It’s a known fact that John Hetherington, a haberdasher, invented the top hat. During the year 1797, he walked on the London streets wearing his new invention, which caused a riot. According to the historical records, the sight made children scream, and dogs yelp at the sight of the hat. Even legend has it that the women around fainted at the sight of his silk top hat that exhibited a shiny luster and made scared people who had a timid heart.
Usually, the silk top hats get made using a distinctive fabric known as the “silk plush” that comes with a long nap. It gives the top hat its increased shine that stretches over a tough gossamer shell.
However, right from the patriotic number Uncle Sam wears to the “That Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss, the top hats exhibit distinct styles and personalities. And the hat has a history which is as vibrant as the people who sport them. However, several interesting facts are surrounding the top hat. Some of the important ones include the following:
1. They can be literally cool
Back in 1911, Popular Mechanics came up with a new invention. It was an electric fan meant to get used inside a top hat. The fan has a switch at its brim, which was said to keep the head cool during warm weather. The battery got created in a way that it can last for many days. And the replacement was kept at 15 cents a pop.
Like Popular Mechanics, Popular Science also took an interest in the top hats. In its 1930 July issue, a writer wrote about the storage capacity of these hats just in case there was a pocket in it. The women’s hat had the capacity to store everything from a thread, needle to the powder puff. And in the case of men, a lot of things could get hidden in the silk top hat.
2. The “Mad as a hatter” has no link with Alice
The Mad Hatter, by Lewis Carroll in “Alice in Wonderland,” was famous for dressing to nines equipped with a magnificent top hat. However, the character is not from where the phrase “mad as a hatter” originated. Instead, the term has its history back in the 18th century, when the factories made use of mercury in felt production, which is a common material for making all kinds of hats. The factory workers got exposed much frequently to the metal that resulted in mercury poisoning, which leads to a kind of dementia. And it’s from here the term “mad hatter” originated.
3. It indicated a discrimination
The top hats created a phrase, “high hat,” that got used for a person who is arrogant or is extremely good for something.
4. Top hats have been the source of white rabbits for about 200 years
It was 1814 when one saw a rabbit pop out of the top for the first time. It was Louis Comte, the French magician who performed the classic magic trick of popping out bunnies out of the top hat for the first time.
5. Some hats were also collapsible
Gibus, which was a portable top hat got invented by Antoine Gibus in 1840. This spring-loaded topper got built in a way that it should get folded up and kept separately when no one is using it. And when a man is all set to use it, the hat can get back to its full size. These hats were also called the opera hats, as it was simple to condense and kept under the seat while watching a show.
6. A mogul increased the roof
Rumor has it that J.P. Morgan, the financier had a customized limousine for himself that had an increased roof. It enables him to ride his car in style while he sported his top hat.
7. President Nixon wore a top hat
In the 20th century, presidents often sported top hats for looking classy during their inaugurations. According to history, President Richard Nixon was the last president who got inaugurated sporting a top hat. After that, no president wore this hat.
8. The top hats made February 2nd a sophisticated affair
February 2nd is a big day! It is when most wonder how long they have to await spring. However, it’s another day for the top hats. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, the people who carry the trustworthy Punxsutawney Phil, the weather predictor, sport the top hats on Groundhog’s Day for the ceremony.
9. Slash did not pay for his top hat
Slash, a celebrated top hat fan, confessed sometime back that he didn’t pay for his top hat. In fact, he shoplifted the hat, which had a belt tied around it.
10. It has become lower
There have been several heights for top hats over the years. Much earlier, these hats were very tall and were close to eight inches. The Victorian Era was said to be a more subdued time for the top hats. And it was said that the tallest heights were between six and seven inches. And during the 1920S, the hat got reduced to five inches. Hence, over time the top hat height got reduced.
11. Lincoln’s hat saved him
Everyone is aware of President Abraham Lincoln’s classic hat look! However, the hat did save his life. Back in 1864, someone fired a shot at him while he was riding a horse close to his summer house, near the White House. The fire shot knocked off Lincoln’s hat, and the soldiers who saw it said that it carried a bullet hole right on the top. Also, President Lincoln was also wearing his top hat the night he breathed his last. He left it on the floor close to him while watching a performance at Ford Theatre.
The top hat is surrounded by historical anecdotes and interesting facts. If you are a top hat enthusiast reading these interesting facts would add to your knowledge about the hat. You can share these facts with other top hat fans as well.
Iskra Banović is our seasoned Editor-in-Chief at BlueFashion. She has been steering the website’s content and editorial direction since 2013. With a rich background in fashion design, Iskra’s expertise spans across fashion, interior design, beauty, lifestyle, travel, and culture.