Posts Tagged ‘new silk plush’

It has come to my attention that Lock’s will be making around 20 new top hats in silk plush. This is due to the discovery of a roll of old stock vintage plush one of their customers discovered in their attic.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/1c29dc88-b3b9-11e1-8b03-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1xzgUMnir (it’s further down the page)

They would be made in two of the bigger sizes of 7 5/8 and 7 3/4 of course as these sizes are extremely rare. However, the cost is a whooping £4,500 but I guess that is the cost of a rare bespoke silk topper!

You can see some photos of them making one of the new silk hats here: http://torontotophats.wordpress.com/2012/07/02/new-silk-plush-top-hats-by-lock-co/

As an aside, I have still yet to discover the validity of the ‘new silk plush’ that is used by the firm Silk Top Hats (if you remember, I asked him a while back if he could send me a swatch of the plush for me to confirm it is the real thing to everyone which he refused to do which is strange as my appraisal would be commercially advantageous to him…). I urge anyone who has bought one of his new silk toppers to get in contact with me so I can finally confirm it is genuine silk plush that he uses so others can buy with confidence from him.

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One of my New Sheridan Club colleagues alerted me to a letter that was published in The Times newspaper on the 16th June 2011. Here it is below:

Sir, The preponderance of black stove pipe hats is making Royal Ascot look like an undertakers’ convention. The grey topper is more suitable to a summer race meeting but appears to have joined the “at risk” species.

It is fashion, I fear, but if men really wish to pass themselves off as Victorian mill owners, they should invest £2,000 or so in a black silk shaped hat, not one of the Mad Hatter coal scuttles seen crammed down on unlikely heads and only kept up by pink ears.

Michael Cole
Woodbridge, Suffolk

There are several inaccuracies and presumptions that needed to be corrected here. The letter is rather vague: does he mean all black toppers or just the wool ones? And does he mean a silk plush topper when he says ‘black silk shaped hat’ (which for me conjures up the image of David Beckham’s Royal Wedding sorry excuse for a topper)? Also, there are hardly any stovepipe crown toppers worn nowadays; the most common is the semi-bell crown.

In any case, it would be a failing of me to not respond to this after being given the green light to respond so I wrote this immediately:


Black top hats are suitable for Royal Ascot and at any time of the year. It is the black wool variety that is more suitable for the undertaker as it does not polish to a shine (hence why mourning bands are made of wool). The ‘white’ hat was once made of silk but now it is made of fur felt as grey silk plush is no longer produced (though I know of one hat maker in the entire world that can make black silk top hats out of new silk plush) and came to be worn at the races as it was fashionable to do so before the War. Currently in the UK, black fur plush top hats are the best hats available. The better silk plush variety can be had vintage from as little as £35 for those with a small hat size (the larger the size the more expensive as people in the past had smaller heads). It is better to get one of these vintage hats than splash out thousands on something like David Beckham’s sorry excuse for a topper. Plus, I think black hats look better with morning dress than grey ones. Also, the most common shape of a top hat is a semi-bell and not a stove pipe which has a crown taller than 6 1/2” and the sides are straight and do not taper like the ones worn by President Lincoln.


Charles Rupert Tsua

Author of ‘Guide to Buying a Top Hat’


The letter was published in today’s Times and I have scanned it below:

They missed out the bit about new silk toppers (probably because they didn’t believe in that claim). It’s too bad they didn’t mention my Guide or provide a link to it as it would help quite a number of people I suppose.

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Most recent update: 26th June 2018

The top hat supposedly first appeared in 1797 on the streets of London. A story goes that an English hatter, a Mr. Hetherington, literally caused a riot on the street and was fined a tidy sum of £500 for disturbing the peace for wearing a hat that he invented (i.e. a topper)! This has since been proven as a myth and the person that really invented the top hat was actually a Frenchman. George Dunnage (a master hatter from Middlesex) is credited to have introduced the hat to Britain around 1793. Regardless of its origins, the top hat had gained popularity and by the Regency Period, it was de rigueur for everyday wear for the English gentleman (who would eventually be the only ones in the world who would still wear and value the hat long after all other foreigners have abandoned its use, even for formal dress that required it). Indeed, a gentleman would risk being spat at in the street if he did not wear a hat in the past!

Fred Astaire

Fred Astaire wears a silk plush topper whilst the men in the background wear silk grosgrain opera hats. Note how he wears it at a jaunty angle (the thespian’s slant). The more elegant (and proper) way is to wear it dead straight, especially in formal settings.


How times have changed. Now, you would find it difficult to see anyone wearing a hat these days as the continuous de-formalisation of dress and manners slowly creep in. The slobbiness has set in and in due course, T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops would be considered too formal for business wear as we let it all hang loose and adopt the ‘not boovered’ attitude… But I digress.

The only places where top hats can be worn are few and far between. It is restricted to the most formal dress codes of the land. You will need it at Royal Ascot in the Royal Enclosure, investitures, weddings, balls, galas, operas and any formal event that demands morning dress or white tie. Whatever you may wear with a topper, an inferior one would definitely make you look like you’re in a costume. Indeed, inferior toppers can be spotted from a mile away. Plus, you must wear the right kind of topper that is appropriate to your dress and occasion otherwise it will definitely be costume!

Here I put forward a guide to sourcing, buying and wearing a topper. Do not ‘panic buy’ a topper (like they did in an episode of the British version of The Apprentice where they headed to the most expensive place possible); do your research, wade through all that is available and purchase wisely. You could get a bargain easily if you know how.



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