All About the Pork Pie Hat
Education

All About the Pork Pie Hat

August 31, 2022

Pork pie hats have been an iconic staple of casual and formal fashion for both men and women since the mid-19th century.


Pork pie hats have been an iconic staple of casual and formal fashion for both men and women since the mid-19th century.

Named for its resemblance to an English pastry of the same name, this timeless classic suits many styles, and helps its wearers look both comfortable and elegant in every environment.

What is a pork pie hat?

The pork pie hat, also called the English pastry hat, is similar to the fedora. It sports a thin brim creased all the way around a short, rounded, and flat-topped crown. Popular in black, gray, and brown, these hats are usually made of felt, though some are crafted from straw.

Its intriguing name comes from the hat’s resemblance to the Melton Mowbray pork pie, a popular pig-filled pastry from the late 1800s whose crust is a near-perfect (and delicious) facsimile of the brim of the pork pie hat.

Pork pie hats, such as Brixton's Stout Pork Pie, are timeless wearables that give expression, uniqueness, and cultured elegance to their wearers.

History of the pork pie hat

Seeing that the modern pork pie hat is worn mostly by men, it may surprise you that this hat debuted in Britain as a popular women’s fashion item in the mid-nineteenth century.

The inventor of this unique piece of headwear is unknown, but the story behind this particular hat is enough to give it an aura of classic and enduring style.

Early beginnings

Between 1830 and 1865, ladies would attach ribbons, feathers, or a bow to the region between the brim and crown, highlighting the hat’s delicate sensibilities.

At this time, pork pie hats were made with cotton canvas coated with silk, felt, and straw. British hatmakers introduced the men’s pork pie hat in the late 1880s, which eventually fell out of fashion.

Buster Keaton and the resurrection of the pork pie hat

Buster Keaton brought the pork pie hat back to the United States in the 1920s. Famous for his “great stone face” and hilarious comedic stunts, Keaton wanted a sturdy hat that would withstand the hardships of being on (or off) his head in the daring scenes of his silent movies. He made his own pork pie hats by cutting down a good Stetson and then stiffening the brim with sugar water; he went through thousands of them throughout his career.

The popularity of pork pie hats—which came with a relatively smooth top and very short flat brim at this point in time—revived in the US and Britain after Americans picked up on the hat style after seeing it being worn by English men and women in tennis matches.

The Great Depression era marked the peak of the pork pie hat, when it regained its narrow brim and increased somewhat in height.

The humble pork pie hat in popular culture

In the 1940s, African American culture took the humble pork pie and rocked the hat in a new style by making it flashier, adding feathers and color-coordinating them with the wearer’s outfit. Lester Young, a jazz saxophonist, always wore a pork pie hat at his performances; at his death, Charles Mingus wrote an elegy for him entitled “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.”

The popularity of pork pie hats faded somewhat after World War II, although it was still regarded as part of the African American jazz and blues music scene. Between 1950 and 1970, the cartoon character Yogi Bear was probably the more famous pork pie wearer.

During the 1970s and onwards, pork pie hats resurfaced in films such as Mean Streets (1973) and the TV series Breaking Bad (2008-2013), and on the heads of celebrities like Justin Timberlake and Brad Pitt.

Its illustrious history gives the pork pie hat its position in today’s society as a classy and timeless hat for men and women.

A guide to finding the right pork pie hat

Know your head size

Using a tape measure in centimeters, place it where your hat would be around your head, and note the measurement. Keep this number in mind as you search for your own pork pie hat.

How should a pork pie hat fit?

In general, pork pie hats look best placed level on your head, sitting comfortably but not too tight. Some like to wear pork pies at a tilted angle for added flair and style; if you plan to wear it so, make sure the hat stays on your head at your favorite tilt.

Consider your face shape

We hate to say this, but pork pie hats do not look equally good on all kinds of faces. As a rule of thumb, the brim of your hat should be wider than your jawline. Oval and long faces fit best with this hat.

Prioritize quality

Pick the material that best fits your unique style and needs. Look for a well-crafted hat that would stand the test of time. Brixton offers quality pork pie hats made with cruelty-free wool.

Try different styles

The versatility of pork pie hats allows you to wear them with different outfits and styles. Pork pie hats come in different colors and materials, so take several for a “test wear” before you make your final purchase.

Wear your pork pie hat with confidence

When you’ve found the right pork pie hat, it’s time to take it into town! Enjoy wearing your new pork pie with your favorite outfits.

Brixton’s elegant pork pie hats can be a staple in both men’s and women’s wardrobes. Versatile and classy, they fit seamlessly into both casual and formal outfits.

How to wear a pork pie hat

Wondering if there’s a proper way to wear a pork pie hat? Essentially there are three ways a pork pie hat can be worn: flat, inclined, or declined.

The flat look

A famous example of this style is Walter White’s wearing of the pork pie hat in Breaking Bad. Perhaps the easiest style to pull off (and maintain), simply put on the hat, ensure a comfortable fit, and position the hat so that the bottom of the brim is level with the ground.

The inclined look

This is a casual style that harkens back to the jazzy days of years past. The front of the hat is tilted upward, making it a popular, fashionable, and practical style of wearing a pork pie hat.

The declined look

For a more distinct look, some pork pie hat wearers prefer the declined style, in which the front edge of the brim is brought downward, while the hat teeters 45 degrees to one side. Though not as common as the other two, this style has been popular among some jazz musicians, past and present.

Suggested outfit pairings

Below are a few quick examples of ways to wear pork pie hats with cultured elegance:

  • Straw pork pie hats pair well with a loose Hawaiian shirt, if you’re going for a breezy summer look.
  • Grab a black straw pork pie hat and match it with a preppy button-down shirt for a classy casual outfit.
  • For a classic urban outfit, a black or gray felt pork pie looks great with a slim-fitting, black suit.
  • A more casual look—try wearing a pork pie with a pair of straight-cut jeans, a cardigan, and a white shirt. Or paired with a baggy sweater for a vintage yet modern feel.
  • Pork pie hats pair well with looser-fitting clothes. Pair a colorful, feathered hat with a loose, neutral-colored short- or long-sleeve shirt for the ultimate relaxed yet elegant look.

Pork pie hats are beloved not only for their timelessness, but for their versatility and the enduring elegant touch they add to any outfit. Mix and match outfits with different pork pie hats to find your own unique style.

Cultured elegance done proper with Brixton

Pork pie hats are a staple item for men and women looking to craft a cultured personal style.

Brixton’s classic yet elevated styles are made with cruelty-free products with an eye to sustainability and quality, ensuring that each hat lasts for as long as it is enjoyed. The Stout Pork Pie comes in different colors, allowing you to blend the classics with your own modern aesthetic.

Our pork pie hats are found at the perfect balance between heritage styles and modern classics. Browse Brixton’s selection of pork pie hats "done proper" with our customers in mind, and wear your own pork pie hat with poise and confidence.

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