The vast majority of the internet simply can’t pinpoint the difference between a fedora and a trilby. No two hats in the world have been confused with each other, nor have two hats ever cause controversy as they have. The root of this confusion can be attributed to insufficient understanding of its form, how it’s worn, and its history.
To finally address this, we’ll dive deep into the differences between fedora and trilby:
Fedora vs. Trilby: A Rich History
As a classic hat, the fame of fedora fever dates back decades from today. In the twilight years of the 19th century, the fedora stood not only as a stalwart of the renowned hat tradition of the popular slouch hat or the homburg of the mid-nineteenth century and late nineteenth to early twentieth century respectively but is actually an evolutionary descendant. Unlike its predecessors, the fedora has stood the test of time and remains a classic statement piece up until this very day.
The trilby’s rise to fame is one that dates back to a certain performance of George du Maurier’s novel, Trilby. Henceforth, it was rechristened as such. It did not instantaneously rise to a famed status but was regarded as a ‘rich person’s hat’ at the beginning of the 20th century, mostly in Britain. It wasn’t until the 70s did the trilby resurface as an icon of the retro movement. While its fame wasn’t sustained, the headpiece found its way into the spotlight once again in the 21st century. It was this resurgence that led to the confusion and controversy we know today.
Perhaps what really solidified fedora’s position as a classic and timeless statement piece lies in the prominent personalities who incorporated the headpiece with their persona. In the world of show business and entertainment, nobody immortalized the fedora as well as Frank Sinatra, who combined Ol’ Blue Eyes swagger and sharp looks at the turn of the century to captivate the world. Perhaps only the likes Micheal Jackson gave the fedora a more rat pack, bad boy meets dashing, and stylish edge would come as close second.
While Fedora has more often been known to be the popular option, Sinatra also put the good old trilby to good use. With his slender, 5’8 frame during his younger days, he allowed the trilby a good run as he was a music and style icon during the 60s. The Blues Brother also popularized the trilby hat by appealing a reminiscent vibe of the time when men dressed with more formality through the bulging John Belushi. In contemporary times, Justin Timberlake has brought trilby back on the map the same way Madonna and Victoria Beckham have.
Form and Material
Fedoras and trilbies have been prevalent in the fashion industry in the past century. This longevity has manifested in the reinventing and re-imagining of the headpieces, giving birth to Google searches that go ‘fedora-like hats’ or ‘have similar to fedora.’
Such reinventing and re-imagining have led to innumerable material and style transformation and metamorphosis that further blurs the line that separates the fedoras and trilbies.
The difference between the fedora and a trilby in terms of key features like form and material is the size of the brim, the crown, and the wood felt material that typically makes up a fedora.
A Fedora hat usually has a flexible mid-sized brim; a castled crown, typically creased at the center, pinched on both sides; and wool felt material. While these are the common qualities, innovation has allowed fashion to expand the styles in which fedoras are made.
In the yesteryears of the fashion industry, fedoras were defined by its fabric, which was usually fur-felt or wool-felt hat. Thanks to the liberty and freedom time have gifted fashion, modern fedora hats can be made from a number of materials like hemp, leather, cotton, tweed, straw, and even wool-synthetic blends.
In hindsight, we understand how a trilby might be mistakenly perceived as a fedora. Their crowns are both indented at the center and are pinched on both sides. The key difference is that trilby crowns are pointier than fedora crowns. Trilbies have shorter brim sizes compared to Fedoras as well.
This is why trilbies are often judged to be a hat that serves no purpose other than fashion. Trilbies are often worn at the back of the head— not over the eyebrows. The small-brimmed trilbies have always made it seem like it’s a size smaller for the person wearing it.
The X Factor
Utility is what separates trilbies and fedoras most. How they are worn and why they are worn is the quickest way to draw a finer line between the two. It is the very confusion between these two hats that further throws either one in a worse reputation.
Considering its history and evolution, fedoras are considered the more formal hat. However, through its re-imagining, assisted by the personalities who’ve popularized it, the fedora is given the flexibility that encapsulates the sharp image of Sinatra and the famous ‘bad and I like it’ of Micheal Jackson.
On the other hand, the Trilby has developed a deep niche in sportswear and trends, specialized to become a casual piece. Poorly worn trilbies have often been misidentified as fedoras. While the grace of fedoras and the chill of trilbies are equally desirable looks, the line that must not be crossed is its distinct classes unique for each one.
Now we have a better understanding of fedoras and trilbies—the next step: slaying your next outfits using any of these two timeless pieces.
Fedoras have fuller and shorter crowns, as well as wider brims that can either be curled or flat and straight. Trilby hats, on the other hand, have pointier crowns and have shorter brim sizes compared to Fedoras.
A Fedora hat is defined by its hat shape, crown indentation, and a medium-sized brim that makes up the hat’s base, usually featuring a hatband of silk ribbon or leather to cover the seam where the brim meets the crown.
A Trilby is mostly worn at the back of the head and not over the eyebrows.