The Essential Fedora: How to Look Classic in this Iconic Hat

The fedora has been back in vogue for quite some time now. We see it in movies and television, from Mad Men to the new Gatsby movie by Baz Luhrmann, not to mention it sits atop the crown of a certain doctor of archeology who happens to be one of America’s most-loved 20th-century action heroes. From Cary Grant to Tom Waits to Johnny Depp, the fedora is the treasured accessory of the independent man–IF you know how to pull it off. When done right the fedora can lend a gentlemanly–and downright manly– quality to your look. When done wrong it can make you look like you thought Panic at the Disco was actually a pretty solid band. When choosing the right fedora there are several things to look for that can elevate your look from hipster to timeless:

  • Wider brims are a must. They strike the right silhouette and do what fedoras were actually made to do: Shield your eyes and neck from the elements. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and find a head-umbrella. A good should peak out at somewhere between five-to-seven inches from your skull. Most good fedoras have flexible brims that can be “molded” to taste. Try flipping the back of the brim fedoraup and pulling the front down. Then sit down with a large newspaper in a public. People will begin staring at you uncomfortably. This is because you look like a spy.
  • Pay attention to the material. If your hat is made out of woven straw, it isn’t going to keep the rain out, is it? (one exception is the great, time-honored Panama, essential for–and only for–the sweltering summer months). Felt is of course the old standby. For colder climates they make hats out of thick spun wool, or even leather (be careful with that one, it’s a tricky thing to pull off).
  • While the color of your hat can accent and contrast your outfit, it should ideally match the color of your shoes and belt (which should, of course, be matching each other). This means that your fedora is probably going to end up being a neutral brown, black, or tan. For those with more colorful or eccentric tastes, remember that your hat has a ribbon which can perfectly voice the particularities of your style. And some have even been known to place a feather or two in their cap. (but, for the love of god, don’t go overboard in the plumage department).

Above all, a good fedora is subtle, utilitarian. It works with the outfit, rather than wrestling all the attention away from it. If you enjoy wearing ties, blazers, leather shoes, and pants not made out of denim, a carefully chosen fedora can accentuate and class up your outfit. If you’re headed to the club in a white tee and studded belt, you can rock the punk-rock-casual look like a champ without forcing period headwear into the mix.

The fedora is a quiet nod to times gone by. It is a wink, not a leer. It should be understated, matter-of-fact, tactful. Like all the great men we admire who pulled it off with panache. Let your shoes and your tie do the talking. The fedora says it all with a look. —

Maxwell Arnold is a writer, blogger, fashion-lover, and outdoor-appreciator living in Seattle, Washington. He works part time as a writer for HatsRCool.com blog, which may lend to his credibility on fedoras.

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