Oliver Brown, owner, Kristian Robson, offers TheChicGeek some expert advice on buying and wearing a top hat
CG - What should you look for in a top hat?
KR - Black antique silk top hats are considered the height of beauty and elegance because of their impressive shine, shape and lightness, which is second to none. The modern versions, such as a fur felt in black and grey are bulkier than the antique style, though they do last very well. The 'Ascot Top Hat' and its taller counterpart the 'Hetherington Ascot Top Hat' are the closest alternative to an original silk top hat, but finished with ‘melusine’ fabric, they don't have the same impressive shine, look and lightness as an antique silk top hat.
Antique silk top hats are largely found in black, but can also be brown or grey which is often referred to as ‘white’ even though they are in fact grey. Whilst black is sometimes thought of as more formal, any colour can be worn to finish a morning suit or tails, and worn to all occasions.
If you’re looking for Royal Ascot top hats and have access to the Royal Enclosure, the dress code requires gentlemen to wear black or grey top hats without adornments such as coloured ribbons. The dress code is less restrictive within the Queen Anne and Windsor enclosures, however you’re welcome to adhere to the Royal Enclosure dress codes if you so wish.
CG- What’s the best way to get your correct size?
KR - We would always recommend a fitting with a top hat specialist. It’s very important to get the fit perfect so that the hat is secure enough that it’s not going to move or fall off, but not too tight that it leaves a mark when you take it off. The top hat should sit flat on your hear, not titled forward or backwards and sit ½ an inch above the ear.
CG - Is there any advice on proportions/height of the hat for the wearer?
KR - The shape and height of antique silk top hats evolved somewhat over the years, with the crowns gradually becoming taller in height and the brims narrower. The most common shape of antique silk top hats is the ‘bell-shape’ which has slightly curved sides, but there are also examples such as the ‘stove-pipe’ which has straight sides and is particularly tall. The shape you opt for is a personal choice, for example if you have a smaller head you may want to opt for a crown that’s lower in height to keep everything in proportion.
CG - Anything else in regards to style tips, maintenance etc.?
KR - The top hat must sit flat on your head, not tilted forwards or backwards.
To clean your hat, any dust on an antique or modern top hat can removed by lightly brushing it with a pure bristle brush; when dusting an antique silk top hat it’s important to brush in the direction of the nap to keep it smooth. You can treat it with steam if needed or bring it into the shop to have it cleaned.
Antique silk top hats were designed to be buffed and this will need to be carried out from time to time to keep their polished appearance. Using a velvet pad, sweep over the surface in the direction of the nap a few times until the hat’s deep, glossy shine is reinstated.
If you need to dry your top hat, for example because you were caught in the rain, it’s important you let the hat dry in a naturally warm and airy environment - never over direct heat such as a radiator which could distort the shape of the hat.
With a view to storage, we recommend you keep your top hat in a box, away from moths, and cover the whole hat in silk to protect it. The hat should fit comfortably in the bucket or box so it doesn’t move around too much during transportation, but must also be tall enough so the edges of the hat do not rub and cause wear to the crown.