A big, brown box with insignia-decorated tape arrived from London last week. Inside was my new trilby from the famous St. James’s Street hatters company Lock & Co. This one is their dark brown Rambler model, made from a Teflon-treated wool that makes it perfect for cold, drizzly days when an umbrella might be too much, but you still need some head protection. I thought it might be good for the coming spring showers, so I picked one up.
The trilby was first made popular in the late-19th century, when a stage character was seen wearing one in George du Maurier’s famous play about a hypnotist named Svengali. That stage production was adapted from his 1849 novel titled Trilby, which is, of course, where we get the hat’s name. Today, it’s well-beloved by the horserace-loving fraternity in England, and for such men, visiting the racecourses without one would be almost unthinkable. It’s perhaps for this reason that in the canon of classic men’s clothing, the trilby is to weekend country wear what the homburg is to city business use (assuming one can even wear a homburg at all in today’s age).
One of the first things one notices about Lock & Co’s trilby is how “unconstructed” it feels. Made from nothing more than woolen felt, it’s rather soft and crushable. In fact, I was surprised to see mine come in a big box, with a little cardboard protector inside to keep the hat’s low crown safe. I was expecting it to come in a travel tube, like this, since this style of hat is meant to be rolled up and then stuffed into pockets. It might sound sacrilegious to treat a nice hat so roughly, but the charm from a trilby comes from exactly that. Like a Barbour jacket or pair of hunter wellies, it looks better beat up, misshapen, and heavily worn. When you see the Brits wear them at racetracks, each and every one looks like he regularly beats his hat against the rails as his racehorse comes barreling down the finish line.
Many those men also seem as though they’re wearing a hat size too small. This isn’t because British men don’t know their hat size. It’s because most inherit their trilbies from their fathers and grandfathers, and felted hats tend to shrink over time. Signs of genuine use and abuse is what separates the man who’s wearing the hat because it’s natural to him, and one who is just trying to look the part. Lock & Co has some care instructions posted on their website, but I don’t plan on paying attention to any of it. Hopefully in ten years’ time, mine will acquire the slouchy, almost floppy character that makes a good trilby charming.
Lock & Co. told me they never discount the Rambler on their website, so I bought mine at full price. I did find, however, that this model went for about $50 at Mr. Porter. Rather disappointed I missed out on that, but I suppose like at the races - sometimes you win some, sometimes you lose some.
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- gentlemensfootwear said: I desperately needed this last week in NY! very nice!
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- abitofcolor said: Very nice. I’m heading over to Cable Car tomorrow or Thursday to try one.
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