Jessamyn's Regency Costume Companion: Menswear

From a series of hunting illustrations by George Morland, c.1800.
The carefully tailored, plain-cloth garments that made up the fashionable Regency man's wardrobe rose up out of the country wear of the English gentleman, and the hat of the period was no exception. Although the bicorne or "half-moon" hat remained the fashionable choice for dress wear throughout most of the Regency, the type of hat now known as a top hat rose up from its origins as a mere hunting topper to become an equally fashionable and indispensible part of a man's daily attire.

Here is a casual hat worn for hunting, illustrated around 1800. Practical low-crowned, wide-brimmed hats came into fashion in the 1780s and gradually became more tailored and curly-brimmed into the earliest years of the new century.

By George Morland, c.1800.
Another country hat, this one with a flatter brim as well as a flatter, sharper crown. These large, low-setting hats suited the long hair that was still holding over from the 18th century. As hair shortened and clung closer to the head, so too did hats.

From a plate in Costumes Parisien, c.1810.
By 1810, everyday hats had become somewhat taller and fairly straight-sided, and the brims had diminished. This vertical line coordinated with the long, columnar look then dominating fashion and most obvious in women's dress, with skirts and bodices at their narrowest.

From an 1819 plate in Costumes Parisien.

As the teens progressed, the sides of the hat passed vertical and began slanting outwards. The crown also gained height as the brim lost width. This brim's excessive curliness also emphasizes a busy vertical line.

From an 1823 plate in Costumes Parisien.
By the 1820s, the fashionable hat's outward slant had become a pronounced curve, and although the brim is not as curly as the previous example it still has a jaunty upward swoop over the ears. It was also in the 1820s that the tall hat superceded the flat bicorne even for dress wear.

From an 1820s fashion plate.
The outward-curving trend of the crown continued throughout the 1820s, here seen to be yet more pronounced.

From an 1824 plate in Costumes Parisien.

As the Regency drew to a close, hats had reached an apex of height and curliness; this self-satisfied-looking gentleman seems perfectly content to be sporting a hat taller than his own head!

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