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I have a top hat, now what?
October 27, 2011 3:50 PM   Subscribe

So I have a top hat. 1) What can I pair it with for Halloween that isn't some outlandish character*, and 2) how can I wear it on days that are not Halloween and not look like I'm (trying to) dress way up?

I've been fond of top hats for quite a while, and about a year a go, I bought one with urging from my wife. I only wore it home from the hat shop, and since then it's collected dust. Halloween is a good time to use it, but I want it to be more than a once-a-year hat. Is it too formal, or can it be dressed down without looking like a costume piece?

* I looked for "top hat characters" and found that list, but they're mostly outlandish characters, or at least require some costume elements that I wouldn't use much beyond keeping in my (at the moment) non-existant costume trunk.
posted by filthy light thief to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (30 answers total)
 
My only idea so far for using the hat (found from that linked list) is the guitarist Slash. All I need is a silly black wig, a guitar, and maybe black jeans with some shirt, and I'm set. But I'd like more ideas and suggestions.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:52 PM on October 27, 2011


1.) Get yourself a stuffed groundhog, and go as a member of the Punxsutawney Inner Circle

2.) Unless you are also wearing white tie, and attending an event where white tie is appropriate, a top hat will look absolutely, unavoidably costume-y, no matter how you wear it.
posted by neroli at 3:59 PM on October 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Be a magician and pull a stuffed rabbit out of the hat! You'd just need a black suit and a silly bow tie like this guy.
posted by jabes at 4:00 PM on October 27, 2011


Alex from A Clockwork Orange?
posted by Sphinx at 4:05 PM on October 27, 2011


I dressed someone up as Professor Layton one year. Definitely not outlandish, and all the costume elements can be incorporated into your wardrobe. Added bonus if you're walking around outside: it's warm.

Ingredients for one Professor Layton: top hat, blazer, orange shirt/sweater thing, slacks, list of riddles.

I went as his apprentice and we found that it was fun to ask people riddles. We also found that we were huge geeks because nobody at the parties we crashed had any idea who we were.
posted by millions of peaches at 4:10 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


As much as I like top hats, there is no way I could ever accept it as anything other than a costumey affectation. Admittedly, there are certain eccentric characters, such as Slash, who can get away with wearing a top hat, but that's because they've made it their "thing". On an average, everyday Joe? Nuh-uh, no way. You'd be Fedora Guy x 1000.
posted by Diagonalize at 4:13 PM on October 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


There isn't a way of dressing down a top hat for everyday occasions, I'm afraid. They used to be part of evening dress but are completely archaic now.

You can play it straight, by going in a top hat and tails as Fred Astaire or a similar character from fiction who had a scene in a top hat and tails. You can be a performer of some kind that still uses top hats, such as a magician or, as brilliantly suggested, a groundhog.

Outside of playing it straight, a top hat culturally connotes an evil or sinister master of ceremonies at a nightmare fuel-type circus. Alex from A Clockwork Orange is an example of this.
posted by tel3path at 4:13 PM on October 27, 2011


1) Can you dance, or at least caper around? From what little I can discern of your build and face from that photo, you could be an awesome Fred Astaire. Beloved, fancy, and with a costume you can rent at any tux shop or...
2) get fancy white tie clothing and arrange to be invited to all the best events. Beyond that, I can't think of a way you can incorporate a top hat into daily clothing without looking affected or bizarre.
posted by verbyournouns at 4:14 PM on October 27, 2011


One word: Slash.
posted by etc. at 4:18 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I believe Alex DeLarge wore a bowler (a.k.a. derby), not a top hat.
posted by wwwwwhatt at 4:20 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Abe Lincoln
posted by K.P. at 4:23 PM on October 27, 2011


Re 2) no, you simply cannot dress down a top hat. You will look like an affected tool whenever or wherever you wear it, unless you're in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot. Even then you'll look like an affected tool, but you'll have an excuse (inbreeding).

Speaking as someone who once sported a bowler hat...
posted by wilful at 4:25 PM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Upon reflection, for everyday use, top hats would probably NOT look out of place within certain subcultures. Magic is the obvious one, but circus arts folk (jugglers, unicyclers, fire spinners, etc.) probably won't bat an eye at a top hat unless you start capering around like you're some kind of crazed ringmaster. Burning Man enthusiasts won't care either, particularly on the playa, but also if you live in the kind of place that has regular Burner gatherings. Same for burlesque shows, where mini-top hats have gone through a kind of revival for the ladies, but I'm sure a gentleman in a top hat wouldn't be amiss.
posted by Diagonalize at 4:26 PM on October 27, 2011


I like the Professor Layton idea that millions of peaches suggests. It's comfortable and recognizably geeky enough that it would be fun.

As for wearing it in everyday life ... well, like others have said, it's going to look costume-y no matter what you do, but I think that can be OK. Just own it. My recommendation is to either dress it way down (but not sloppy) -- like nice, well-fitting dark jeans and a nice T-shirt and blazer -- or dress up a bit more. You're going to look affected either way, but I think more people should have fun with fashion. Have a sense of humor and don't be self-conscious while wearing it.

(But then I like people who are more like "I'm wearing this because I'm interesting and that's just what I do" rather than "Wearing this makes me interesting." There's a fine line, but I think it's about confidence.)
posted by darksong at 4:29 PM on October 27, 2011


Oh I had an idea for 1) Sir Topham Hatt, the Fat Controller.
posted by wilful at 4:30 PM on October 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


Rich Uncle Pennybags, aka Mr. Monopoly. Optional: white "get out of jail free" wings. Also optional: jokes about the 1%.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:47 PM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


As far as costumes: the 1%? Bonus if you can get someone else to be the 99%.
posted by quadrilaterals at 4:48 PM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


As far as costumes go, you have the makings of a chimney sweep. Plain cotton Henley, suspenders, trousers, a little soot on the face, and some sort of long brush and you're good to go.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:10 PM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


A top hat is inherently formalwear. It's like asking "how do I wear a tailored tailcoat and pull it off casually" or "I'd like to add a cummerbund to my daily wardrobe"
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:29 PM on October 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've had great success with Zombie Lincoln lo these last several years, but I've also considered the following mashups:

Werewolf Lincoln
Hipster Lincoln
Abraham Kinkon (Assless chaps)
posted by The White Hat at 6:23 PM on October 27, 2011


Seconding Fred Astaire. Easy and women love men who can dance!
posted by knolan at 6:43 PM on October 27, 2011


This may not be your cup of tea - but one of the costumes I am proudest of was from when I was 18. I had the top hat and a bow tie, and wore this over an all-white outfit with large black Holstein spots cut out of felt. I carried a cane and wore shoes with paper fake spats. I waited for people to ask what I was, and then told them "I'm Fred, a steer."
posted by Miko at 8:11 PM on October 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


It is an outlandish character indeed, but the spirit of jazz(at 2:13) would suit you very well!
posted by winna at 9:09 PM on October 27, 2011


Mr Peanut! A top hat, a cane and a monocle.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 9:45 PM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


For the everyday: You strut that top hat like a pimp and don't give a fuck.

There is something, I promise you, that people already think is an affectation of yours and you don't even know it. There will always be people who can't get around others' differences. Yes, wearing a top hat will get you more looks than, let's say, a t-shirt and jeans would. However, you'll learn to perfect your calm measured stare and become, with any person who's actually your friend, an obviously confident bad-ass.

So you wear that top hat, fellow brother of odd, and you rock it. If I come across you out in that great wide world, I, and others like me, will want to give you a high-five and wish we could pull it off too.
posted by DisreputableDog at 10:53 PM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


For the everyday: You strut that top hat like a pimp and don't give a fuck.

There is something, I promise you, that people already think is an affectation of yours and you don't even know it. There will always be people who can't get around others' differences. Yes, wearing a top hat will get you more looks than, let's say, a t-shirt and jeans would. However, you'll learn to perfect your calm measured stare and become, with any person who's actually your friend, an obviously confident bad-ass.

So you wear that top hat, fellow brother of odd, and you rock it. If I come across you out in that great wide world, I, and others like me, will want to give you a high-five and wish we could pull it off too.


Keep believing it!
posted by wilful at 11:13 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Remember the brothers and sisters that Peter Pan whisked away to Neverland? You should be John Darling.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:04 AM on October 28, 2011


Fred, a steer, is awesome. That will be my first goal. Alternative 1: monopoly man, though I feel like I'm too tall and not round enough in the face to pull it off, but I really like the Get Out of Jail Free winged Moneybags idea. Alternative 2: John Darling, because I'm tall, I wear glasses, and I could wear a long night gown-ish thing and slippers all day!

As for the top hat at other times: I'm tempted to start wearing it just because I feel like it. After all, I have a hood with fuzzy arms that I love wearing (it's like a hoody, but only the hood, and then there's fake fur trim that extends another 3+ feet beyond the edge of the hood). And I like to think of myself "capering around like you're some kind of crazed ringmaster."
posted by filthy light thief at 11:57 AM on October 28, 2011


For the record, I don't actually think there's anything inherently wrong with capering around like a crazed ringmaster. I just meant that circus arts folk probably wouldn't take kindly to a random dude ordering them to juggle at his command because he thinks his top hat imbues him with magical ringmastering powers. But if you just want to caper like a maniac in a top hat? Go for it, dude. I'll still think you're a weirdo, but I like weirdos!
posted by Diagonalize at 8:22 PM on October 28, 2011


Oh, I'm not expecting any powers or persuasion over carnival folks, but I like to cavort about like a goon from time to time. Or just walk around with an unusual hat on my head.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:00 PM on October 30, 2011


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