More You Know...
In America's Past
Towards the end of the
17th century the vast wigs then worn by well dressed men made it
impractical for them to wear the fashionable broad-brimmed dress hats of that
time unless necessary. Custom dictated, however, that hats should then be
carried beneath the arm. Rapidly, hats began to be folded to make them
easier to carry.
In the 18th century this habit and
changing fashions led to many sorts of folded or cocked hats - cocked on
one, two, or three sides. It was this style with the three sides cocked
that dominated fashion and was seen in innumerable variations of adornment
and proportion. While beaver felt was the preferred material others,
including wool and camel's down, were available.
The top hat is a piece of history now,
not really a part of most contemporary wardrobes despite its occasional
uses for very special occasions. For a while, back in the 1930s and 1940s,
Europeans got the false impression that it was making a comeback in
American. They'd been watching Fred Astaire movies and simply assumed
that all American men were dressing the way he did. Astaire wore them in a
dozen or more films.
Since the beginning of time,
dress hats have been used for status symbols, uniforms and fashion statements
as well as functional uses like keeping warm or protection from the glare
of the sun. Today, famous manufacturers like Stetson, Dobbs, Biltmore, and
Borsalino have many styles like the Fedora, Homburg, Derby, Pork Pie, and
Top Hat which are being used for formal as well as informal occasions.
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