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Fedora vs Top Hat

Wearing a hat can add an entirely new element to your style. Fedoras can be worn for formal or casual events and are made of different materials, offered in different colors. Comparatively, a top hat is always used for formal events and is almost exclusively made of black silk.

This is a man wearing a black tuxedo with a cane and a black top hat.

While both a fedora and a top hat were popular through the 19th century, there are stark differences between the two. A fedora can be worn for casual or formal events and is often made of felt or wool. Comparatively, a top hat is always worn for formal events and is exclusively made of silk. Fedoras can come in any color, while a top hat is always black and only rarely gray. 

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Understanding Men’s Hat Options: Fedora vs Top Hat

Being able to differentiate between these two popular hats can be difficult, but it is possible with closer examination. While a fedora is a style of a top hat, it is not the formal top hat that many people see at formal events and occasions. Below, let’s take a closer look at these two types of hat options to understand the differences better. 

What is a Fedora?

The fedora is an exciting and popular hat because it can be worn for both dress and casual occasions. The hat was a popular option through the end of the 19th century and not as popular in the early years. This hat’s material is very important, and it is usually made from wool or fur felt.

Most of the fedora hats that are seen in movies or on television are the felt version. It is possible to find a straw fedora too, which is an excellent choice for summer. 

The shape of the fedora is what makes this hat different. The top of the hat, or the crown, usually stands about four or four and a half inches tall. There is always a pinch at the front of the crown that is very pronounced.

A center dent runs down the middle of the crown, and the brim will measure about two inches. There are variations of these hats that have a wider bring that has been popular recently. The brim should be a snap style so that the brim can be worn either down or snapped up into place, depending on the weather. 

What is a Top Hat?

This is a close look at a black top hat with a black cloth band.

The top hat is an older style of hat that probably originated in the 17th century. On almost all occasions, this hat is a formal design meant to be worn at formal events and occasions. Sometimes, the top hat is also called a high hat, topper, or cylinder hat, mostly because of the shape this hat carries.

The hat is still used today in some especially formal settings but went out of style by the start of the 20th century. 

This type of hat usually features a tall crown of five inches or more with a flat top. This hat is traditionally associated with men and is almost always made of black silk material. Sometimes though, it is possible to find the top hat in gray silk. In the 19th century, a collapsible variant of the top hat became popular and was commonly called the opera hat.

This style was popular because it was portable as men attended the opera and other formal events outside the home.

Fashion

This is a close look at a vintage felt black top hat.

Aside from being able to identify a top hat or a fedora hat is being able to wear the hat in the appropriate setting is very important. The fashion implications of each hat can really determine the style of the hat and if the person is wearing the cap correctly. 

When Should I Wear a Top Hat or Fedora?

Top hats are strictly worn for formal events. This type of hat is associated with performances, weddings, and operas. The hat is almost always worn with a tuxedo.

The top hat is made of luxury silk material and is almost always dark gray or black. The top hat should never be worn in casual settings, as this is a dress hat. Today, although the top hat is no longer used in everyday settings, it is still worn for black tie events in western culture. 

The fedora comparatively can be worn for casual or formal events. Often, the hat’s style and the material will help dictate where it is appropriate to wear it. Fedoras made of wool or fur felt can look great in formal settings if worn in dark colors.

Alternatively, a fedora hat style made of straw material can be a wonderful casual hat with a wide brim, perfect for casual summer events. Compared to the top hat, which has been reserved exclusively for men, the fedora can be worn by a man or a woman. 

What Materials are Top Hats and Fedoras Made of?

One of the biggest differences between a top hat and a fedora is the material that each hat is made of. A top hat is almost always made from silk material.

The silk material also helps to make the hat more formal and perfect for weddings and special occasions. The top hat is commonly made with black silk, but occasionally a gray silk top hat is found.

Comparatively, the fedora can be made of several different material types. Most commonly, a fedora hat is made from wool or fur felt. If a man wears a felt fedora, it can be considered a formal hat on some occasions.

Alternatively, sometimes fedoras are made of lightweight materials that are perfect to wear in casual settings. Straw fedora hats are a great way to keep the sun off your face while still looking fashionable. Plus, a lightweight straw fedora hat can help keep you cool in the summer. Often the Panama hat style is a fedora straw hat with a short brim.

What Are the Benefits of a Top Hat or Fedora?

This is a woven straw fedora hat with black band seen from different angles.

While wearing a top hat or a fedora may be a past style, it is becoming increasingly popular to wear hats as part of the retro movement. Adding a top hat or a fedora to your style is not only a great way to look fashionable, but these hats are practical too. Compared to a pork pie hat or a homburg hat, a fedora hat can add a formal style while still functioning as a sensible hat.

Fedoras can help keep you dry in all weather conditions with the snap-brim but can also keep you warm in cold winter months. Wearing a straw fedora as a sun hat can help keep you cool and protected from the sun even in hot summer months.

Top hats certainly have a time and a place where their wear is appropriate, but a top hat can be essential if in the right setting. Top hats are commonplace with tuxedos and black or white tie events, and failure to wear a top hat can mean you will be drastically underdressed.

Although not as prevalent as they once were, today, a top hat can be the essential fashion accessory for highly formal events. 

Are There Downsides to Top Hats and Fedoras?

A close look at a black wide-brim fedora hat.

Probably the biggest downside of wearing a top hat or fedora is looking out of place. While today’s fedoras are undoubtedly fashionable, they are only slowly starting to come back into style as part of the retro movement. Unfortunately, many people choose a cowboy hat or baseball cap compared to a fedora or top hat, making these hat styles dated. 

Plus, owning a nice men’s hat can be quite costly. Having a custom fedora or top hat made can be extremely expensive. Not only are materials costly, but the time and labor involved to get the right hat size can be extremely intensive.

To really make your hat look great, a custom hat is necessary. Expect to pay about $500 for a truly custom top hat or fedora. Of course, for a casual accessory that you don’t often wear, a simple hat purchased off the rack will be suitable. 

FAQs

We understand that there are many different hat options to choose between, and understanding the slight differences between them can be tricky. That is why we have put together a list of frequently asked questions about men’s hat options so that you can better understand the various options and the right time to wear each.

Hopefully, by taking a closer look at these questions, you’ll be able to make a better decision when it comes to choosing the right hat for your next event. 

Is a fedora a top hat?

No, a fedora and a top hat are two very different styles of hats. However, a fedora can be considered a type of top hat because of the way the hat is worn. A true top hat, though, is reserved for extremely formal occasions. 

What is a fedora hat?

A fedora hat is a wide-brimmed hat that can be made of felt or wool. The hat features a medium-height crown that often has a center pinch or gutter. The center pinch can be tear-dropped shaped. The brim of the hat can be worn snapped up or worn down depending on the weather.

The fedora was popular throughout the end of the 19th century but has started to swing back into style with the modern retro movement. While the fedora has been traditionally associated with men, this is a perfectly acceptable style for women to wear as well. 

What’s the difference between Trilby and the fedora?

While both the Trilby and fedora have similar styles, there is one major difference. The Trilby hat is commonly worn for casual events because it is modeled after athletic sportswear.

Although it is a casual hat, the Trilby has long been associated with the wealthy and upper class. While both are quality hats, the fedora can be worn to formal events on occasion. 

What is a fedora hat made of?

Fedora hats come in a range of options making them an incredibly versatile hat. The fedora is most commonly found in wool or felt fur, but other materials are possible. Fedoras can even be made of fur, like beaver fur, or can be made of lightweight materials such as straw for a more casual and summer look.

The fedora is a versatile design, and just about any material is acceptable if it is worn in the appropriate setting.