Bogart wore one with the brim over his eyes to rough up gunmen. Jimmy Stewart kneaded one in his hands when he looked nervous in front of the girls. It was a rumpled fedora that gave Clark Gable that shabby look of a drunkard in front of the boys, and a beaten hat that helped Roosevelt sell his ideals to the common worker. And what about you? What’s the impression you want to give? Are you a rakish adventurer or a city-worn reporter? Your hat can tell the story. As with all worthwhile stories, it won’t be told overnight or in its entirety with your first purchase.
The classic fedora is the perfect first addition to a man’s hat wardrobe; finding the right hat and knowing how to care for it is what will separate the men from the boys. I’ve created a focused guide for those new to fedora ownership outlining things to look out for when making this all important purchase and how to take care of your fedora once you find the one that's right for you.
1. COLOR : Begin with grey. Brown or any other color just isn’t as versatile as a grey fedora – it will take you from wear with suits to a fashion piece on your days off. It can be worn with blue, grey, and black suits and pretty much any sports jacket you have. (You’ll be happy you held off on the brown hat when you notice that you’re spared being called ‘Indiana Jones’ every day of the week.)
2. SIZING : Never buy a hat that’s even a bit too tight, even if you think it will stay on better on those windy days! You don’t want to have to tug if off of your head, and it will cause enough headaches (literally) that you won’t wear it. If your choice is between sizes, always go big. Leather can shrink with constant exposure to moisture and drying out.
3. QUALITY : Resilience in the rain and pliability are two factors to ask about when purchasing your fedora. Your felt hat will soak up water like a sponge in a downpour, and you don’t want your hat drooping over time. Asking whether the hat can be crushed or rolled and still return to its original shape without the integrity being compromised is another important inquiry. Some felts are better than others in this regard. (I tend to abuse my hats and roll them for travel, not all hats can take this abuse).
4. CLEANING AND CARE : Your hat can look rumpled, but please keep it clean! Brushing keeps the dust away, and a hat can collect dust for decades that can be pushed off with a quick whisk. (Always brush your hat in a counter-clockwise direction.) For those hearty, deep-down felt problems, I pull out my off-white rubber hat sponge. It takes out those easy-to-get grease and salt stains that come from grabbing the brim and crown. If that doesn’t work, I go for the heavy-duty with Scout hat cleaner. Just spray it on and let it dry to a powder, then brush it off. If the stain is deeper and you are not used to using Naphtha or other cleaning agents, then take your hat to a professional. For dress hats, I highly recommend Graham Thompson of Optimo Hats in Chicago. There aren’t many hatters left that can do a good job cleaning and blocking, and if you want the best, he’s the one!
5. RAIN : Don’t be afraid to wear your fedora in the rain, but you need to know that when felt gets wet, it tends to stay in the shape that it dries in. If it is a soft felt hat like a fedora with a snap brim and the hat is soaked, leave the hat, brim turned up, on a flat surface with a towel underneath. If you leave the hat upside down on its crown (as many hatters suggest) you will end up with flat spots on the top of the crown, and if you turn out the sweatband the brim will droop, so don’t. (If it is a firm hat like a Western hat or like some of the Indiana Jones hats on the market, or a homburg, place a towel on the arm of a chair or a sofa and place the hat on the towel with the brim hanging over the sides. If you leave the hat on a flat surface the hat will conform to that surface.)
|A good gray hat can easily work with a navy or gray suit... a solid business headwear staple.|
A white hat gives versatility, and with the right ribbon like on the one above, you can wear it with a navy or brown suit with ease. With a black ribbon, you can wear it with nearly anything.