Top Hats for Royal Ascot, Ascot Anecdotes - Part 4

Top Hats for Royal Ascot

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Top Hats for Royal Ascot

It’s surprising to know that Top Hats got off to a shaky start when the hat maker John Heatherington wore the first one to be seen in public on the streets of London in Jan 1797. At the sight of this unusually tall hat, women screamed and fainted, children cried, so the poor man was arrested and fined for ‘frightening timid people’.

Proving it had stamina; the top hat ran the distance and secured its place in high fashion when Prince Albert started wearing one in 1850.

But what about the fainting women? Well we are more apt to swoon at the sight of the hat now.

Originally made out of fur felt (beaver being the most expensive); silk came to gain the lead in the fashionable stakes. Silk is still out there in front but no longer manufactured, making them a rarity and most coveted.

Royal Enclosure Rule not to be broken

A top hat must be worn at all times within the Royal Enclosure area except for:  the restaurant, a private box or a private club. You can also remove your hat within any enclosed external seating area within the Royal Enclosure Garden. If in doubt, keep it on unless you see the vast majority taking theirs off.

Black or grey top hats are acceptable for black morning coats, but grey top hats partner well with grey morning suits.

Oliver Brown’s website states: “selling Top Hats for over 30 years and is the oldest independent silk top hat dealer in London. We are the official and only silk top hat dealer with a trade stand as part of the Royal Ascot shop on the course during the Royal meeting.”


Their vintage silk top hats start from £500…
Whilst their new top hats include:

Royal Ascot Tall topper – standing tall above the rest in this highly polished, black 6 ¼ inch high top hat.

Or go for the more popular 5 ½ inches black or grey top hats, felt finished.

Oliver Brown also stocks top hat boxes to keep your top hat safe. Vintage boxes start from £750 whilst new start at £450.

Savvy Row of stocks vintage British classic garments such as:

This brand new Christy’s black wool top hat with 5 ¼” crown and black morning band.

Check out their latest pieces online.

Speaking of ‘Mad as a Hatter’ – the phrase is said to originate from those unfortunate hat makers in the 1800s who used a mercury compound in the process of turning fur into felt.  The workshops were usually poorly ventilated and so the fumes were breathed in causing mercury poisoning which resulted in slurred speech, trembling, loss of memory, depression, anxiety and loss of co-ordination.



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