The first silk top hat made in England was recorded in 1793. George Dunnage, a hatter in the county of Middlesex (London) made the top hat from silk shag (a form of silk plush). Initially the Silk Top Hat was never called a Silk Top Hat, nor a top hat, hats of the style were commonly called beaver hats. Dunnage's silk hat was initially described as "imitation of beaver" thus the silk top hat was born in England. The common use of the name Top Hat came into our written vocabulary later on, around the middle of the 19th Century. Prior to being made in England, the first silk hats originated in Florence c. 1760.
Top hats can be made from many different materials. Beaver Top Hats were most popular at one time, though other furs and felts were used including wool, hare even mole hair (as opposed to moleskin). Top Hats have also been made of straw, leather and even wood, if fact the straw boater is can be considered to be just a low-crown, flat brim version of the old straw top hat!
Silk Top Hats made from Silk Plush are considered the most desirable of method of making, due to their lightness and shiny appearance. Unfortunately the Silk Plush that was used to make silk top hats is no longer in mainstream production. The last of the big commercial weavers stopping production in the late 1970ies, so silk top hats are now in great demand. Whilst new Silk Top Hats can still be made (either from rare stocks of old plush, or newer plush materials, both of which you can buy from Ascot Top Hats) vintage silk or antique silk top hats is the most popular option.
To learn more on the History of hats - Why not visit Hatworks The UK's museum dedicated to the hatting industry, hats and headwear.
Ascot Top Hats is a traditional gentleman's hatter specialising in top hat, and other gentlemen's headwear as well as hat making and silk top hat refurbishment services.
If you need a Top Hat for Royal Ascot 2013 you can contact Ascot Top Hats on 01344 638 838 to arrange a private appointment.