Saturday, July 30, 2022

The Fedora vs the Trilby, a brief history

A fedora, according to the American Hat Makers website "Trilby vs Fedora - What's the Difference?" is "a high-crowned (typically 4.5 inches), broad-brimmed (two to three inches) hat with a teardrop shape and a pronounced pinch in the front."  A trilby, while similar, is "a narrow-brimmed hat with a pinched, teardrop-shaped crown." The main difference between a trilby vs fedora is the brim size. Fedoras have a two to three-inch brim, while trilbies are often two inches or less. 

Both style of hats originated in the late 1800s. According to the website "The History of the Fedora," the word fedora comes from the title of an 1882 play, Fédora, which 

was written for Sarah Bernhardt. 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 play itself doesn’t have anything to do with hats, according to historian Phil Edwards.

"It’s a Russian tragedy about a woman who avenges her lover’s death (later, it was adapted into an opera of the same name). The thing that made Fédora stand out was Sarah Bernhardt’s performance."

But the hat was fashionable for women, and the women's rights movement adopted it as a symbol. 

Sarah Bernhardt wearing a brimmed hat in a photo taken
around the time she was in Fédora  
Image credit:

Meanwhile the trilby, according to the the American Hat Makers, comes from the title of the 1894 novel Trilby, whose main character's name was, oddly enough, Trilby. 

"During a stage adaptation of the book, [Dorothea Baird, the actress who played Trilby in the British version of the play] wore a stingy brim sloped down in front, and up in back. The play was popular, and the name stuck. Since the play premiered in London, the trilby was first popular in English fashion before across the pond to the United States. It wasn't until the 1970s that the trilby started making the rounds in America. The film The Blues Brothers helped bring the style into the mainstream. More recently, Jason Mraz, Ne-yo, and Pharell Williams have been seen wearing trilby hats."

Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi wearing trilbys as Elwood and "Joliet" Jake Blues
in the 1980 movie, "The Blues Brothers"

Pop Quiz! 

Now can you tell the difference now between a fedora and a trilby?


And what do you think, Miller? Is that a trilby, beltalowda?

Kim Philby's Trilby, on display in the International Spy Museum.
Photo credit:

Rory Gallaher should have named this song "Trilby" instead of "Philby." It could have worked...


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