Ever wonder what’s the difference between a black top hat and a gray one?  It all comes down to the hands on a clock.  “Excuse me,” you might ask, but I encourage you to read on.  Morning dress is what one wears to a formal occasion that takes place before 6pm.  If the soiree takes place at night, your invitation will read: white tie.  This of course begs the question, which topper is right?

Let’s start with white tie.  Traditionally, there is only one hat option, a black silk one.  The high sides of the hat balance the tailcoat creating a proportional silhouette. The silk material provides a luxurious feeling in keeping with the clothes. Wearing a wool top hat would be like showing up to a cocktail party in a bathing suit. A complete description of the sartorial elements can be found by clicking here.  Don’t forget that the shoes should be patent leather. Perhaps so a gentleman can see his reflection and make sure his hair is in place? Probably not.

If your invitation clearly says morning dress then you have more options.  You get to decide between a black or a gray top hat. Of course, if you’re in the UK, you might need to switch to the British spelling of grey to find one, but I digress.  The black top hat goes with everything and is safe.  The gray option offers more individual style.  Will it coordinate with the waistcoat?  The pants?  The pocket square?

Let’s face it, men’s dressing is about small tweaks to the outfit.  Great discussion can be centered around the height of the side band (the ribbon on the hat.)  The classic height is about 5″ but if the wearer is taller, should the top hat be increased proportionately?  What if the wearer is more napoleonic in stature?  Should the side band be decreased?  I wonder if the haberdasher, John Hetherington realized how much of an impact his top hat would have on men’s fashion when he wore it in 1797.