Difference Between Top Hats and Stovepipe Hats?

Over time, several different types of hats have gained and lost popularity. The top hat and the stovepipe hat are two examples of vintage hats that are still prevalent in society today, with several differences between these two styles. What is the difference between top hats and stovepipe hats?

The difference between top hats and stovepipe hats is that top hats are more formal and have a sophisticated look. Stovepipe hats resemble a pipe and are made from inexpensive materials. Both styles evolved over time, which caused the two styles to become very similar in nature. 

This article will focus on the main differences between the top hat and the stovepipe hat, along with a brief history of each hat’s origins. Let’s get started, shall we?

What Is a Top Hat?

The top hat reached its peak prior to World War I as a standard part of the formal outdoor dress in the West. At the conclusion of World War I, the top hat began to be integrated into the less formal dress, which many people often wore daily. Policemen, firefighters, and businessmen alike were all known to wear top hats. 

The top hat is a direct result of a similar 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 previous style of the tricorne hat, which took a total of 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.

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 a number of differences, they share mutual roots too. The stovepipe earns its name from its shape, closely resembling the shape of a chimney or stovepipe. 

While the top hat was created as a formal accessory, the top hat has roots in serving as an informal accessory. Abraham Lincoln’s infamous hat is actually referred to as a stovepipe hat rather than a top hat. Read this article about Lincoln’s famous stovepipe.

Lincoln's stovepipe hat
Lincoln’s stovepipe hat -brewbooks from near Seattle, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

What Are the Main Differences Between Top Hats and Stovepipe Hats?

The most important difference between these two hats is that the stovepipe hat is considerably less formal than the top hat. Although the top hat has expanded into different subcategories over time, it is still considered to be a formal accessory. 

Similarly, the stovepipe is often less expensive than the top hat. While the top hat is often 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 makes the stovepipe hat significantly more attractive to a wider group of consumers.


While the stovepipe hat and the top hat possess many similarities, the two styles have a number of differences as well. The stovepipe hat is a subcategory of the top hat. The material of the hat and the purpose for wearing the accessory are two of the main differences between the top hat and the stovepipe hat.