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Tips for Wearing a Top Hat

By Taylor James


Updated on

Is there anything more dapper than a top hat? The mere mention of a top hat evokes the feeling of days gone by when men and women really went out of their way to dress their best. Although fashion has changed over the centuries, top hats, although a rare sight today, haven’t actually gone out of style.

Top hats were worn by the greats in the past: Josephine Baker, Abraham Lincoln, and Duke Ellington to name a few! In more modern times Queen Elizabeth II, Slash and T-Pain have sported this fanciful type of hat. The next on the list of greats to wear a top hat could be you! Here are tips to help you rock your top hat. 

Men holding top hats

1. Commit to the look. 

If you’re going to be wearing a top hat, you need to commit to the full look. Sweat pants just aren’t going to cut it. You might even look under dressed in a more casual suit.

Take it up a notch and sport a suit that you’d meet the queen in. Rent or purchase a tuxedo with tails! For women, break out your formal gown. Shine your shoes to match the shine of your top hat. You really can’t dress too fancy when you’re topping an outfit with a top hat .

2. Buy the correct brim size for your frame. 

Everyone is built a little different, so the best top hat for Honest Abe isn’t necessarily going to be the best for T-Pain. In order to find the correct brim size, remember that the brim shouldn’t be bigger than your shoulders.

Men will be able to get away with wearing top hats with larger brims than women, because they have broader shoulders. Finding the right brim based off of your frame will ensure that you won’t look like you’re drowning in your hat. 

Check out these popular leather top hats from American Hat Makers (Amazon).

3. Pick a hat that turns up at the front. 

When you’re wearing a top hat, you want to be the center of attention in the best way possible. Everyone knows that your face is the real money maker. To ensure that everyone can see your face while you’re making a fashion statement with your hat, pick a hat where the brim turns up in the front, so everyone can see your face. 

4. Consider your silhouette. 

While you’re trying on top hats, take a step back and consider your entire silhouette. Make sure that the brim size is flattering. If you have wider hips, you may want a top hat with a smaller brim, so that the hat frames your body in a way that compliments your curves. 

5. Don’t let the hat wear you. 

It’s not a bad idea to consult with a milliner to find the right hat for your body type. It’s easy for a top hat to “wear you,” meaning it just doesn’t quite look right. This usually means it’s too big or that there’s an element of decoration that just doesn’t suit you. A milliner is a true professional and will be able to target the issue and offer suggestions. 

6. Wear your hat for an appropriate occasion. 

As exciting as it is to wear a top hat, this type of hat  should be reserved for very special occasions. The next time you’re attending a formal wedding, a funeral, ball, a gala, a presidential address, or a horse racing event, like the Kentucky Derby, dust off your top hat. Those are the perfect occasions to show off a little where you won’t look overdressed. 

7. Keep your hat shining. 

Depending on what kind of material your top hat is made from, you may need to shine your hat. To buff your silk top hat, use a stiff brush to make the pile go down. Then, spray the hat with a little water, and use a velvet pad and brush the silk in the direction of the nap. When you’re done, it’ll shine like the top of the Chrysler Building!

About Taylor James

As Philip Treacy once said, “How a hat makes you feel is what a hat is all about.” And on that note, I hope you enjoy your hats and find the site useful. Learn more about Hat Realm's Editorial Process.