There was a day when a gentleman was rarely seen without a hat. The ubiquitous fedora, placed straight on his head, shading his eyes, or rakishly tilted off to one side, was more than practical. It made a statement.
Take Humphrey Bogart in the movie Casablanca, or Don Draper in the TV series Mad Men. Their hats lent them an air of power and prestige, and even gave us some insight into their states of mind. Pushed back on his head meant he was pensive or cocky. Pushed forward, shading his eyes, meant danger.
Recall the scene in Casablanca where Rick insists that Ilsa get on the plane, sacrificing their love for the greater good of the cause. Ilsa's eyes swell up with tears. Rick puts his hand to her chin and raises her face to meet his own, "Here's looking at you, kid," he says. Imagine the scene without Bogey's hat. Somehow, it just doesn’t work.
What would Don Draper's swagger be without his fedora? It’s the hat that gives him the edge. Sans the hat, he wouldn’t be quite as effective in the role of the mysterious, often-ruthless ad man.
It’s the same for the man on the street. When you wear a fedora you somehow feel more mysterious, maybe even a little bit dangerous. You definitely feel dashing. And that's exactly what fashion should do. Firing your imagination, it should transform you. Your attitude should change a little when you wear the fedora. You might even stand taller, and notice a bit of swagger.
Yet, when it comes to rocking the fedora, simply wearing the hat is not the be-all and end-all. In order to pull off the statement the rest of your clothes have to work in compliance. The current trend is one of precision with attention to details.
Wear the fedora with a well-tailored jacket and elegant loose-fitting trousers. Another way to sport the hat is paired with a tight-fitting sweater, straight-legged jeans, and oxfords. The contemporary man, shod in sneakers with skinny pants, a close-cut suit, narrow tie or thin knitted scarf topped with the fedora, is striking, whereas an ill-fitting suit or purely western-cut jeans are fashion disasters when worn with the hat. Of course, a poorly cut suit is nothing short of a fashion disaster, regardless.
The fedora is the hat to be worn for all seasons. It is always in style. When one season ends, fashion designers have already added the fedora to their next collections. For spring 2011, the suited felt fedora is set aside in favor of the woven straw version. Shown on the men’s fashion runways, played up with lightweight linen suits, tailored Bermuda shorts and the latest trend in sneakers, the hat is worn pushed back on the head, creating a playful, casual look.
Keep in mind that the hat does not make the look. Rather, when your style is tailored and sleek, the fedora is the cherry on top of the cake. It says, there, finished!