A fedora is usually made by pressing felt over a mold, and using some sort of sealant to keep the shape of the felt. In the past, molds were created by using a series of wooden blocks to create the shape of the hat, and the felt was pressed on with an iron. The current method is to use metal molds and machinery to create enough pressure to form the shape of the hat. Between the brim and crown, the hat maker attaches an element of decoration that completes the overall shape. The brim is either left raw, or hemmed. The fedora is considered a "soft hat," which means that it is usually constructed from felt, fur, or animal hides. There are variations from hat to hat, but the standard design includes a creased crown, angled brim, a pinch at the top of the hat, and some sort of decoration above the brim of the hat. Fedoras for men tend to have stylized edges with a flat front and a raised back. As mentioned earlier, the width of the brim, overall size and colour of the hats are subject to change with fashion trends. Women's hats also tend to have more elaborate decorations and slimmer designs.
Because of the soft nature of the hat, many variations are possible with Fedoras. One variation of the hat includes the Stetson playboy hat which was common in the 1940s. The Stetson playboy hat involved a marketing success story, with a simple variation on the general form of the fedora becoming a significant trend in America. Al Capone was fond of the playboy style. Many pictures of Capone depict him sporting a Stetson playboy hat.
It is documented that fedoras have been around since 1891. This grew in popularity, eventually displacing the similar-looking homburg. The term fedora comes from the title of a play by Victorien Sardou, Fédora, which Sarah Bernhardt wrote in 1882. Sarah Bernhardt first performed the play in the United States in 1889. Her role was that of Princess Fédora Romanov, the play's heroine. As a cross-dresser, Bernhardt wore a soft brimmed hat with a center-creased brim during the play. For women, the hat was fashionable, and women's rights activists adopted it as a symbol. In 1924, Edward, Prince of Wales (later the duke of Windsor) First wore hats, which became popular among men for its elegance and weather resistance. The black fedora has become part of many Haredi and Orthodox Jewish women's daily wardrobe since the early twentieth century.
Gangsters & Jazz
Fedoras were much associated with gangsters during Prohibition era in the United States, a connection coinciding with the height of the hat's popularity between the 1920s and the early 1950s. In the second half of the 1950s, the fedora fell out of favor in a shift towards more informal clothing styles. In addition, well-known gangsters such as Al Capone, Charls Luciano, and Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel used the fedora to create a "tough guy" image.
The fedora was an essential fashion accessory that helped introduce zoot suits to the American scene in the 1940s. Zoot suits were mainly associated with Mexican and African Americans and were largely worn in segregated minority communities. As a result, this style soon spread to local jazz musicians who adopted this look and brought it to their audiences.
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