Top hats were the peak of fashion for many years in the 1800s. People wore them in the military, to weddings, on the streets, and everywhere in between. If you wanted to look stylish, you needed to get your hands on a top hat. The height of the hat had several purposes, all of which you’ll discover today.
Top hats are so tall because they allowed the wearer to establish social status, intimidation, fashion, pride, and comfort. They ranged between 6 inches to 8 inches, with some of them going far beyond the normal limits. People wore top hats to all jobs and at almost any income level.
Throughout this article, you’ll also learn the following info about why top hats are so tall:
- Multiple explanations of why people wore such tall top hats
- Why the fashion trend eventually faded away
- The approximate height of top hats through the years
5 Reasons for Tall Top Hats
We’ve all seen top hats in history museums, on TV, and rarely in person. They were an iconic fashion statement for many years, though they eventually opened the gates for a broad spectrum of hat styles. People wore top hats for many reasons, but the height was always changing through the years.
Here’s list of five reasons that people wore tall top hats:
- Top hats showed that you had a sense of fashion. Everyone was wearing them, so if you weren’t, people thought you were out of touch. Regardless of why you had a top hat, it was one of the most common fashion trends that nearly everyone was able to take part in.
- Expensive top hats were an indicator of social status. Low-class workers had their variation, as did the social elites. There were top hats for everyone. One of the main factors that remained the same for all classes was the height. You’ll learn more about the changing height of top hats in the final subheading.
- If you were confident, bold, and prideful, you’d have an elegant top hat. They were large and in charge. If you wanted to show that you weren’t one to hide away from the masses, you’d wear a top hat. After all, the height of the hat would show above everything else in a crowd.
- They were comfortable for many months of the year. You could wear a top hat in cold or warm weather. It didn’t matter if it was freezing because the hat would keep the top of your head warm. If it was hot outside, the hat protected your head from getting burned from the sun.
- Some top hats were worn for intimidation, but this purpose quickly faded as the trend became more popular. CR Fashion Book explains that people didn’t understand the concept. Making one’s self taller is known to cause intimidation or fear, just as it has throughout the animal kingdom.
As you can see, top hats had a plethora of purposes. There were hats that showed wealth, while others were a symbol of pride in the workplace. Men and women wore top hats, as did children. They were one of the hottest trends in England, but why did they go out of style? Find out why in the next section. Discover more intriguing facts about top hats here.
Why Did People Stop Wearing Top Hats?
It’s no secret that top hats slowly faded out of the public eye. We don’t see very many people wearing a top hat these days. They’re typically associated with old theater plays or magic tricks; But how could such a trend-setting fashion statement nosedive into nothingness?
Below, you’ll find a handful of reasons that people stopped wearing them.
- Most top hats didn’t conform to the head very well. They fell off very often if the wearer wasn’t able to afford a customized hat. They were comfortable if the person paid a lot of money, but low-end top hats were hard and unforgiving. After wearing it for several hours every day, it could cause a headache.
- They weren’t the best headwear for windy, rainy, or snowy weather. The temperature was fine, but rain could soak through a top hat in a matter of minutes. Moisture and heat combined to ruin many top hats. If it was windy, the hat would continuously blow off of the wearer’s head.
- Houses developed lower ceilings, making top hats a burden. Esquire Middle East states that most men stopped wearing top hats because homes were made with a low roof. They’d walk inside and their hat would drag on the ceiling. Such height changes were made to allow for an increase in houses, thus raising the population of a city.
- Fashion is always changing. There hasn’t been a single fashion trend that’s lasted longer than a few decades. Although top hats aren’t around much these days, there’s no denying the impact they’ve had on modern society. They’ve made room for baseball caps, ‘cowboy’ hats, and more.
- Fancy top hats were expensive and hard to maintain. If you purchased a low-quality hat, you’d save money, but it wouldn’t be comfortable. On the other hand, a top-notch hat was incredibly comfortable, but they were pricey and the repairs would break the bank. Many expensive materials, including silk, were used in the production process.
Top height might’ve gone out of style, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t fashionable. People continued to wear top hats for so long that it spread throughout the world for a long time. As with all trends, top hats opened the gates for other styles that continue into modern times. If you want to know how tall a top hat was in its prime, read on.
How Tall Were Top Hats?
Top hats were known for being tall, but the height ranged from four inches to 12 inches or more. It all depended on the purpose of the hat. Note that most ridiculously large top hats were worn for show, not for fashion.
The Tallest Hats Were Between 1830 to 1840
Top hats reached their peak at 8 inches. There were a few over 9 inches, but the average hat stood tall for a decade. After what started as a crime for wearing a tall top hat, countless people started wearing the extravagant headwear.
The Height of Hats from 1840 to 1900
Age of Steam claims that top hats were reduced to about 6 to 6.5 inches during this period. They worked better with the aforementioned reduced ceiling height. It also prevented the wind from blowing the hat away from the wearer.
Modern Times and Styles of Top Hats
After the late 1800s, top hats shrunk to about 4 to 5 inches in height. They weren’t too much taller than the wearer’s head, but they still had a similar fashion sense as the original top hats. People continued to use top hats between 6 to 8 inches for plays, magic tricks, and other parts of the entertainment industry. Read more about the height of top hats here.
Read more about famous people who wore top hats here. Top hats were tall because they were a symbol of fashion and being current with the times. Almost everyone wore them, which is why more people had a hat then those who didn’t. Although they went out of style in the 1920s, hats were worn for many decades afterward. Some people still don top hats of all sizes.
Here’s a quick recap:
- Top hats ranged from 4 inches to 12 inches tall.
- People wore tall top hats to show fashion sense and social status.
- The height of a top hat changed from the early 1830s until modern times.