Trilby vs. Fedora Hat

“Wearing hats has become like fine art for me.”(Tina Brown) Hats certainly make you stand out if you wear one in our modern fashion of hoodies and beanies. But if you are going to wear a hat, you need to pick the right one.

You need to know your hats to make a good choice. Two iconic hats are the Trilby and the Fedora, but what is the difference between the two, and which should you choose.

Trilby hats have short brims and small crowns, while fedoras have wider brims and taller crowns. Both trilbies and fedoras have creased crowns and may have a ribbon around the crown. They are both considered elegant wear, but fedoras suit more face types than trilbies.

Trilby and fedora hats are commonly confused, but it is vital to know the difference between the two.

What is a Trilby Hat?

Trilby hat with black leather ribbon resting on a patterned cloth.

The trilby hat has a short brim of no more than two inches (five centimeters), and it became known as the stingy-brimmed hat. The brim is lowered at the front and sweeps up towards the back. The crown is short with a teardrop-shaped hollow in it.

Trilbies do not provide a function as their brims are too short for shade and the crowns too small for warmth. They truly are a fashion item only.

Frank Sinatra and Peter Sellers (Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther movies) were famous for always wearing trilbies.

Trilby hats became known as rich men’s preferred hats. They were commonly known as the brown trilby in England, where aristocracy and wealthy patrons wore them frequently to the horse races.

What is a Fedora Hat?

Fedora hat with felt-like texture and slim leather ribbon.

Fedora hats have soft medium length brims. The crowns are designed to fit on the head and are pinched towards the front. The creasing can be varied to create a teardrop or diamond-shaped crown.

There are other choices of creasing which can give individuality to the wearer’s fedora. Fedoras are functional hats that keep the sun off your face.   

Indiana Jones made fedoras famous in modern culture, and they became hats often associated with macho adventuring men. Michael Jackson also chose to wear a fedora hat in many of his stage shows and music videos.

How Do I Know the Difference Between a Trilby and a Fedora?

Fedora hats in various colors stacked on a table.

To give you some help in identifying these two hats, we decided to highlight the distinctive features.

Trilby vs. Fedora Brim

Trilby brims are very short – less than two inches. Fedora brims are longer with a minimum width of two and a half inches, but they could be much longer depending on the manufacturer.

Trilby brims dip at the front and are angled up towards the back, whereas fedoras have straight-level brims. Sometimes fedoras have curled brims, but this is not as common as the flat brim. Wide-brim fedoras have extra width and shade the face more.  

Trilby vs. Fedora Crown

Fedora crowns are approximately four and a half inches ( eleven centimeters), giving a good size crown. Trilby hats have much shorter crowns than this and usually perch on top of the head instead of covering the head.

The crowns of both trilby and fedora hats can be creased to create a teardrop indentation on the top of the crown. Fedoras can be creased in additional ways to make different indentations on the crown.

Both fedora and trilby hats can have a ribbon around the crown, but it is more common in fedoras. Fedoras are often adorned with a single feather tucked into the hatband, but this is seldom seen in a trilby.

What Materials are Trilby and Fedora Hats Made From?

Woman in black leather jacket and brown fedora hat posing against a stone wall.

Originally Trilbies were made using rabbit fur felt, but modern trilbies are made from wool, tweed, straw, or thick cotton. Fedora’s were also made from rabbit felt together with a host of other materials.

Beaver felt, wool, leather, or cashmere were used to make more expensive fedoras.

Felt used to make fedoras also sometimes included chinchilla or mink fur and mohair. Cheaper fedoras were made from straw, oiled cotton, canvas, or hemp.

Where Did the Names Trilby and Fedora Come From?

George Du Maurier wrote a novel named Trilby in 1894. It was adapted for the stage with the premiere in October 1895. The lead actress, Trilby, wore a hat with a very short angled brim.

The public loved the image, and the hat became popular and was known as a trilby.

Interestingly the name fedora also comes from a play where the lead actress wore a hat in the style of fedoras. The play by Victorien Sardou was named Fedora and opened in New York in 1889.

How Should I Wear a Trilby or Fedora?

Side profile of a man wearing a trilby hat.

Frank Sinatra, who was famous for wearing trilby hats, said, “Cock your hat – angles are attitude.” That sums up the way you should wear a trilby. It can be worn on the back of the head like a halo or tilted to one side to create an elegant asymmetrical profile.

Trilbies give the impression of someone who knows what they want and has panache.

Fedoras in the USA are the ultimate classy hat and can be worn in a variety of styles. In previous eras, people often wore fedoras level on the head. Modern fashion has included wearing fedoras at an angle.

Both trilby and fedora hats can be worn for casual wear, to semi-formal and highly formal events. The hat fabric determines its suitability for the event.

Fedoras suit almost any face shape, and the variety in brim width and crown crease gives some variation to find the hat that suits you best. On the other hand, trilbies are not suited to anyone with a large head, plump or round face. Putting a trilby on top of this face type makes it look larger and creates a comical appearance.  

Conclusion

Trilby and fedora hats are both classy and can be adapted to suit many different situations. They both have pros and cons, but fedoras are perhaps the better of the two. Fedoras are functional in that they provide shade for your face, and they suit more face types than trilbies.

You may identify more with the adventuring Indiana Jones look or prefer the suave Frank Sinatra appeal.  A good hat principle for choosing a hat says, “How a hat makes you feel is what a hat is all about” Philip Treacy.

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