So you think you want a trilby hat? Not so fast. Wearing a hat is one of the most fun ways to amp up your style, but as with anything else in your wardrobe, it's essential to pay attention to fit, form, and function.
Given that the trilby is commonly mistaken for the fedora and ridiculed as the embodiment of hipster vanity, it's a good idea to make sure you know what you're getting yourself into before buying this piece of reviled headgear.
(Cue the dramatic music.)
To help you out, we're breaking down the basics of a trilby hat and offering some stylish alternatives to spare you any potential embarrassment. Once you have the details, you can decide which hat route you want to take and feel confident in your choice.
What Is a Trilby Hat?
Let's start with the name. Trilby hats got their name from French-British writer George du Maurier's 1894 popular novel “Trilby" about a group of fictional artists living in Paris. When it was performed as a play in London, the lead actress portraying Trilby wore a short-brimmed hat with a sharp rear brim. Since then, the “trilby hat” became a popular hat style in Britain and beyond.
When it comes to trilby hats, the short brim is the most defining feature. A short-brim hat measures an inch and a half or less, which is why this type of hat is referred to as a "stingy brim" hat. Because the brim doesn't hover over the eyes, a trilby offers almost no sun protection. What's more, trilbies are usually worn halo-style at the back of the head, meaning it's really more of a head accessory rather than a truly functional piece of fashion.
Whether it's a straw trilby, wool trilby, or some other felt trilby, these tiny-brimmed topper comes in a variety of materials. Heavier fabrics such as wool blends are appropriate for cold weather while straw, cotton, or canvas are more suited for spring and summer months.
Trilby crowns are typically short — don't expect a tall crown like those on a western hat or top hat. Much like a fedora or safari hat, trilby hats feature a center indentation with pinches at either side. Take a peek at our guide to the anatomy of a hat to get the full scoop on hat terminology.
We're not total trilby haters, but we do want you to look your best. Most people are suited for a mid-sized brim of 2 inches or bigger, even if you’re petite. If you're going to wear a trilby, keep this in mind otherwise you run the risk of it looking too small for your frame.
Make sure you're choosing the right hat size with our helpful sizing guide.
Alternative Hat Styles
The options are endless when it comes to finding the right hat to express your individuality. Try the following hats that will give you more style and swagger than the basic trilby.
Guys wearing trilbies might be influenced by the retro fashions of Frank Sinatra or Humphrey Bogart while women might be inspired by Victoria Beckham or Gwen Stefani. Yet in most cases, these celebrities were wearing fedoras, not trilbies. Check out our definitive guide on the fedora vs. the trilby, which settles the score once and for all.
Unlike the narrower brim of the trilby, the classic fedora has a wider brim measuring at least 2 inches in length. This not only offers protection against the elements, but it looks downright cool. The quintessential fedora is a wool felt hat that can be dressed up or dressed down any time, but one constructed from straw makes a great summer hat. Take a look at these mens wide-brim fedoras for more ideas.
If you really want a shorter brim, opt for a fedora with a brim that is just shy of 2 inches, such as the Dartmouth hand-woven shantung hat by Biltmore (pictured above). This swanky fur felt hat's brim measures 1 3/4 inches, which means it's still big enough to extend over your eyes while not looking too small for your head.
Pork Pie Hat
Like the savory British meat pie it's named after, a pork pie hat is a fashion morsel that's anything but bland. Its most distinctive feature is a flat, round-shaped crown (also called a telescope crown) and circular crease. While this hat style was first worn by women in in the 1830s, it later became synonymous with jazz musicians of the 1940s. Pork pie hats often have small “stingy brims” similar to the trilby, but they are rolled slightly upward to give it more of a suave finish.
For a sharp look, try the Encore felt pork pie hat by Scala (pictured above), a sleek structured wool felt hat with a streamlined 2-inch brim and black grosgrain band. For more options, shop our latest selection of pork pie hats.
When you want a small-brim hat that's big on style, look no further than a flat cap. These soft yet structured lids are another excellent alternative to the trilby hat. Also known as ivy caps, driver caps, and golf hats, flap caps are defined by a short, rigid visor and low profile — they don't have a crown because they don't need one.
For an instant dash of style to any ensemble, try the Cravat ivy cap by Stetson constructed of genuine Needmore ideas? Our guide on how to wear an ivy cap is loaded with must-have tips and cool styles you'll love.
It's OK to Wear a Trilby When…
(We admit we’re being a little tongue-in-cheek here, but there's nothing wrong with having some fun while telling it like it is, right?)
You're a baby.
Trilbies only ever look cute on babies. And that has less to do with the trilby and more to do with the baby. Because everything looks cute on babies.
You're in costume.
When you're donning that steampunk sci-fi getup for Halloween or need to nail that vaudevillian look for your upcoming theatrical DJ set, then a stingy-brim trilby might be the only thing that makes sense in these fantastically nonsensical scenarios.
You’re a tween.
Pre-teens obsessed with boy bands tend to get away with a lot of silly fads — furry rainbow socks, glittery unicorn nail polish, and cheap trilbies, for example. If you want to fit in at the next One Direction or BTS concert, then a puny-brimmed trilby is just the ticket.
Time’s Up, Trilby
The stingy-brim trilby has a history of mistaken identity and a reputation as fashion roadkill, but if you want to wear a trilby, by all means wear a trilby. We’re not going to argue with you.
That said, there are so many other fashionable options including the fedora, ivy cap, bowler hat, and pork pie hat, so do your research and take a look at our latest mens hats and womens hats for more hat-wearing inspiration.
The one thing we can all agree on: Any hat you wear is going to get dirty at some point. Follow our easy instructions on how to clean a hat and you'll be big on style even when sporting a short-brimmed trilby.