A fedora // is a hat with a soft brim and indented crown. It is typically creased lengthwise down the crown and "pinched" near the front on both sides. Fedoras can also be creased with teardrop crowns, diamond crowns, center dents, and others, and the positioning of pinches can vary. The typical crown height is 4.5 inches (11 cm). The term fedora was in use as early as 1891. Its popularity soared, and eventually it eclipsed the similar-looking homburg.
The fedora hat's brim is usually around 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) wide, but can be wider, can be left raw-edged (left as cut), finished with a sewn overwelt or underwelt, or bound with a trim-ribbon. Stitched edge means that there is one, two, or more rows of stitching radiating inward toward the crown. The Cavanagh edge is a welted edge with invisible stitching to hold it in place and is a very expensive treatment that can no longer be performed by modern hat factories. Fedora hats are not to be confused with small brimmed hats called trilbies.
Fedoras can be made of wool, cashmere, rabbit or beaver felt. These felts can also be blended to each other with mink or chinchilla and rarely with vicuña, guanaco, cervelt, or mohair. They can also be made of straw, cotton, waxed or oiled cotton, hemp, linen or leather.
A special variation is the rollable, foldaway or crushable fedora (rollable and crushable are not the same) with a certain or open crown (open-crown fedoras can be bashed and shaped in many variations). Special fedoras have a ventilated crown with grommets, mesh inlets or penetrations for a better air circulation. Fedoras can be lined or unlined and have a leather or cloth or ribbon sweatband. Small feathers are sometimes added as decoration. Fedoras can be equipped with a chinstrap, but this is uncommon.
The term fedora was in use as early as 1891. Its popularity soared, and eventually it eclipsed the similar-looking homburg. The word fedora comes from the title of an 1882 play by dramatist Victorien Sardou, Fédora, which was written for Sarah Bernhardt. The play was first performed in the United States in 1889. Bernhardt played Princess Fédora Romanov, the heroine of the play. During the play, Bernhardt – a noted cross-dresser – wore a center-creased, soft brimmed hat. The hat was fashionable for women, and the women's rights movement adopted it as a symbol. After Edward, Prince of Wales (later the Duke of Windsor) started to wear them in 1924, it became popular among men for its stylishness and its ability to protect the wearer's head from the wind and weather. Since the early part of the 20th century, many Haredi and other Orthodox Jews have made black fedoras normal to their daily wear.
Fedoras in early American society
During the early twentieth century, a hat was a staple of men's fashion and would be worn in almost all public places. However, as a social custom and common courtesy, men would remove their hats when at home or when engaged in conversation with women. In addition, the ability to own a hat was culturally considered a sign of wealth due to fashion being recognized as a "status symbol." Only those with few economic resources would venture out without a hat. The introduction of a new line of felt hats made from nutria, an animal similar to the beaver, helped establish the fedora as a durable product. Prices, in the first decade of the twentieth century, for a nutria fedora ranged from ninety-eight cents to two dollars and twenty-five cents. Starting in the 1920s, fedoras began to rise in popularity after the Prince of Wales adopted the felt hat as his favored headwear. As a result, “the soft felt hat replaced the stiff hat as the best seller in the decade.” The fedora soon took its place as a choice hat and joined other popular styles that included the derby and the homburg.
In America during the 1940s, the brims of fedoras started to increase in width, while the British maintained a slightly smaller brim size. The colors of fedoras traditionally included shades of black, brown, and gray. However, this palette would grow at the onset of the second world war to include military themed colors such as khaki, blue, and green. One of the most prominent companies to sell fedoras was the department store Sears, Roebuck and Company. In addition, famous hat manufacturers which still exist today include Bailey, Borsalino, and Stetson.
Women and fedoras
In the 1880s, long before the fedora became popular for men, French stage actress Sarah Bernhardt popularized the fedora for the female audience. It soon became a common fashion accessory for many women, particularly among activists campaigning for gender equality during the late nineteenth century. The fedora was eventually adopted as a defining symbol of the women's rights movement.
Fedoras continue to be worn by women, however, not quite to the same extent as in the early twentieth century. Women's fedoras vary in form, texture, and color. In addition, these fedoras come in almost every color from basic black to bright red and even in the occasional animal print. Along with men's felt hats, women's fedoras were described as making a comeback in an article about 2007 fashion trends. Baseball caps, which have in recent years been the staple of headwear, are currently experiencing a decline in popularity amidst this “fedora renaissance.”
Make and form
Fedoras are usually made by pressing a piece of felt over a mold, and using some kind of heat or sealant to help the felt keep its shape. In the past, molds were created by using a series of wooden blocks to create the shape of the hat, and the felt was pressed on with an iron. The current method is to use metal molds and machinery to create enough pressure to form the shape of the hat. After the general shape of the hat has been achieved, the hat makers attach some sort of decoration, usually a ribbon, between the brim and the crown of the hat. The brim is either left raw, or hemmed. The fedora is considered a “soft hat,” which means that it is usually constructed from felt, fur, or animal hides. There are variations from hat to hat, but the standard design includes a creased crown, angled brim, a pinch at the top of the hat, and some sort of decoration above the brim of the hat. Men's fedoras especially tend to have stylized brims with edges that are turned down in the front and up in the back. As mentioned earlier, the width of the brim, overall size and color of the hats are subject to change with fashion trends. Women's hats also tend to have more elaborate decorations and slimmer designs.
Because of the soft nature of the hat, many variations are possible with Fedoras. One variation of the hat includes the Stetson playboy hat which was common in the 1940s. The Stetson playboy hat involved a marketing success story, with a simple variation on the general form of the fedora becoming a significant trend in America. Al Capone was fond of the playboy style. Many pictures of Capone depict him sporting a Stetson playboy hat.
Contemporary takes on the fedora include asymmetrical brims, bright colors, eccentric patterns, and flashy decorations. Some fedoras are now made from straw, and other unconventional materials. However, despite the increase of artistic hats, the most commonly worn fedoras are still neutral colored, with simple shape and design.
In popular culture
Coach Tom Landry wore the hat while he was the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. It would later become his trademark image. A cenotaph dedicated to Landry with a depiction of his fedora was placed in the official Texas State Cemetery in Austin at the family's request. In addition the Cowboys wore a patch on their uniforms during the 2000 season depicting Landry's fedora.
Indiana Jones re-popularized the fedora in the Indiana Jones franchise. The backstory of how he obtains the hat is told in the prologue of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the third film of the series, and the character who gives him the hat is credited as "Fedora".
In the 21st century, the fedora has made a reappearance in the fashion world along with other types of classic hats such as the porkpie and the homburg. According to H. Lee Murphy, fedoras are a bold new fashion statement, but still maintain a certain amount of nostalgia. Murphy credits celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, and Justin Timberlake for the new wave of fedoras. In addition, the fedora has appeared in recent portrayals of movies and television shows, set in the past, such as Mad Men (2007–15), Shutter Island (2010), and Boardwalk Empire (2010–14). Michael Jackson also frequently wore a fedora while performing on stage.
By the early 21st century, the fedora had become a symbol of hipsters. Vice has referred to the early 2000s as a "fedora renaissance", with celebrities like Johnny Depp and Pete Doherty wearing the hat, but claimed that by 2016, the fedora may be "the single most-hated fashion accessory money can buy". This is caused by the association of the fedora (or the trilby, which is often confused with it) with the "neckbeard" stereotype. During this latter period, James Toback was noted for his love of fedoras.
In film noir
The fedora was worn by film actors such as Edward G. Robinson, George Raft and Humphrey Bogart. The fedora was a characteristic of film noir and has been the chosen accessory of movie detectives and criminals alike. It was worn by Bogart as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Phillip Marlowe in The Big Sleep (1946). Peter Eliopoulos wrote in The 1930s: The Reality and the Promise: "The popular Bogart-styled fedora was worn slightly cocked, it was pulled down just above the eye line, so that the wearer peaked beneath the brim and through the cigarette smoke that gathered momentarily before curling itself around the top of the hat."
Billy Wilder wrote and directed the film Fedora (1978), which takes its title from the female lead character played by Marthe Keller. In addition, fedoras are a strong theme throughout the picture. Most of Wilder's film's feature fedoras prominently in promotional materials as well as in the finished films.
Gangsters and jazz
Fedoras were much associated with gangsters during Prohibition era in the United States, a connection coinciding with the height of the hat's popularity between the 1920s and the early 1950s. In the second half of the 1950s, the fedora fell out of favor in a shift towards more informal clothing styles. In addition, well-known gangsters such as Al Capone, Charles Luciano, and Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel used the fedora to create a "tough guy" image.
Fedoras were an important accessory to the zoot suit ensemble which emerged onto the American fashion scene during the 1940s. Zoot suits were mainly associated with Mexican and African Americans and were largely worn in segregated minority communities. As a result, this style soon spread to local jazz musicians who adopted this look and brought it to their audiences.
The association of the fedora with the zoot suit and gangster culture has caused the general public to view it according to this limited connotation.
In Orthodox Judaism
In Orthodox Judaism, fedoras have been an important addition to a man's wardrobe. Lithuanian yeshiva students in the first half of 20th century wore light hats during prayer and sometimes even while studying, as evident in a rare footage of the Ponevezh Yeshiva and a photo of the Lomza Yeshiva, both in Eastern Europe. Both the footage and the photo show students studying in their hats. Hasidic Jews wore black hats, albeit not fedoras, and in the later half of the 20th century, non-Hasidic (Lithuanian style) yeshiva students began to wear black fedoras (or dark blue or gray). Today, many yeshiva students and Orthodox men wear black fedoras for prayer and many even while walking outside. In recent years, Sefardic Jews began to wear black fedoras too.
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