Introduction to Men’s Headwear – The Hat

Gentlemen have been covering their heads since, well, since the first gentleman figured out he could keep his head warm and look sharp doing so.

The modern hat comes from a long tradition of using headwear not only to protect one’s head form the elements, but also to communicate status and rank. Various professions used a distinctive hat to show their occupation. Various hats were worn by clergy, soldiers, scholars, tradesmen and nobility throughout ancient times and the medieval era. The modern gentleman’s hat springs out of these traditions, specifically the use of felt hats in the military and the clergy.

Richard Hooker wearing the Canterbury cap of British Clergy

Richard Hooker wearing the Canterbury cap of British Clergy

Sailors from Elizabethan times are known to have adopted the Monmouth cap as their hat. They were mentioned by Shakespeare in his play Henry V, Act 4, Scene 7,

“the Welshmen did good service in garden where leeks did grow, wearing leeks in their Monmouth caps; which your Majesty know to this hour is an honourable badge of the service”.

Original 16th Century Monmouth Cap from Wales

Original 16th Century Monmouth Cap from Wales sans Leek

The hats for men in the 20th century evolved from their predecessors in the 18th and 19th century. I will detail more on the specific histories of the various styles of hats we now call ‘formal’ men’s hats in their own separate posts. Here is a short list of some of the more stylish men’s hats still worn, in no particular order:

  • the Fedora
  • the Top Hat
  • the Bowler
  • the Boater
  • the Panama
  • the Ascot Cap
  • the Beret
  • the Deerstalker
  • the Fez
  • the Flat Cap
  • the Homburg
  • the Glengarry
  • the Porkpie
  • the Tam o’Shanter
  • the Trilby

According to wikipedia, “A hat consists of four main parts:

Crown – The portion of a hat covering the top of the head

Peak (British English), visor (American English), or bill, a stiff projection at the front, to shade or shield the eyes from sun and rain

Brim, an optional projection of stiff material from the bottom of the hat’s crown horizontally all around the circumference of the hat

Puggaree (British) or sweatband or hatband (American), a ribbon or band that runs around the bottom of the torso of the hat. The sweatband may be adjustable with a cord or rope at the top and is on the inside of the hat touching the skin while the hatband and puggaree are around the outside.

There is also an excellent introduction to hat terminology in the Fedora Lounge forum threads – An Intro to Hat Terminology.

And I would be remiss if I ended the post without including some excellent examples of stylish men wearing their hats, so here you are:

Frank Sinatra wearing a fedora

Frank Sinatra Wearing a Short Brimmed Fedora

Cary Grant in a Bowler

Cary Grant in a Bowler

Fred Astaire in a Boater

Fred Astaire in a Straw Boater

 

Benedict Cumberbatch Doffing His Top Hat

Benedict Cumberbatch Doffing His Top Hat

 

Ryan Gosling in a Wide Brimmed Fedora

Ryan Gosling in a Wide Brimmed Fedora

 

Edward, Prince of Wales in a Soft Cap

Edward, Prince of Wales in a Flat Cap

 

Edward, the Prince of Wales, Sporting His Homburg

Edward, the Prince of Wales, Sporting His Homburg

Gentlemen’s Cravats – The Necktie: A Brief History

Help Kingpin be named the sharpest man in Canada by voting here!!

The Classic Necktie

The Classic Necktie

The story of the necktie that has come to dominate gentleman’s neck wear begins with the popularity of the cravat in the 19th century. In the late Victorian period the industrial revolution came into full production. There was a great need for more practical neck wear than the evermore detailed ways of tying the untamed silks of the basic cravat. Enter the knot named the ‘four-in-hand’ that enabled the cravat to be tied quickly and securely so that it could remain in place and look good the entire work day. With the help of the British monarchy we can explore the necktie’s development.

King George V with Four-in-Hand Knotted Silk Tie

King George V with Four-in-Hand Knotted Silk Tie

This knot created a longer, more elegant shape that allowed the silk to dimple and emphasize the gloss of the fabric. This allowed the necktie to be used in a very formal outfit., as may be seen both in George V’s portrait above and his father, Edward VII below,

Colour autochrome photograph of King Edward VII in Scotland sporting a four-in-hand tied necktie

Colour autochrome photograph of King Edward VII in Scotland sporting a four-in-hand tied necktie

where he has a more casual outfit (most likely for grouse hunting). His grandson, Edward VIII took the four-in-hand to the fully casual outfit,

Edward VIII, as Prince of Wales,  casually wearing a necktie tied in a four-in-hand

Edward VIII, as Prince of Wales, casually wearing a necktie tied in a four-in-hand

and it became the standard in a gentleman’s outfit replacing the previous, looser-shaped cravats.

It was Edward’s grandfather, whose love of a fat four-in-hand knot, lead to the other popular necktie knot being developed, the Windsor. Edward VII, son of Queen Victoria, was a style icon in his own right. The extra wide manner of his necktie’s design in using thick fabric so that his four-in-hand knot would be quite wide at the collar, as this portrait from the time of his coronation shows,

Edward VII with his wide knotted necktie

Edward VII with his wide knotted necktie

Unable to afford bespoke ties, the gentlemen trying to emulate Edward VII’s style developed the Windsor knot, although the source for this name is not clear. What is clear is that his sartorial grandson, Edward VIII most likely never sported a Windsor knot, using the trusted four-in-hand to great effect to the ends of his days. But more on the different types of necktie knots (and what they say about the man wearing them) in a future post.

Edward VIII Sporting the Four-In-Hand with a Thick Necktie

Edward VIII Sporting the Four-In-Hand with a Thick Necktie

Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, the necktie has become the dominant form of cravat.

The Macaroni, The Dandy and Gender Identity

A short explanation before we get started: the term macaroni used in this article is not referring to the Italian pasta, but is related to it. Macaroni, when used in mens fashions, refers to a mid-18th century trend where young men started dressing in the most epicene (androgynous, effeminate) and affected style. They were the metrosexuals of their day. You can find many good examples in fashion plates from that period:

The Macaroni Painter, or Billy Dimple Sitting for his Picture

"The Macaroni Painter, or Billy Dimple Sitting for his Picture"

This trend started with young British aristocrats returning from the Grand Tour (a subject for another time) and the look got its name from the recent excitement around Italian pasta, specifically macaroni. All things uber-contemporary were called macaroni (think Paris Hilton‘s abuse of the word, ‘hot’ and you get the picture.)

The Polite Macaroni presenting a Nosegay to Miss Blossom

"The Polite Macaroni presenting a Nosegay to Miss Blossom" - Delicate Flowers from a Delicate Flower

This trend of dressing more and more garish and adopting various female identified clothing styles increased in popularity among the very rich. And it created a style among wealthy young men that shared the delicate sensibility of women’s fashion of the period.

The Macaroni - The Height of Androgenous Mens Fashion

The Macaroni - The Height of Androgynous Mens Fashion, Tee Hee Hee!

It was the arrival of Mr. Beau Brummel‘s fashion sense that this ridiculous manner of male dress changed. In appreciation I would whole-heartedly support a movement for the canonization of Brummel in the Church of England. Or at least recognition with his own day of prayer (He is most certainly my patron saint of Male Dressing.)

Beau Brummel - Patron Saint of Male Dress

Beau Brummel - Patron Saint of Male Dress

The artifice of the macaroni was an attempt by aristocratic young men (and young men who aspired to be aristocrats) of the time to prove their worldliness in order to affirm their right to the luxury their station provided them. Yet, this only served to demonstrate their disconnection with the wider world; of the coming social and political changes that were about to shatter the aristocratic structure the macaroni so desperately wished to display in their foppish dress.

In counterpoint to this Beau Brummel embraced a masculine look. Gone were the breeches, powdered wigs and all too much lace replaced with trousers, washed flowing hair and silk cravats. The rise of the Dandy was a movement of the middle-class gentleman expressing their masculinity and their disdain for the ridiculous style of upper classes in dress. They hadn’t the money or privilege, but the Dandy had his sense of style with which to shame the silly macaronies.

I make this distinction because all too often a man who dresses well is carelessly refered to as a fop, or as a dandy with the connotation of the fop. This is a terrible misuse of language and blurs the trend I see emerging. The modern Dandy is the masculine answer to the prevalence of the metrosexual look among men.

Men, instead of dressing in a style that teenagers consider ‘cool’  well into your adult years or engaging in the drab and genderless metrosexual look I invite you embrace the Dandy. You’ll thank me for it.

How Not to Dress

Metrosexual? - No. Regressed Man Child? - No.

Steve McQueen Dressing Like a Grown Man

The Cultured Dandy - A Most Hearty Yes! (Thanks again, Mr. McQueen!)