Closer Look: Prince of Wales’ Top Hat

 Reader Chicago Chuck, our resident expert on top hats, posed the following question during the first few days of Ascot:

I’ve noticed in the last few years that Charles’s top hat seems to be trending small. My guess is he’s had the same hat for many years and possibly his face has gotten fuller as he’s aged (happens to the best of us!) so his hat seems smaller than it used to. The fit looks correct – one should be able to put 1 or even 2 fingers between the bottom of the hat and the top of the ear. Possibly Hat Queen would be so kind as to post a few photos of Prince Charles from over the years to see if I’m correct.

ChicagoChuck- I apologize it has taken me so long to respond to your request but here goes:

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Ascot in 2016, 2013 and 2009

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Ascot in 2006 and 2003

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Ascot 1996

Prince of Wales, Ascot 1990 Prince of Wales, Ascot 1987 Prince of Wales, Ascot 1987
Ascot 1990, 1987 and 1987

Prince of Wales, Ascot 1981 Prince of Wales, Ascot 1978 Prince of Wales, Ascot 1972
Ascot 1981, 1978 and 1972

To my untrained eye, it appears that the hat in 1981 is taller than the hats from 1978 and 1972 (and the shiny, middle hat from 1987). Could it be in the 1980s, there were two black top hats? 
During Ascot this year, there were also comments about Prince Charles always wearing a black top hat to the event. Looking through his hat history to prepare this post, I found a grey fur felt design that he wore for at least three decades- perhaps some of you will remember the last time it made an appearance?


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Ascot 1968

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Ascot 1979

Embed from Getty Images Prince of Wales, Ascot 1989
Ascot 1986 and 1989

There you have it- I now defer to our resident experts for analysis!

26 thoughts on “Closer Look: Prince of Wales’ Top Hat

  1. Interesting retrospective! Prince Charles’ top hat does seem to ride a little high, much like his uncle the Duke of Kent. But, it also looks consistent over the decades. I will note that it looks like his valet took a brush to the hat in 1987! It’s all shiny and aligned in one picture and the surface is quite rough in the other.

  2. I agree with the commenters that the Prince’s relaxed look of confidence certainly makes the hats look better in recent years. I think the contrast of the grey hair helps too.

    The importance of the confidence I think is best illustrated in its absence in Prince William. In the top hat (or the admittedly more challenging court breeches seen at the ambassadorial reception), the Prince conveys an air of discomfort. The clothes are wearing him rather than vice versa. Sadly, I sympathize as I often feel this way in hats myself. Sigh. Prince Harry seems to do much better in his top hat through an easy confidence.

    • Cath, I have a theory on Prince William.
      1. Has Clark Kent and Superman EVER been together in the same room?
      2. I looked high and low and have not found a picture of Charles and William together,both in black top hats!
      3. Ipso facto, William is borrowing his deddy’s topper, hence the ill-at-ease look and poor fit!
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      • With respect Jimbo, during the carriage ride from Westminster to Buckingham Palace during the Diamond Jubilee, where both Princes Charles and William were present, they both wore black top hats. And they both fit as we’ve come to expect. Great idea though!

        • Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

        • I’m sure Jimbo will point out that William’s hat is not visible in this photo but it is in hand
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      • Since they’re not in the same photo, I still think they made a switcheroo, and shared the same topper for the individual pix!
        (only kidding!) Thanks, HQ, for setting it straight. Chuck, have you found my size 7 1/8 grey one yet?

    • Jimbo, the search for a grey topper will take a bit of time. And then I have to figure out a way to explain where it came from along the lines of, “This old thing? I’ve had it forever. It’s just been at the back of the closet.” Sort of hard to do with something like a top hat! LOL!

      • Chicago Chuck, I can see that the arrival of a top hat in your wardrobe might be a hard thing to explain in Chicago, but could you possibly get away with claiming that it was left to you by some long-lost relative who was a member of the British aristocracy?

        • I love that in this conversation thread, the question is not about obtaining another hat but simply, how to get such a purchase by one’s spouse. Devious behaviour is apparently justified when it supports the increase of one’s personal millinery collection!

          • I know, right? But pretty tricky to explain all of a sudden owning a grey top hat. Matthew’s suggestion is pretty clever, except that my husband is the one from the nobility (actually royalty) so he’d be much more likely to have that long-lost relative with a top hat.

            And actually, my first plan of action is to go to the man who sold me my black top hat and trade it in on a finer quality hat. Mine is very nice, but he tells me given that the size of my head is smaller than the current norm he can likely find me a very nice hat (for considerably more money of course). The husband keeps telling me I can’t trade in my hat – stay tuned next June and see who wins this battle!

      • HatQueen, I can assure you that if a top hat ever appeared in MY closet, my spouse would be having my head examined, not by the person wielding the measuring tape in the hat shop, but rather by a medical professional!

      • Considering that MY closet is filled with Mrs. Jimbo’s off-season hats, she can’t say anything when I get that grey topper that Chuck has so generously offered to gift me(!) By the way, yesterday I purchased a 1950s vintage straw hat at a costume/antique shop, and the inside band says “fun and frolic” on it. I’ll wear it tonight when we go to a church festival where beer and brats are the menu items!

  3. I think Prince Charles looks very smart in his top hats through the years. What does strike me is that in his younger years he looked more like his father and as he has aged, his resemblance to his mother is to the fore.

    • Thank you for the link to the article, Jimbo. I’m a firm believer in purchasing the highest quality of anything and then taking good care of it with the expectation it will last many years and result in a better bargain in the long run.

      Interesting to learn the Prince of Wales’s top hat is from Lock. They don’t mention that it is an old hat but it has to be given silk hats weren’t made in the 1970s.

      He really seems to favor his grey morning suit, as that is what you usually see him wearing for formal day-time occasions. It is very handsome and fits him like a glove. He also has favored shirts and ties he wears with that suit – notice the photos from 2009 and 2013. His other morning attire includes a stunningly beautiful black coat with piping along the lapels (see photos from 1987 & 2016). I’d give up my first-born for a coat like that!

      I love the grey topper – I’ve been thinking about looking for a grey top hat for myself, but don’t know how I’d carry two top hats back and forth from the US to the UK. And a certain someone in my house and basically forbidden me from buying a second top hat!

      • Tell that certain someone to mind his own bees wax, and go get yourself a grey one. As a matter of fact, get TWO – I’m size 7 1/8.

  4. Charles has always worn his top hats well, but personally I believe he has looked more comfortable (and perhaps confident?) in general in the last 10-20 years as compared to his younger days. His top hats do sit a little higher above his ears compared to many, but I don’t think it looks odd; this might just be the most comfortable place on his head. Thanks for this look back HatQueen; I do wish we would see more fedoras, etc. on the royal men for more everyday events and outings.

    • I agree with everything you say, Jake. He definitely has a certain confidence over the last 10 or so years. As for his hat placement, while both top hats shown seem to “ride high” on his head, as you say it might just be the place where a hat feels most comfortable for him. I have to believe someone in the know assisted him when acquiring his hats. And I’m 100% with you on the desire to see more hats in general on the royal (and other) men. I purchased a Panama at Lock & Co last year when I was in London and wear it with pride, but I’m pretty lonely out there as one of very few men who wear a hat any longer.

  5. HatQueen, oh HatQueen, how kind of you to listen to me! LOL!

    Well, it seems the Prince of Wales has had the same black topper for most of his adult life. I see what you are referring to when you say the hats from 1972,78, and 87 seem a bit shorter, but I think that is just the angle of the various photos rather than a different hat. And in each photo, including the several photos of the Prince of Wales in grey hat, the fit is the same. Depending on the angle of the photo, etc. the hat can seem to be riding higher on his head, but they are all the same two hats and even in some of the early photos the hats sit pretty high on his head. I wonder what happened to the grey hat. One thing I’ll note is his black hat really doesn’t shine like a good topper can. It makes me wonder if it isn’t the best quality hat (hard to believe), isn’t well cared for (again, hard to believe), but then why doesn’t it shine?

    Thank you for this retrospective! And no apology necessary (remember, you’re still waiting for my reports from Royal Ascot 2016!!!)

    • Chuck I find it hard to believe that the 1972 and 1981 hats are the same! Maybe the pictures were stretched or distorted a little before the original postings. I, too, am in the minority where head covering is concerned! The sun is too intense for my follicle-challenged top. I’ve often thought of the Christmas morning walk-down-the-lane photos as border-line comical, seeing the women in huge fur hats and the men bare on top!

  6. never thought I would post something like this but here is my theory, Charles fuller cheeks seem to make the optical illusion that the hat has shrunk, (this feels like dr. Seuss, your cheeks, your cheeks Charles are melting your hat)

  7. I don’t mind either colour top hat on him but I do think a top hat looks so much better on him since his hair has greyed.

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