Hat Types: The Homburg

Homburg | Royal Hats

History: The Homburg hat was a formal men’s daytime hat that emerged in the Bad Homburg vor der Höhe region around Hesse Germany in the mid 1800s. The style flew to mainstream popularity in the 1880s after King Edward VII paid a visit to the area and brought back a hat. He was thrilled when it was replicated and his aids, wishing to further flatter his vanity, further encouraged milliners to copy the style.

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British Prime Minister Anthony Eden embraced this style and when, as a young politician, his dapper dress sense brought him to prominence, he started a resurgence of popularity for the homburg as well. This renaissance is oven attributed to Winston Churchill, who also wore this style but the hat was so connected to Anthony Eden that by the end of the 1930s, Savile Row referred to it as “The Eden”. Still popular in the early 1950s, US President Dwight Eisenhower broke with tradition at his 1953 inauguration, wearing a black homburg instead of a top hat.

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Like other daytime hats worn by men, the homburg fell into obscurity during the second half of the 20th century (except for a brief comeback in the early 1970s after Al Pacino wore one in the film The Godfather). Today, the style is seldom seen outside of Orthodox Jewish communities.

Characteristics: A formal felt hat with a “gutter crown” – a single dent running down the center of the crown – and a stiff bound edge brim shaped in a gently upturned “kettle curl”. Unlike a fedora, a homberg does not have any ‘pinches’ at the front of the crown- the crown sides are smooth with that signature dent and resulting humps on top.

Royals associated with this style of hat today:  Worn by many male royals in the early 20th century, these days we see an occasional variation of the masculine shape on royal ladies. Much less popular than a fedora (which seems like a more flattering shape for a women to wear), we seldom see a homburg on a contemporary royal head.

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Queen Elizabeth in Rachel Trevor Morgan November 21, 2013; Queen Margrethe on April 8, 1970;
Countess of Wessex in Philip Treacy April 20, 2003;

 July 1923 | Royal Hats  Mar 14, 2018 in FD | Royal Hats

Queen Margrethe on May 9, 2007; Duke of York (later King George VI) in July 1923;
Queen Mathilde in Fabienne Delvigne
March 14, 2018;

May 1969 in John Boyd | Royal Hats Embed from Getty Images

Princess Anne in John Boyd May 1969 and March 14, 2014

It’s not often that a new style of hat becomes popular from its association with a particular royal wearing it- that makes the homburg notable for me. What do you think of this traditional and distinguished hat shape?

Photos from Getty as indicated; Mark Cuthbert, Holton Archive, Photonews and Terry Disney/Stringer via Getty

9 thoughts on “Hat Types: The Homburg

  1. I agree with HatQueen that the fedora is generally more flattering for women.

    What great history! It’s funny to think of the style catching on just to flatter the king. One thing I notice in the photos of the gentlemen, especially Edward VII, is that the hats seem to be perched on top of the head, as though they are too small. Was this intentional?

    • A homburg hat in general looks to sit higher on one’s head because it has a narrower and taller crown, and the brim also curves up, so visually one is draw upwards. Will it sit higher on some heads? Most certainly, and there are differing designs which also play into this, but ultimately it depends on each individual head with how high it will sit and look. If anyone saw Downton Abbey, you will find Robert Crawley in this hat style multiple times as it was the hat of the nobility, while the bowler was actually the working class hat (even though we find bowlers quite formal nowadays).

      Also, it may be a little ridiculous, but I would love to see Margarethe bring back that hat from May 2007.

      • Thanks for the explanation, Jake. I found an image of Hugh Bonneville from Downton Abbey, and he wears this style well. The sight of someone as bulky as Edward VII with the smallish hat is a little comical, though.

  2. I’m not at all fond of homburgs or fedoras. Queen Mathilde’s rather slouchy take is the best for my money. Somehow both styles are just too obvious if that makes any sense.

  3. I think I like the Philip Treacy on the Countess of Wessex because it has a small cartwheel brim and the Fabienne Delvigne on Queen Mathilde for the color,hatband and shorter straight brim. I usually associate this style with Winston Churchill and I do remember whenThe Godfather came out and some men wore variations of the homburg. I’m not sure whether it was The Godfather Part 1 or the sequel Part 2 when Al Pacino wore the hat. Does anyone else know? I want to say Part 2…..

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