Stephen Temkin’s
Hat Primer

© Stephen Temkin 2018


What is Felt?

Felt, as it applies to hat making, is essentially a textile composed of the matted fur or hair of an animal. The degree to which fibres will effectively mat, and the character and quality of the felt, depend upon the type of hair used.


What is a Dress Hat?

The term “dress hat” may sound scary to some. It implies that it is a hat intended to accompany formal dress. And yes, it can be that, but not only that.

Certain hats are known as dress hats not because they are necessarily formal, but rather as a way to define the category as separate from other types of hats, particularly sporting hats or caps, uniform hats and occupational hats.

A shiny black top hat is a dress hat, but so is a classic straw boater, or the full scale fedoras worn by Johnny Depp, or the slouchy porkpie perched on the head of Claude Greengrass (played by Bill Maynard) in the old British TV series, Heartbeat. The oversized, randomly bashed felt hats worn by Pharrell Williams certainly qualify as dress hats, even though they slip into the realm of costume.

A cowboy hat is not a dress hat. A safari or expedition hat is not a dress hat. And yet, the fedora worn by Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones is a dress hat, just not worn like one. What we call dress hats can and do function as casual hats. However, head coverings that are expressly casual, tweed caps for example, cannot do the opposite.

All wearing dress hats: Fred Astaire, Steve Buscemi, Johnny Depp, Bill Maynard, Pharrell Williams