not always looked like this. Nevertheless, this curious piece of clothing has undergone an evolution since its origin.
The top hat became very popular and its use was consolidated from 1840 for all social classes. The cup was very tall initially, but it got smaller towards the end of the century. In South America, a hat with a tall, cylindrical or rounded top and a curved brim is called a Galera hat.