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Old Hat or Fashion Forward?

Are Men’s Hats Making a Comeback? 

Article by Kelsey Huber

Photography by Kristol Kumar Photography

Originally published in Topeka City Lifestyle

Churchill wouldn’t be Churchill without his iconic Homburg hat. Bond immortalized the trilby. And it’s impossible to imagine Indiana Jones without his famous fedora. Hats are one of the few fashion pieces that have the impact to become part of a persona. There was a time when hats were all the rage. A man wouldn’t leave the house without his hat. They were an integral part of a man’s wardrobe. They came with funny names like homburg, fedora, trilby, porkpie, derby, and apple jack to name a few. But, somewhere in the middle of the 20th century, hats simply waned in popularity. So what happened to hats?  

There are many theories as to why hats went out of style. One cites practical reasons. Because people used to travel by horse or horse and buggy, they were exposed to the elements much more often. Once vehicles became popular, people spent less time in cold environments, so outerwear slowly became less important. 

Another theory proposes that men shunned hats when they returned from World War II because they had to wear them while in the service. You may have heard the theory that John F. Kennedy single-handedly killed the hat industry by being the first president to deliver his inauguration speech without a hat. But this isn’t true because several presidents before him also delivered their inauguration speeches hatless. Lastly, some surmise that because hats were traditional attire in the 60s that the youth rebelled and refused to wear them because “hats were what old men wore.” 

Regardless of the reason, hat wearing definitely declined, but now that 60 plus years have passed, could hats finally be making a comeback? We asked some current hat-wearing Topekans, including Topeka City Lifestyle’s publisher, why they wear hats, which styles they prefer, and whether they think hats might be a future fashion favorite.  

Kevin Cook - Attorney at Cook Law Office and County Commissioner

I’ve been a hat wearer for about eight years. It started one hot summer when I wore a fedora and it really kept me cooler. My father always wore ball caps. I wear straw Panama hats in the summer and wool hats in the winter. I’m not sure how long I’ll wear hats, but for now, I’m enjoying it.

Favorite hat - fedora

Owns 10 or more hats - wears fedora on weekdays, ball cap or cowboy hat on weekends

Quote - “I think hats are a stylistic choice. They’re not everybody’s style, but I like them.”

Garry Cushinberry - Senior VP of Community Relations @ CoreFirst Bank & Trust 

My father always wore hats, although it may have been for more practical reasons like keeping the sun off his head or for warmth in winter. My older brother always wore apple hats. Being a banker for 37 years, I think hats add another level of dress. They complement suits and help men accessorize their wardrobes.

Favorite hat - straw hats in summer and Stetson is his favorite brand

Owns 10 hats - including ball caps, Panama hats, and stingy brims (any kind of fedora with a brim shorter than 2 inches).

Quote - “My favorite hat is the one I have on.” and “Hair is overrated.”

Brett Martin - VP of Community Impact at United Way of Kaw Valley

I started wearing hats about 20 years ago. I’ve always liked the look of hats on men. It all started when I came across a fedora in a second-hand shop made by a hatmaker from Eureka, KS, which is where my grandmother was born. I had to get it.

Favorite hat - scally cap for bartending, fedora or trilby for dressing up

Owns 6 dress hats, several scally caps and newsboy caps, a trilby, and one wide flat brim hat

Quote - “Men don’t have a lot of options when it comes to accessorizing. Hats provide an opportunity to express one’s own style.”

Roger Montgomery - Track Safety Worker at Heartland Motorsports Park

I’ve worn cowboy hats from the time I was a little boy. We had horses, so the cowboy hat was my hat of choice. I have fair skin and I like spending a lot of time outdoors. The hats keep my ears from burning. I also walk my dogs and I can take my cowboy hat off, fill it with water and it doubles as a dog bowl. I let it dry and it’s good as new.

Favorite hat - cowboy hat

Owns 5 or 6 cowboy hats

Quote - “The way you look in a hat can change your perceived personality. They can even become your trademark.” 

Bill Persinger - CEO at Valeo Behavioral Health Care, Inc.

I’ve always worn a hat. All of the men in my family wore hats. My dad was a highway patrolman and he was in the Navy, so hats were always a part of his persona. My grandpa worked on the roads in the 60s. I can still see that tan leather hat hanging on the rack. My other grandpa was a farmer and always wore a straw hat. 

Favorite hat - fedora 

Owns 20 or more hats - 3-4 fedoras, a dozen baseball caps, cowboy hats for dancin’

Quote - “I get a lot of positive comments on the fedoras and I’ve noticed more and more of them.”

Gary Piland - President and CEO of Umbrella | Roaring Rat Films 

I wore a derby hat right after high school. I was a rock-n-roller with long hair and I just liked the look. My wife and I were in Hatman Jack’s in Wichita and she said I had to get the derby.  A 90-year-old woman told me, “A man isn’t dressed until he puts on his hat.” 

Favorite hat - derby hat. It’s very versatile.

Owns 10 derby hats and a straw hat for summer

Quote - “Wearing a hat is a statement that you’re willing to go another step on your style. It’s one more thing men can do to set themselves apart.”

Brian Rodehorst - Publisher of Topeka City Lifestyle Magazine

I bought a Panama Jack straw hat after getting inspiration from the show White Collar. I loved the hats that the main character wore. Since then, I’ve bought many other fedoras as well. I think hats give off a positive vibe and make men more approachable. 

Favorite hat - fedora - I like the Indiana Jones look currently

Owns 7 hats

Quote - “I think there are a lot of positive aspects that go along with wearing a hat. They symbolize class, chivalry, and the art of being a gentleman.”

  • Brian Rodehorst
  • Roger Montgomery
  • Gary Piland
  • Kevin Cook
  • Garry Cushinberry
  • Bill Persinger
  • Brett Martin

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