Difference Between Top Hats and Stovepipe Hats

The stovepipe hat is a subcategory of the top hat. Named after its resemblance to a chimney or stovepipe, these variants are traditionally worn more as everyday hats compared to the more formal top hat. The evolution of both styles has brought them closer in appearance. The stovepipe is taller and straighter than the top hat.

What Is a Top Hat?

The top hat reached its peak before World War I as a standard part of the formal outdoor dress in the West. After World War I, the top hat began to be integrated into the less traditional dress that many people wore daily. Police officers, firefighters, and business people alike wore top hats. 

The top hat evolved from the sugarloaf style hat, and by the end of the 18th century, the top hat was rapidly gaining popularity. It eventually became more popular than the tricorne hat, it took 30 years for the top hat to reach its peak popularity. For those who often wore their top hats outdoors, the option of adding a black oilcloth coating to the top of the hat became available.

On a top hat, the crown tapers outward and is wider at the top. The stovepipe by contrast does not taper. You can also see that the brim is curved, whereas the stovepipe brim is flatter.

Top Hat
Silk Top Hat J.R. Bale@123rf.com

What Is a Stovepipe Hat?

A stovepipe hat is a variation of the classic top hat. While these two hat styles possess several differences, they also share mutual roots. The stovepipe earns its name from its shape, closely resembling the shape of a chimney or stovepipe. 

While the top hat and stovepipe are both formal wear, it was more common to wear a stovepipe with a suit as opposed to evening wear. Abraham Lincoln’s famous hat is referred to as a stovepipe hat rather than a top hat. He would wear it as an everyday hat, not only for special occasions.

Read this article about Lincoln’s famous stovepipe.

As you can see when looking at Lincoln’s hat, it does not taper at the top, as a top hat does. The brim is also flatter than the top hat.

While the top hat is usually made from pure beaver skin fur or silk, the stovepipe hat may be crafted only partially from more expensive materials.

Read more about silk hats in this article.

For this reason, the stovepipe hat was often referred to as a type of “stuff hat” since it was often made from non-fur felt. The more accessible price made the stovepipe hat significantly more attractive to a broader group of consumers.

Conclusion

While the stovepipe hat and the top hat possess many similarities, the two styles also have several differences. The stovepipe hat is a subcategory of the top hat. The material, shape, and height are significant differences.

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