Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Topping It Off... The New Trend For Top Hats

It must be one of the more unusual trends to develop in the fashion and design worlds. The fad for top hats and bowler hats has finally come out of the closet (literally), where it lingered for several years as one of those quietly whimsical thing only stylists knew about, and is now firmly in the Glamoursphere. (That inner circle where high-fashion items sit. Also known as the IN list.)

Photographer Rodney Smith used them first. Well, actually, Margritte used them before him. Then The Thomas Crown Affair adopted them... Then Ralph Lauren. Then Lady Mary, I think? Oh, I forget the order. But here are some fine examples of this dashing fashion accessory, which will soon be making an appearance in a closet or home near you...

Spotted on the New Victorian Ruralist's website this morning. Like the fine dandy he is, James has adopted the top for his brand photo. {}

Shot on Fifth Avenue in New York on a recent trip. This was a stunning window display. I'm sorry now that I only snapped this detail.

The extraordinary photography of Rodney Smith, who is undoubtedly one of the best photographers in the world. Mr Smith (he's so extraordinary that he really needs to be called Mr Smith) uses the bowler hat as one of his recurring motifs, and in fact has made  it his signature look. Even his website has the bowler as the favicon. So witty. {} 

The inimitable Thomas Crown Affair, and the equally inimitable Mr Brosnan. How is it possible that a man can look this handsome? The film's poster and indeed some of the storyline was inspired by Belgian surrealist RenĂ© Magritte's self-portrait 'The Son of Man' (or 'Le fils de l'homme' in French). The painting is about the idea that we all hide behind a facade of sorts. "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see," Magritte explained of his famous work. He also painted 'The Man in the Bowler Hat', but in my opinion it isn't as witty. 

The legendary Marlene Dietrich. Did you know she and Greta Garbo once got it on in Frank Sinatra's Palm Springs pool to try and turn Frankie on? No? A bit of Marlene trivia for you there....

And Kate Moss' reinvention of M's signature look..

And then Ralph Lauren's versions...

Oh, how I love, love, love the top outfit. There's nothing like a top hat (in this case a riding one) and a sliver of veil to create a sexy, slightly androgynous mystery. One blogger called it "a statement piece – a mix of high fashion, equestrian chic, and burlesque femme fatale." Just add a black bustier dress and killer stilettos, she said. I agree. Although I'd perhaps put something on down below, as well, just to be modest. {Via Ralph Lauren}

Not that Dita von Teese cares about top OR bottom... But when you're this gorgeous, you only need to wear a top hat to look fabulous. (Although perhaps tuck that nip in a bit Dita...)

Another sassy little lady is Lady Mary from Downton Abbey, who just looks more and more fantastic with each scene. This was perhaps my favourite. The riding scene. Just before she...well, you know.

Did you know there's a website called F--k Yeah Lady Mary? (Forgive the language. My Catholic grandmother would be stirring in her grave right now.) It calls itself a site for "fans of the flawlessly flawed Lady Mary Crawley". You can look it up at {} Do take a look – it's surprisingly good.

The always-glamorous Kate Waterhouse, who never puts a foot wrong during Spring Racing Carnival. Unlike some of the horses I back. {Via SMH}

Photographed in New York on a recent rip. While not exactly a top hat or bowler hat, this window display did tap into the current fashion for all things equestrian and/or dandy-ish... I suggested to my sister-in-law that she might like to wear this to Derby Day. I'm sure it would have gone a treat at the Emirates Marquee.

My bowler hat in our Black Library. This came from the great little vintage store Izzi & Popo in Melbourne. It sits with my favourite photographs of Miami's iconic Raleigh Hotel, a receipt from the first date my partner and I went on (The European in Spring Street), and a paper skyline of New York that he created as a Valentine's Day card one year. (I've asked him to do Paris this year, but he muttered "one was enough!") 

By the way, there's a funny story about the receipt. I had it framed and then realised, looking at the total bill of $250, that my partner would have never spent that much on dinner! Turns out it was from another date at the very same restaurant exactly a year before! How ironic is that? I had to do a fast swap before he noticed and said "What the...?"

Royal Ascot, which I attended as a media representative, even though I know next to nothing about horses, racing OR society events of this nature! But the top hats were fabulous.

And finally, to top it all off (sorry, couldn't resist), there are these fantastically witty, neatly dressed top hat pendant lamps by designer Jake Phipps. Perfect for adding a dash of whimsy to a space, these lampshades are made of actual top hats lined with anodized aluminum for an authentic British Gentleman charm. Can't you just see these in a cool bar somewhere in Mayfair? {}


  1. Such a great post. Love the look of a bowler hat on both women and men. I remember in the late '60's my father going to work each day in one when he worked for the M.O.D. in London! x

  2. Janelle, I have taken the liberty of pinching some of your glorious photos and mentioning you on my blog hope you don't mind and hope you like what I said, if you care to visit! I was not able to email you.
    I am thoroughly enjoying your postings and look forward to visiting each day. Julienne

  3. Just a quick note to say thanks so much for a lovely evening of blog browsing. A friend sent me your blog link today and it's marvellous. I was worried I might really dislike you out of pure jealousy (you're doing my dream job AND you have libraries, plural!) but hey I'm nicer than that (mostly)...

    I look forward to many more browsing hours in your library. A x

  4. Hi Ann, Thanks for your kind compliment. So glad you like The Library. And I'm pleased you don't hate me because of my job! (Please don't, it's really very dull and lonely most of the time.) Hope you continue to enjoy the Library posts. Janelle x

  5. Came home from Texas with my dad's Stetson last nite.

    Only 1 place to pack it. On my head.

    He died 15th.

    Only reason the Stetson could possibly be mine.

    Yes, it will be my 'new' look.

    Garden & Be Well, XO T

  6. Oh Tara, I'm so very sorry to hear your news. What a sad January. But I'm sure he's thrilled that you have his hat! I once met an amazing old cowboy in Palm Springs called Frank Bogert - he used to be the mayor of Palm Springs - and he STILL wore his Stetson, his cowboy tie and 40-gallon belt buckle. Such a gentleman. I'm sure your father would have been the same. My thoughts are with you. Hugs and best wishes from here. Janelle

  7. Hello ... your blog is gorgeous! I absolutely adore the header! I am also a huge fan of top hats (I actually own one with black netting that I wore to a race day once) and I love the whole equestrian theme in both fashion and interior design. Such a great post and I can't wait for the next series of Downtown Abbey! Lady Mary looks fabulous in her riding outfit!
    So lovely to find you
    best wishes
    aka M.A. the 2nd

  8. I might have to raid my husband's family attics. If I remember correctly there are at least 10 top hats of various vintages in there (including the pop up version still in its 1920's box). The hat boxes all have the monogram of the owner stamped on the outside of the box (they were my husband's Grandfather, Great-Grandfather and Great-great Grandfathers).


Thank you for stopping by. It's always lovely hearing from The Library's readers.

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