What Is A Fedora? (Ask an Effortless Gent)

by Brian Adee  |  in Accessories

It’s a signature wardrobe item of old-timey gents from Frank Sinatra to Fred Astaire — but what is a fedora, anyway?

In today’s edition of “Ask An Effortless Gent”, we’ll be exploring the ins and outs of fedoras and sharing it all with you.

From defining what exactly a fedora is to discussing how to wear them with dashing style, you’ll learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about this classic hat.

What Makes A Fedora… A Fedora?

There’s a whole range of hats that you’ll hear (incorrectly) referred to as fedoras — from trilbys to pork pies and bowlers. (On that note, why not check out our guide to the 15 most common types of hats for men while you’re at it?)

Anatomy of a Fedora - Everything You Need To Know About Fedoras
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So what makes a fedora, a fedora? Here’s what helps a fedora stand out from the crowd:

  • Soft, wide brim
  • Center dent
  • Pinched crown
  • Often made of wool, cashmere, or felt

Are Fedora Hats in Style In 2021?

Though fedoras were a favorite of gangsters and entertainers in the 1920s, they’ve not always maintained a good reputation in popular style. So if you’re worried about looking out of place wearing a fedora in the here and now, are your concerns justified?

A lot of that comes down to how you plan to wear your fedora.

In our opinion, fedoras are definitely still in style right now (they’re classic, after all) — but you have to wear them with an appropriately dressy outfit to make the best of their style.

Trade out the t-shirts and tennis shoes for button-downs and chukkas, and a fedora hat will suit your outfit just fine.

Trilby Vs Fedora — Similarities and Differences

The closest cousin of the fedora is definitely the trilby — with the two hats looking so similar that they’re often mistaken for one another even by hat-savvy owners. 

As if that wasn’t enough to confuse a potential hat buyer, they’re also often made of the same materials. Trilbys, however, are considered a more casual hat, and will be made out of high-quality felt or wool less often than fedoras.

The most obvious difference between a trilby and a fedora is the width, angle, and style of the trilby’s brim: Shorter (or “stingy”), steeper, and permanently snapped-down, it creates a more severe angle no matter how you wear it. 

It also shares its shape and silhouette with the notoriously cheap, poorly-made brimmed hats you’d find being sold by street vendors in warm-weather locales, gas stations, and your local Wal Mart. It’s best to avoid these “fedoras”, which are actually awful variants of the trilby.

Lastly, the (classic, high-quality) trilby looks best on men with a smaller and narrower stature. That’s simply due to its proportions.

The stingy brim looks awkward and tiny on a man with broad shoulders and a barrel chest. A fedora, by contrast, is much more proportioned with its wider brim (yes, even on the narrower gent).

Sinatra and Draper in similar Trilbies (looks better on Sinatra).

Sinatra pulls off a trilby well. He was also a slimmer and shorter guy, so proportionally, it made sense. Don Draper, on the other hand, is a big dude with a barrel chest. The trilby just looks odd on him.

So avoid the trilby as much as possible, and go with an actual fedora if you’re going to wear a brimmed hat anyway.

What Do You Wear With A Fedora Hat?

The magic of the fedora is its versatility in complimenting a wide variety of outfits, from the dressy casual to almost formal wear. 

Of course a fine fedora pairs well with a suit and tie, but more rugged versions pair well with denim, check flannel, and a field jacket.

Raphael of Gentleman’s Gazette in a suit wearing a fedora. Barron in a more casual outfit with fedora.

The options are quite endless!

You can scroll up to the top for another look at Barron’s casual outfit—red and black check wool shirt jacket with a dark grey flannel shirt underneath—and his mink-colored wool fedora from Bailey hats… same fedora he’s wearing with his green quilted coat in the photo above.

Have you tried wearing a fedora?

Are you still looking for ways to add it to your everyday outfits? Or maybe you’re just not comfortable wearing one yet and need a few outfit ideas? Tweet at EG or DM on Instagram and let us know.