Top hats are quite literally the crowning glory of morning dress. Unfortunately they tend to turn an otherwise outmoded form of dress into something unequivocally antiquated. Why? Because top hats act like a lighthouse pulsating beams of history into people’s minds. You may think that reason enough not to wear one, but personally I consider a hatless man at a wedding more underdressed than a naked man at a coronation.
The problem is, and this is a serious problem, that no contemporary hat makers can make a decent top hat these days. You may think I’m referring to the fact that no one in the world makes the type of silk anymore that is required in the process, but I’m not. This is about style, not substance. This may sound odd, but it is a point that will be repeated – style and fit are as least as important as substance and quality (if not more). Unfortunately, modern top hats have neither style nor substance.
Take this sorry excuse from Gieves & Hawkes.
There are a hundred things wrong with this hat. Firstly, it costs £250. Secondly, the crown is far too small, almost too small for a dressage hat. Thirdly, the felt is dull and lacklustre when it should be shiny. Fourthly, it is quite obviously made from substandard materials, by the fact that the rim is already misshapen (and it hasn’t even been sold yet!). Finally, and most importantly, it is flaccid. It has neither style nor panache – it looks like the kind of hat you’d get from a fancy dress shop.
This hat from Lock & Co is slightly better…
It is much taller than the Gieves & Hawkes one, and passably shiny. However, it still lacks much style and, wait for it, it costs £575!
To be honest, I don’t blame Gieves and Lock & Co. As businesses they have a duty to maximise profits and minimise costs. The problem is that people don’t really know what they want in a top hat enough to force them into better ways.
In future posts I will try to spell out what is that makes a decent top hat and how to go about finding one in such a barren climate. In the meantime I will leave you with this photo.