Trilbies and fedoras are both iconic hats dating back to the late nineteenth to early twentieth century. With roots based in popular plays of the time, both quickly became must-have fashion accessories and have seen recurring resurgences of popularity.
Despite drifting in and out of popular fashion, both remain a steadfast feature in any hat-afficionado’s collection and are considered a failsafe accompaniment to different outfits.
Where did the fedora come from?
The fedora was first popularized following the 1882 production of the play ‘Fédora’, written by French author Victorien Sardou, who wrote the title role for actress Sarah Bernhardt. In ‘Fédora’, titular character Princess Fédora Romanoff wore a soft-brimmed, centre-creased hat.
The style became extremely popular with women and was a particular favourite of women’s rights activists. The hat subsequently became popular with men after royal fashionista Prince Edward, Prince of Wales, began to wear them from 1924 – however this period also saw a surge in popularity amongst other social groups, facilitating an association of fedoras with gangsters and prohibition.
On the other end of the spectrum, early 20th century Orthodox Jews wore black fedoras to conform to religious guidance around respectful attire, and many continue to do so to this day.
Fedoras have continued to see resurgences in popularity as Hollywood has included the iconic hat in various guises during the 1940s and 1950s by actors Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart and singer Frank Sinatra – and more recently the style has been re-popularised by singers Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Michael Jackson.
One of the most iconic fedoras in Hollywood is that of Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, whose hat is a key piece of the character’s wardrobe and an iconic prop in many action sequences.
Where did the trilby come from?
The trilby also has roots in literature as it was first popularised because of the stage adaptation of the 1894 novel ‘Trilby’, by George du Maurier.
The trilby was worn at the start of the twentieth century and was described throughout Britain as a “rich man’s” hat – often seen worn at the races – and in the 1960s it became popular with automobile drivers who valued its lower height clearance compared to alternative hats.
While also reportedly worn by both Frank Sinatra and also more recently Britney Spears, the trilby hat does not have as rich a history as the fedora, which is often seen as the originator of the two styles, however the trilby has a very distinct aesthetic which saw a resurgence in the 1980s when the retro aesthetic became a popular trend.
What are the differences between a trilby and a fedora?
Trilbies are to be worn as accessories to more casual outfits and can be made from any material – originally made from rabbit fur felt, nowadays these are often made of more inexpensive hat-making materials such as cotton or wool-blends, or for the summer, straw or raffia. The shape of the hat is distinctive and differs from the fedora in a number of ways.
While both the trilby and the fedora share the signature ‘pinch’ or ‘crease’ through the crown, for the trilby this can be less pronounced, while the fedora always features a noticeable dent. The brim is also a point of difference, where the fedora is often wider and flatter, and can always be manipulated to be snapped upward or downward to suit the aesthetic or function of the wearer, the trilby has a fixed brim which is often angled inward toward the crown of the hat at the back.
Fedoras can be worn as an accompaniment to a casual outfit, or, unlike the trilby it can accessorize a more formal outfit depending on the style and material of the hat. Wool and fur felts are popular materials and can be made in many different colours – including Indiana Jones’ iconic sable coloured fedora – and can range from light pastels, or natural greys and beiges, to darker dyes. The fedora can also be made from straw or raffia for warmer months and make excellent stylish sun hats.
Whichever style of headgear you opt for, either a trilby or a fedora, Heritage Traditions has a stylish range of both trilbies and fedoras that will set you apart from the crowd when it comes to your choice of hat.