Practically since the beginning of recorded history, the color black has been significant. One of the first dye colors that people were able to reliably make, black can be seen in art as far back as cave paintings, and it began to be worn as a color statement as far back as the late Greek city-states, and the early Roman Republic. It doesn’t get much more classic than classical, does it? Fast forward two thousand years and we have the iconic European industrialists and their fur-felt top hats and bowlers in glistening black fur felt, and a hundred years after that the fur felt fedora in black emerges as the most classic of men’s hat styles.
Black clothe as a statement piece, that is to say a piece worn meant to say something about the wearer, can be traced at least as far back as 2nd century Rome, when the very rich began to wear black as a sign of mourning. These black clothes could be worn to commemorate either a death or a very grace defeat, but this could probably be pinned down as the the time when black clothing marked a very serious occasion.
By the Italian Renaissance, black had largely fallen out of favor in the mediterranean, with the exception of hats. Bright shirts, coats, and flamboyant trousers, were the order of the day, and all topped off with black satin or velvet hats. We’ve said many times before that modern hat wear began in Italy, and it began in Italy with the popularity of the black hat.
It wasn’t until the European Industrial Revolution that black reappeared generally as a popular color by the very rich, and it reappeared with the introduction of beaver fur felt hats in the form of top hats and bowler hats. You can hardly imagine the first robber barons without a towering top hat and an over-large pocket watch, can you? Fur felt allowed for a richness of color in the more somber palette of the period, and this tradition has carried forward to the present day.
So why is the black fur felt fedora the most classic, the most iconic, hat of the day? Why not the bowler, top hat, or homburg, all of which reigned as stylish pieces of headwear for over a hundred years? In the the nineteen twenties the planet was recovering from the horrors of World War I, and the young people of the time felt desperate to separate themselves from those that they blamed for the conflict, the old and the wealthy, the affore mentioned industrialists and robber barons. Revolution was on the rise.
The young people of the day turned to the up and coming fedora, distinctly setting themselves apart from the hat styles of the last century, and of the pre-war era. While their hat style had changed drastically, the color black was still fixed in the style consciousness as the serious color, the somber color, and the color of the businessman. The black hat was here to stay.
In the same way that the fur felt fedora was a sort of rebellion in the early twentieth century, so too was an influx of color in that same period. The black hat was never supplanted by other colors, but where black was the alternative to duller colors like brown in the past, the hat wearer began to have choices. Rich blues and red-browns began to be added to the spectrum of choices, complimented by light grays, and greens to match.
The black fedora has had its ups and downs in the last century, fading into and out of fashion with the times, into and out of common wear when more attractive or vivid styles and colors are available. Is the black men’s fedora here to stay, though? Our numbers say yes. The black fedora is an undoubtedly classic and established piece that will be a necessary part of any man’s wardrobe for years to come. It is a color and shape that has been cemented into our consciousness by millenia of use, a color that reaches back in our collective consciousness as far as our need and desire to make art.