Trilby vs Fedora - What's the Difference?

trilby vs fedora what is the difference
Trilby hats have brims less 1.5 inches wide and fedoras have brims 2 or wider.

What is the Difference Between a Trilby vs Fedora?

When you think about a Trilby vs Fedora hat, both can look similar, leading to confusion among both casual wearers and fashionistas. However, despite their appearance, the main difference between a trilby vs fedora is the brim size. Fedoras have a two to three-inch brim, while trilbies are often two inches or less. 

Stingy Brim Hats

Because of the shorter brim on the trilby, it's earned the nickname the "stingy brim hat." Fedoras are much more flexible and versatile, allowing you to snap the brim up or down according to your preference. Trilbies have a thinner brim that turns downward in the front and curves up in the back. 

 

A young man wearing an orange polo and a straw trilby hatStraw trilby hats are popular in Latin American and the Caribbean.

Wool vs. Fur Felt Hats

Most fedoras are made of fur or wool felt, while trilbies are usually made from cotton or straw. However, you can find both hat shapes in a wide array of materials. 

What is a Trilby Style Hat?

A trilby is a narrow-brimmed hat with a pinched, teardrop-shaped crown. 

Anatomy of a Trilby

  • Pinched Crown: The front pinch creates a teardrop-shaped crown that’s pointed in the front, and round in the back.
  • Crease: Trilbies have a center crease on top of the crown. 
  • Pinch: There is a slight pinch at the front, but it's not as pronounced as a fedora. 
  • Brim: A trilby has a narrow brim - around 2” wide - permanently fixed down in the front. 
  • Hat Band: Most trilbies come with a thin hat band the same color as the hat, trimmed on one side. 

    A group of trilby hats on a shelf
    A variety of trilby hats from different materials for sale.

    What Hat Did Frank Sinatra Wear

    Frank Sinatra wore both fedoras and trilbies. However, most of his fashion ensembles used fedora hats instead of trilbies. Sinatra also liked to tilt his fedora to one side. 

    Snap Brim Trilby

    The definition of a snap-brim hat is one with the brim you can turn up in the back and down in the front. Fedoras fit this description. But trilbies, which have fixed brims, do not.

    Straw Trilby

    Trilbies are more of a casual hat, so many of them are made of lightweight material like straw. Some examples include raffia, wheat straw, and Toyo straw. 

     

    Natural Straw Trilby Fedora
    Straw trilby hats are cooler because they allow more of your body heat to escape. Trilby hats (aka stingy brims) were worn by reporters with a press card tucked under the brim in 40s and 50s. Frank Sinatra also wore a trilby, and this hat is popular among jazz musicians. Trilbys are usually felty

    Origin of the Trilby Hat

    The name trilby comes from the title of the popular novel Trilby from 1894, written by George Du Maurier. The main character's name was Trilby. During a stage adaptation of the book, the actress who played Trilby wore a stingy brim sloped down in front, and up in back. The play was popular, and the name stuck.

     

    Since the play premiered in London, the trilby was first popular in English fashion before across the pond to the United States. 

     

    It wasn't until the 1970s that the trilby started making the rounds in America. The film The Blues Brothers helped bring the style into the mainstream. More recently, Jason Mraz, Ne-yo, and Pharell Williams have been seen wearing trilby hats. 

     

    What is a Fedora Hat?

    Brown Felt Fedora with 2" Brim
    Felt Fedora hats have a brim that is at least 2 inches wide. Felt fedoras first became big in 1920s. But they have kept their popularity ever since. Detective Dick Tracy wore a felt fedora hat, as did Indiana Jones.

     

    Men's fedora hats have a high-crowned (typically 4.5 inches), broad-brimmed (two to three inches) hat with a teardrop shape and a pronounced pinch in the front. One essential element of a fedora is that the brim can be snapped up or down, depending on your style preference. 

    What Does a Fedora Hat Look Like? 

    • Pinched Crown: A teardrop shape with a slightly rounded point in front. 
    • Crease: Fedoras have a pronounced crease on top of the crown. 
    • Pinch: The pinch of a fedora is much more noticeable than a trilby. 
    • Brim: Fedora brims are at least three inches wide. The fedora is a soft hat with a flexible brim that can be snapped up or down in both the front or back.
    • Hat Band: Fedora hatbands are usually made from ribbon the same color as the hat. The ribbon is trimmed on the right-hand side and sometimes decorated with a short plume of exotic bird feathers. 

      A man sitting down wearing a brown felt fedora
      Felt fedoras are popular because they retain body heat and provide shade from the sun.

      How to Wear a Fedora Hat

      The fedora is a versatile hat that works well for casual and formal occasions. Wearers should place the hat comfortably above the center of the forehead and above the ears.

       

      A good-fitting fedora will sit two fingers above your eyebrows. Some users may prefer to have a tilted look, similar to Frank Sinatra or Humphrey Bogart. The traditional look for a fedora is to wear it straight and to match the color and style to your outfit. 

       

      The Indiana Jones Hat that Harrison Ford wore in Raiders of the Lost Ark was a fedora.

       

      Wip and Brown Felt Fedora used by Indiana JonesThe character Indiana Jones wore a Felt Fedora in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

      How to Style a Fedora Hat

      There are a few elements to consider when picking a fedora, such as: 

       

      • Color - Typically, you want a brighter color for warmer climates. Darker colors work well for cooler environments, but we say wear what you want, when you want.
      • Material - Straw fedoras - also known as Panama hats - work well for hotter seasons. Alternatively, felt fedoras are ideal for cold weather and year-round in polar and subpolar climates.
      • Appearance - You can either go with a traditional, centered look or shift the hat to one side like Frank Sinatra. Also, the shape of the brim can affect how the fedora looks. The classic option is to snap the brim up in the back and down in the front. 
      Mustard Sunrise Fedora made by American Hat Makers
      Mustard Sunrise Fedora from American Hat Makers

      Straw Fedoras

      As we mentioned earlier, a straw fedora hat is also called a Panama hat. Since the Panama hat is exclusively made from straw, it's easy to mistake one for the other.

       

      The best time to wear a straw fedora is during the summer, as the material is more breathable and helps your head stay cooler. But you can also wear them year-round in equatorial, subequatorial, and tropical climates. 

       

      A group of Panama Straw Hats
      Fedoras that are made from straw are called Panama Hats.

      Bottom Line

      A trilby vs fedora is so often mistaken for the other that some hat stores even use the names interchangeably. But they are not the same. As a rule, trilbies are casual hats that are more fashionable than practical. In many cases, trilby wearers use the "halo" style and situate the hat on the back of their heads. By comparison, the fedora is a classic hat that works well for both casual and formal wear.

      More stories

      Buyers Guides
      Panama Hat vs Fedora - Ultimate Buyer Guide

      The main difference between a Panama hat vs fedora is that a Panama hat is made out of straw, and a fedora is... More

      Cleaning & Sizing
      How To Clean Your Straw Cowboy Hat

      Straw hats don’t last forever. If you wear it often, your straw hat will need a little cleaning after a few warm seasons... More

      Buyers Guides
      The Ultimate Guide to Women's Hat Styles

      Like hairstyles, women’s hat styles are always changing. In the 1920s, turbans and musketeer hats were popular. Today, fedoras and cowboy hats are... More