Generally, most people do not know exactly what a Homburg hat is, and even the hat-wearing set may only know a few tidbits about the hat made famous by Edward VII.
Despite being lesser-known, I would consider the Homburg to be a wardrobe staple in every classic gentleman’s wardrobe. Since we pride ourselves on our detailed coverage of topics not explored elsewhere, I took it upon myself to visit the city of Bad Homburg, where the hat was supposedly invented. In the following, I would like to share the origins and history of the hat, in addition to its shape variations and its future role in men’s fashion.
History of the Homburg Hat
In order to find out more about the origins of this hat, I visited the hat Museum at the Gotisches Haus (Gothic House) in Bad Homburg, Germany. There are several theories of how the Homburg hat was invented.
Edward VII – The Inventor of the Homburg
Some people suggest that the birth of the Homburg can be pin pointed to August 29, 1882, because the local newspaper Taunusbote first reported on the hat on August 30, 1882. Back then, Bad Homburg was a spa destination patronized by the rich and famous that was renowned for its healing waters. As such, Edward VII visited Bad Homburg regularly. One of the tourist sights in this exclusive town was the state of the art hat factory Möckel, where tours were organized on a regular basis. Supposedly, Edward VII ordered a Homburg hat that day, bringing visibility to the style that ultimately popularized it around the world. In my opinion, there is no doubt that he was the reason the Homburg’s fame spread around the globe. However, it is doubtful that he invented it out of the blue that very day.
The Homburg – Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Hunting Hat
There are some people who claim that Edward VII was inspired by the design of a German hunting hat. In fact, Kaiser Wilhelm’s green hunting hat -as seen in the video below – has a remarkable resemblance to the Homburg hat that is worn by Edward VII in the first picture, don’t you think. ? In any case, the shapes are rather similar and it seems to be a reasonable assertion, especially given that the Kaiser also had his hats made by Möckel. Furthermore, both men spent time in Bad Homburg together and they were cousins.
Apart from this argument, it is also entirely possible that the hat was actually invented by another person. That would be similar situation to the ironically named Panama Hat, which was actually invented in Ecuador. Either way, the origins of the hat may never be conclusively proven. In any case, Kaiser Wilhelm’d rather informal country hat was transformed, nearly overnight, into an elegant city hat that became extremely popular for the gentry across Europe. Möckel benefited greatly from this development; after all, they made the first hat for the King and went on to receive a Royal Warrant in 1909.
Cristiano Lobbia Hat
A third theory attributes the invention of the Homburg hat to the Italian Cristiano Lobbia (1826-1876). He was involved in battles and investigations of various kinds which earn him not always just friends. According to some, in 1869 he was attacked with a stick while he was wearing his bowler hat. Others claim he fell and his hat creased because of it. In any case, he supposedly entered Parliament with that very same hat showing a dented crease in the middle and a business savvy Florentine hatter began to make and advertise this hat as a Lobbia hat. Unfortunately, the name of the hatter remains unknown and there seems to be no other evidence for this theory.
The hat factory Möckel was founded in 1806 by Johann Georg Möckel in Bad Homburg, who came from a longstanding hatmaking family. His son was interested in machines and traveling, which resulted in his frequent discovery of new machinery at the exhibitions of the era. As such, Möckel was always at the forefront of modern hat making, and so it does not surprise that they were the first company in Bad Homburg to utilize a steam engine in 1856. By 1890, the company had 100 employees and exported their top quality hats to numerous countries. The company symbol used to be a dove with a hat in its beak, symbolizing the light weight quality of the final product.
Although Möckel continued to grow through the 1920’s, the world economic crisis that began in 1929 forced the company to cease operations on December 31, 1931. The Homburg hat, of course, was still a very popular choice of men about town.
Homburg Hat Styles & Shapes
The Kaiser’s hunting hat was pale green with a dark headband and a curled bound brim. Edward VII had Möckel make a more city appropriate version of the hat in grey felt. Both versions had a tapered crown and a rolled bound-edge trim of repp band. Unlike the bowler or the top hat, the Homburg was a not hard but slightly stiffened soft felt hat. Overall, it was an elegant felt hat that was not as formal as the hard hats. As such, it was often worn when strolling in town or in place of a boater hat. The picture to the right shows King Konstantin of Greece, Prince Friedrich Karl von Hessen and Prince Constantin von Schaumburg-Lippe (both princes of German duchies) wearing a Homburg hat and a boater.
Until about 1914, the Homburg kept this position on the hat formality scale. The repp band on the brim was sometimes light grey, while the hat band was the same color or darker. Over time, the brim curl diminished, and the crown lost some height. After WWI, the hat became darker in color; black was the most popular color, especially in the 1950s. For example, German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer would wear a black Homburg hat (in a size 57) made by Habig, an Austrian hat maker based in Vienna! With the disappearance of the top hat and bowler, the Homburg was now one of the most formal hats for daywear such as the morning coat or the stroller suit. Dwight D. Eisenhower wore a dark grey homburg hat with a stroller suit for his inauguration on January 20, 1953. In black, it was also appropriate for black tie, however it was never considered to be suitable for white tie.
In Britain, Earl and politician Anthony Eden is probably the most well-known Homburg hat wearer. In fact, his black hat was so characteristic that became widely known as the Anthony Eden Hat or just the Eden Hat, although others before him – like Churchill – had worn it frequently. It must be mentioned that the Anthony Eden Hat is not a special hat in any way – it is a plain, black Homburg but for some reason that name stuck in people’s minds.
Even the fictional realm, the always dapper Hercule Poirot never leaves the house without a Homburg hat.
Today, the Homburg hat remains a formal hat, though very few men wear it anymore. Personally, I own a number of Homburgs in black, grey, brown, charcoal and blue. They suit my face and they are often more appropriate than a snap brim hat, especially with business suits and a tuxedo. The next time you are at a hat store, try on a Homburg – you may like the look on you.
The Lord’s Hat – A Relative of the Homburg
A near relative of the Homburg hat is the so-called “Lord’s Hat“. Although identical in shape, it does not have a bound brim and the crown is usually pinched. As such, it is not a true Homburg. They are difficult to find and usually only available as a custom made hat. Personally, I prefer the look with the bound brim edge because I think it looks more interesting, especially if the color of brim edge and hat band are different, but this is just personal taste.
The Future of the Homburg Hat
Although you rarely see them on the streets, there will probably always be a few distinguished men who appreciate the elegance of a good Homburg hat. If you are a hat wearer, chances are you already have a few snap brims in your collection, so next time, instead of looking at a Trilby or a Pork Pie, put on a Homburg and see how it looks. I am certain you will look splendid!
Do you wear Homburg hats? If so, where do you purchase them?