Hom Hat from Konrad Adenauer

Homburg Hat – Past, Present & Future

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.

Prince of Wales Bertie in Homburg Hat ca. 1890

Prince of Wales Bertie in Homburg Hat ca. 1890

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.

Kaiser Wilhelm II with Hunting Homburg Hat

Kaiser Wilhelm II with Hunting Homburg Hat

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

Homburg Hat with light grey brim edge & black hat band

Homburg Hat with light grey brim edge & black hat band

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.

Möckel

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.

Homburg Hat and Boater in 1910

Homburg Hat and Boater in 1910

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.

Churchill in Grey Homburg with lighter colored edge trim

Churchill in Grey Homburg with lighter colored edge trim

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.

Anthony Eden Hat - a Homburg

Anthony Eden Hat - a Homburg

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 Lords Hat

The Lords Hat

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?

22 replies
  1. Gabriel alonso
    Gabriel alonso says:

    Really enjoyed this article as I’m searching for a good homburg at the moment and have found one here in Melbourne made by a new Zealand based company

  2. Henry Liska
    Henry Liska says:

    I only own one Homburg… and seldom wear it. It was custom made two years ago by Leon Drexler Fedoras – aka Stephen Temkin – in Toronto. The black beaver felt is magnificent. The silk ribbon, bought by Stephen from stock belonging to a long a closed hatter, speaks of by-gone luxury. I also own one of Stephen’s more casual fedoras, in a colour described by Stephen as “malt” with a nutmeg coloured silk ribbon.

  3. Jean Putmans
    Jean Putmans says:

    Probably the Homburg was not even “invented” in Homburg but in Italy, where this type of hat is known as “Lobbia”. Senator Cristiano Lobbia was wearing his bowler-type hat in 1869, when he was hit by someone with a stick, thus creating a dent in his hat. A hatter then made hats with this type of dents.They became a real hype.
    The homburg is my favorite hat (I don’t leave home without a hat). I have about 7 fur-felt homburgs (made by Wegener in Germany and by Cappelleria Melegari in Milano; Wegener makes them with side-dents, so they look like intermediates between Homburg and Lord’s hat) and one panama-homburg (made by Mayser in Germany).

    • Sven Raphael Schneider
      Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Jean, thank you for pointing out the Lobbia story. I searched a little bit online and their seem to be a number of different versions but none actually says who this business savvy hatmaker was, that created the bowler with the crease. Where exactly did you source your information from? I would like to learn more and add the information to the article.
      Thanks again!

  4. Jean Putmans
    Jean Putmans says:

    Sven, the sources are these two sites:

    http://www.fabulous-hats.eu/lobbia-hat/

    http://www.dressspace.com/en/fashion-story/BERRETTO.php

    By the way: I have noticed, that the modern Homburg hat differs from the elder types (time of Edward): The crown of the elder types look a little bit conical, whereas the Homburg somewhere in the 20th century has changed and the sides of the crown nowadays rise up almost vertically. My Wegener homburgs still have that somewhat conical crown (http://www.hutx.de/filz-stoffhuete/herren-filz-stoffhuete/p139_homburger-hut-haarhut-made-in-germany.html).

    Regards,
    Jean

    • Sven Raphael Schneider
      Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      I have seen these sources too, but they are neither detailed nor authoritative. I went through my Italian books – among them the fashino dictionary of the Italian Vegani, and he does not list the Lobbia. I have to do some more research. Do you know of any books that mention the Lobbia hat? Regarding the shape, that’s definitely the case. It used to have more of a cone shape whereas now it is pretty vertical.

  5. Jean Putmans
    Jean Putmans says:

    Sven,
    you might have a look at the Italian Wikipedia (http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cristiano_Lobbia); there is the Story of mr. Lobbia (being Attacked, bringing his bowler hat to the Parliament to show the result of this attack).

    No, i have no book-reference, but in Italy this type of hat is still named Lobbia (http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lobbia) The Milanese hatter Cappelleria Melegari sells the hat in his Italian site under the name Lobbia, in English as Homburg/Godfather).

    Regards
    Jean

    • Sven Raphael Schneider
      Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Thank you Jean. I have already added some information to the article. Unfortunately, no source quotes newspaper articles from the time or something similar. We do not even know the name of the Florentine hatmaker who supposedly made it. In Bad Homburg, I found the original newspaper from that day mentioning the hat…

  6. The Shoe AristoCat
    The Shoe AristoCat says:

    Hi Sven,

    Thanks for a well written article on the Homburg hat. I really enjoyed the article and history behind the hat. I have been thinking of getting one for the Fall/Winther. Inspiration from Lord Eden and when looking at pictures of men from the twenties and thirties, you see most with a Homburg hat.

    Well, looking forward to more articles on this little items which seem to have gone into oblivion it.

    The Shoe AristoCat

  7. JerryS
    JerryS says:

    Being a big fan of the Homburg, I am happy to see it has not been forgotten. Great article!

  8. P. O'Gainey
    P. O'Gainey says:

    Sven,
    I own two Homburgs. I bought them online from a hat shop in Chicago. The website is
    http://www.hats-plus.com. Thankfully, some of the “old school” brands are still making them (Dobbs and Biltmore). Here’s to bringing the old Homburg back into style!

  9. Joseph sparks
    Joseph sparks says:

    Knowing the history of the Coke (Bowler hat) ,it being to protect the heads of gamekeepers , it is unlikely that that story is true.

    • Sven Raphael Schneider
      Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Dear Jospeh, what story are you referring to exactly? The bowler was first made for the gamekeepers of Mr. Coke and he wanted them to be so stiff and hard that he could stand on them. But why would that have an influence on the Homburg hat?

  10. Jonathan Belmares
    Jonathan Belmares says:

    I own about 4 homburg’s 2 black 2 brown the browns being in different shades im still looking for some greys possibly a blue. The best thing about a black homburg is that you can wear with your tuxedo or dinner jacket.

  11. Joe La Rosa
    Joe La Rosa says:

    Great Article on the Homburg.
    I do own a couple of snap brim fedoras and just recently purchased a Homburg in the color steel.
    My interest arose in the homburg not from the Godfather movie ,but from westerns and also movies of the 1940′s where the bankers and aristocrats were shown wearing them.I am also aware of the Lobbia story , which I also found to be interesting.
    The Homburg I did purchase is made by Dynafelt and it was moderately priced and made in the U.S..If I do like it there is an Italian compnay I may purchase one from and it’s made of 100% rabbit and at a good price, if you can get the shipping rate down.
    Enjoy your HOMBURGS!!!

  12. KC
    KC says:

    I enjoyed your article on the Homburg hat.

    My wife and I, with whom I do period dress, re-enactment events, recently rewatched the movie “The Age Of Innocence”.

    In that film Daniel Day Lewis and most all other male actors are wearing what I told my wife was a “modified” Homburg.

    After reading your article it appears they where wearing a modified/upgraded “Lords” hat (which in itself is a modified Homburg).

    By modified/upgraded “Lords” hat I mean a Homburg with slightly wider brim, trimmed in silk with matching band, brim curld up and in
    (as opposed to edge curled on standard Homburg), front and rear brim down, and front crown pinched in.

    Are you familiar with the film and are my conjecturs “more or less” correct?

    Your input would be greatly appreciated.

    I own Top hats, Homburgs, Tribly, Fedoras, Panamas. However, no Lords or Upgraded Lords,
    this will be rectified shortly.

    Thank you for any time or effort you devote to this question.

    Respectfully Submitted,
    KC

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