Hat Types: The Trilby

Trilby | Royal Hats

It has been a long while since I added hat types to our glossary- I’m going to start some additions today with a hat I get lots of questions about. Hopefully, this will clear up some confusion!

History: In the early 1989s, actress Sarah Bernhardt brought the fedora into great popularity when she wore it on the London stage. Several years later when George du Maurier’s 1894 novel Trilby was adapted for the stage, a hat similar to the at-the-time popular fedora but with a lower crown and shorter, downward brim that turned up in the back was worn in the first London production of the play. This hat promptly was named “a Trilby hat”.

The style reached mainstream popularity in the 1960s thanks to low head clearance in American automobiles which made it impractical to wear a hat with a tall crown while driving. Like all other styles of headwear worn by men, the trilby faded into obscurity during the 1970s and 1980s. In recent years, the style has returned to popularity as a trendy accessory for millenial men and women. Originally made from rabbit hair felt, contemporary trilbys are now often made of other materials including tweed, straw, wool and wool/nylon blends.

Characteristics: Like a fedora, trilbys usually have a crease down the center of the crown with visible “pinches” in the front on both sides. A trilby brim, however, is shorter than a fedora, angled down at the front and turned up at the back (whereas a fedora brim is more flat) Traditionally, the crown of a trilby is also slightly shorter than the crown on a typical fedora.

Royals Associated with this Hat Style: Not widely embraced by royals, we see them on a mix of people. The recent surge in popularity has been embraced by several younger royals.

Countess of Wessex, Dec 29, 2013 in Jane Taylor | Royal Hats Princess Eugenie, Dec 25, 2009 | Royal Hats Queen Margrethe, Oct 1, 2013 | Royal Hats

Countess of Wessex, Dec 29, 2013; Princess Eugenie, Dec 25, 2009; Queen Margrethe, Oct 1, 2013;

Mike Tindall, Aug 28, 2016 | Royal Hats Autumn Phillips Mar, 12 2014 | Royal Hats Princess Tsuguko, Jan 26, 2016 | Royal Hats Princess Anne, Dec 4, 2012 | Royal Hats

Mike Tindall, Aug 28, 2016Autumn Phillips Mar 12, 2014; Princess Tsuguko, Jan 26, 2016; Princess Anne, Dec 4, 2012

Zara Tindall, March 13, 2008 | Royal Hats Princess Grace of Monaco, 1970 | Royal Hats Duchess of Cambridge, Dec 25, 2011 in Jane Corbett | Royal Hats

 Zara Tindall, March 13, 2008;  Duchess of Cambridge, Dec 25, 2011; Princess Grace of Monaco, 1970

What do you think of the Trilby as a hat style?

Photos from Max Mumby/Indigo and Chris Radburn/PA Images via Getty; Nils Meilvang via Berlingske; Tim P. Whitby  and Max Mumby/Indigo  via Getty; Motoo Naka/AFLO/Nippon News/Corbis; Max Mumby/Indigo via Getty; Press Association; Popperfoto and Chris Jackson via Getty

11 thoughts on “Hat Types: The Trilby

  1. The Duchess of Cambridge’s wine colored trilby is one of my most favorite hats of all time! It’s been in her millinery closet for 6 years and I wish she’d wear it again, The color, the velour fabric and the unexpected ruffles in the back make this a wonderful hat. If she doesn’t want it anymore she could always send it to me!

  2. Best: Sophie Wessex Worst: Pcss Grace (I didn’t even recognize her). The others look nice, but it’s not my favorite style. Thanks for the hat information. I’m a hat moron, I know what I like, so pieces like this are really nice.

  3. Queen Maxima in Portugal on October 10th:
    Embed from Getty Images

    Embed from Getty Images

  4. Sign me up for Team Trilby. I often feel that fedoras are too casual for formal wear, especially for royals. Trilbies, on the other hand, give off a more refined air while still being jaunty. They are a particularly good match to petite wearers–I wish Princess Marie would give up fedoras and wear trilbies!

  5. Interesting post! I wonder if the reason a lot of Royals don’t wear the trilby is because it’s perhaps seen as too casual? Personally, I like it. I find it very chic on all the Royals pictured. In particular, it’s very fetching on Zara Tindall and the Duchess of Cambridge. However, no one holds a card to the stunning Princess Grace. Elegance at it’s best.

  6. It’s great to get back to Royal Hats, after being off the web for a bit while out of town, and catch up on all the posts and comments and readers’ royal news updates – hope your holiday is going well HQ!
    HQ, your descriptions of hat types beat any others around; so thanks so much for this one on the trilby.
    I love the trilby — its unexpected curves, its indents, and its side-view asymmetry. It looks terrific on men and women of finer, lighter proportions, and those of smaller stature who might look overwhelmed by a taller, or wider-brimmed hat (conversely, Mike Tindall, pictured above, is an example of a tall person with strong proportions and features who I feel should walk right past the trilby – which looks too dainty for him – and head straight to a decent -sized fedora).

    • Mcncln: welcome back! I agree with everything you’ve said, especially the Mike Tindall comment. His hat looks too small to me, sitting high on his head! I have several LOUD plaid trilbies which have been purchased more as gag gifts from our church festival through the years. They’re fun to wear, and they help ward off the summer sun from my ever increasing scalp exposure. It’s hell to grow old! Jimbo

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