The Journey of Top Hats – the common man’s hat is now a favorite among women too

Nowadays, hats are essential for styling and fashion for both men and women as they had been for many centuries. The most exciting aspect of hat styles is that it has transgressed genders, as hats that were once looked upon as women’s accessory have found a place in the men’s wardrobe and vice versa. The most classic example of the blurring of gender lines is the transition of Fedora hats that made their appearance a women’s accessory, and today it is a must-have for men. Similarly, do not be surprised to see womens top hat, which at one time was the exclusive headgear for men. Today, hats have become gender-neutral as almost all styles suits both men and women.

The commoner’s hat

Top hats were the symbol of male fashion and made their appearance during the early nineteenth century. The hat was a universal headgear for men across the society by overcoming the class barrier. Top hats were for all occasions, and men could wear them at any time of the day.  The top hat has a typically tall flat crown that stands erect against a narrow brim and is usually made from silk. The top hat not only creates an impressive look but adds considerable sophistication to the style that dominated hat fashion for many centuries.

Top hats epitomized the spirit of the early nineteenth century, although the trend began in the fading years of the eighteenth century.  Dramatic, imposing, and formal are the usual attributes of top hats that were highly popular in those days as people across the classes, from the middle class to the wealthy Europeans, stressed the formal dress codes accompanied by proper manners and etiquette.

The most dramatic moment

The picture of a magician flashes across our minds whenever we discuss top hats. And there is a reason for it. Some people relate top hats to the magician’s hat because way back in 1814, the French magician Louis Conte wore the hat when performing on stage. He also surprised audiences with the famous trick of pulling out a rabbit from the inside of the hat. At that time, it was the first of its kind trick. Since then, many other magicians replicated the act, although the items that emerged from the hat kept changing.

An unforgettable first appearance

Not only do we remember the names of famous people for their deeds but also for the fashion that they introduced. It happened with the top hat, which John Hetherington wore for the first time in public way back in 1797.  The incident was historic, to say the least because so much shocked were the passersby on sighting the man wearing a tall hat that many of them, mainly women and children, fainted. The crowd went into a frenzy, unable to control their emotions. Reports about the mob trampling some people also made the rounds.

Adding a curve to the brim

Styles and fashion keep evolving fast, and it was no different for top hats as the design kept changing with the times. The hat became a part of the European culture and a symbol of flamboyance during the nineteenth century across England, America, France, and Germany. It established a romantic style in art, literature, and clothing. As time passed, the height and shape of the hat underwent some changes, and hats with very tall crowns often tapering off at the bottom or widening at the top complemented by dashingly curved brims became a rage. The trend of increasing the crown height became so much infatuating that there came a time in 1823 when a Frenchman named Antoine Gibus invented the folding top hat that many called a collapsible hat.  The extra length of the crown led to a new naming of the hat as many people started calling it stovepipes.

A President’s hat

Top hats have a special place in the history of America as many of its presidents, including Abraham Lincoln, wore the hat on many occasions. Top hats have been part of the dress code for presidential inaugurations for many years until President Dwight D. Eisenhower bucked the trend for the first time, only to be brought back by President John F. Kennedy. However, the trend ended with President Richard Nixon donning it for the last time during the presidential inauguration.

Since the mid-twentieth century, the perception of fashion underwent drastic changes as the concept of formal dresses started taking a backseat and paved the way for casual dresses that were fashionable in their way by meeting the demands of the times.   When other types of hats like bowlers and derbies, which were much short in stature, started gaining popularity.

However, women found a new interest in top hats, and once again, the vintage hat that seemed to have been buried in history made reappearance and is now a notable headgear for women.

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