East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

On fedora hats

Leave a comment

According to both my grandfathers,

A man without a hat is a man of no consequence

Both my grandfathers had two hats, one for workdays and one for Sundays and special occasions.
The everyday hat was a simple cap, what I’d call an eight panel or a newsboy, a standard working man’s hat that could be easily rolled up and put in a pocket. The hat for special occasions was a Borsalino. A fedora.

Quoth Wikipedia:

A fedora /fɪˈdɔːrə/ is a hat with a soft brim and indented crown. It is typically creased lengthwise down the crown and “pinched” near the front on both sides. Fedoras can also be creased with teardrop crowns, diamond crowns, center dents, and others, and the positioning of pinches can vary. The typical crown height is 4.5 inches (11 cm).

Wikipedia goes on to point out that fedoras are usually wide-brimmed – narrow-brimmed hats in this style are called trilby.

I tend to follow the lead of my grandfathers – I normally wear a tweed newsboy, but I also have a fedora.
The fedora is particularly useful in case of rainy weather, but it also goes well with a winter coat or a somewhat more formal jacket & tie getup.
Now, my generation is familiar with the fedora hat thanks to Indiana Jones – but one would be hard pressed today finding a hat like that1 because Indy’s fedora is an old, 1940s style that is generally taller than the hat going by the same name today. Indiana Jones’ hate appears bulkier than its modern counterpart.

Before that, the gangster movie Borsalino had made the style and brand popular with the general public.

In recent years, after a resurgence in the popularity of the fedora, its adoption first by hipsters and then by (believe it or not) “men’s rights activists”, the old Indy hat has become the object of much widespread hatred.
And it is a pity that a passing fashion had such an impact on a timeless accessory – the sort of headgear that’s both functional and cool, and that’s both elegant and casual. It’s also unisex, and indeed is pretty popular with the public of the female persuasion. The hat is also still popular with lovers of the pulp era, with fans of adventure movies and in general with people of good taste that do not know what a “men’s rights activist” is or does.
Outdoorsmen often use a fedora as an alternative to simpler caps for their outdoor activities.

So, where to find and how to chose a fedora?
I am twice lucky.
First, I live in the countryside, and on market day it is possible to find a sturdy, functional fedora, crushable (that is, that you can roll and pocket), made of good wool and water-resistant, for about ten bucks.
Second, I live 25 kms from Alessandria, where Borsalino was traditionally based, and where the factory showroom is still open. The good news, a Borsalino fedora is forever: durable, beautiful and classy. The bad news: don’t expect to spend less than 300 bucks on your hat.
Is it worth the money? Certainly.
Can I afford it? Not right now.

If you don’t live in the (Italian) countryside or close to a Borsalino outlet, your best bet is probably shopping online.You can get a good fedora for everyday use for about 30 bucks.

Make sure you get the size right, and make allowances for the growth of your hair.
Also, as a general consideration, remember that only Jigen, in Lupin the 3rd can wear a black fedora and not look like a Mafia hit man.
And he is a hit man.

Go for browns or greens, and if really you want it black, consider a silk sweatband with some color.

  1. There are movie prop replicas on the market, but they are expensive – better go for a full brand Borsalino, for the same money. 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.