A celebration of the trilby by Nigel McGill
One of the most recognisable features of the great crooner Frank Sinatra is his hat – and a variety of them worn over the years. Frank’s hat and the attitude with which he wore it has become an icon of the 50’s and 60’s and a symbol of cool sophistication and confidence. Believe that? Well millions do and this is easy to see from the number of people imitating his look 50 years later!
So what exactly was Frank’s Hat? He did wear a variety but to me the most popular, or most recognisable of Frank’s hats was the one he is pictured with on the cover of the 1957 album “Come fly With Me”. Frank’s grey trilby (size 7 1/8) featured a wide silk band and was always worn with an attitude. Frank was by no means the first guy to wear a hat! So what is the history of men in hats?
History of the Trilby
Right through the first half of the 20th century, hats were an important part of every man’s wardrobe in the USA. Of course felt hats had been around for sometime but the fashion of wearing a hat really peaked through these years. The Fedora like that worn by Bing Crosby here, was a standard item of clothing for men, rich or poor where as the narrower brimmed trilby was a hat traditionally reserved for special occasions.
Traditionally these hats were made from rabbit hair felt, but are now sometimes made from other materials, including tweed and wool. Both the trilby and the fedora have a deeply indented crown and a pinch at the front.
By the end of World War II, the trilby had become the most popular for wear with a suit or smart casual, and it continued to be commonly worn this way until hats stopped being everyday wear for men in about the 1960s. Ever since, the trilby has been a symbol of chic elegance and class.
Hat wearers today?
There are no shortage of hat wearers today although wearing one is generally more about making a statement about yourself than fitting in with the crowd. The proliferation of “Sinatra look-a-likes” the world over has, I’m sure, kept many hatters busy over the last few years.
Dominic Halpin and the Honey B’s are one of the contemporary bands that wear hats to capture that sophistication of the 50’s era. Wearing trilby and pork pie hats has become part of their onstage “uniform” and something they are recognised for. Other artists from Justin Timberlake to Pete Doherty are also recognised for their usage of headwear.
Where can I get my perfect hat?
There are a bunch of traditional hatters around where you can get a selection of quality hats and the help to find just the right style. The internet has been a revolution for anyone needing to find something out of the ordinary and in your quest to find the perfect hat it is indispensible. In England one of the best places to start is the Whiteley Hats company who have helped me find hats for the swing band Dominic Halpin and the Honey B’s. There are also a number of great stores in the USA like the Village Hat Shop in San Diego.
So there you go, a brief, hopefully interesting look into what Frank’s hat is about and responsible for. Whatever your choice of hat I hope you wear it with pride!
Dominic Halpin and the Honey B’s : www.dominichalpin.com
The Whiteley Hat Company: www.whiteley-hat.co.uk.