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Expert hatmaker wants the fedora to make its comeback: Here are his top tips for wearing one

Learn how to wear a fedora with style from an expert hatmaker

The fedora – is it coming back? Image used with permission by copyright holder

If you look back at some of the most stylish men in the last century, many of them can be found donning a fedora. From Frank Sinatra on the city streets to Indiana Jones exploring the jungles and deserts, stylish brimmed hats have always been a staple of a man’s wardrobe. While the fedora hat was the men’s accessory to beat in the early 1900s, the casual era of the pompadour hairdo and leather biker jackets caused the hat to fall out of favor.

While it has attempted to make a comeback multiple times, once in the 80s with Dr. Henry Jones and Michael Jackson, and again in the late 2000s with Justin Timberlake and Chris Brown, Fola Lawson of Southern Gents believes that it is time men’s fedora hats to make a comeback for good. And in a much more stylish way. I got an opportunity to sit down with the CEO and Creative Designer of Southern Gents menswear to talk about his tips for wearing fedoras and his journey to educate men.

Fola Lawson wearing a suit and fedora
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Fola Lawson and his mission to educate

In his early 20s, Fola Lawson was a finance professional who emulated what he saw in GQ magazine, noticing how it shaped his career. “I started seeing how powerful it was,” he told me about wearing true menswear to the office. “I started looking at my peers and my friends; they weren’t thinking about it. In order for me to get more men to enjoy this new life I am enjoying, I have to educate them in some way.”

Fola started writing about menswear until 2012, when he began Southern Gents by focusing on signature accessories. “I’ve always felt that accessories are the game changer in men’s style,” he says. “If you have a beautiful suit…you can either make or destroy that suit with your choice of ties or accessories.” Of course, if you peruse Southern Gents’ site, you will find the pinnacle of men’s accessories, the fedora. What makes Fola different from other men’s style gurus is his commitment to educating other men on menswear and the fact that he loves menswear himself. “Everything I make begins to start with myself. It has to personally inspire me.”

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Tips from Fola

As an expert in fedoras and everything menswear, I asked Fola why he thought fedoras fell out of fashion. “I gave a lot of thought to that question, and I don’t think it was just fedoras. I think just style fell out of fashion. I think that being well-dressed started becoming associated with being a weaker man,” he confessed. “When a lot of people think about a manly man, they think about a guy in a lumberjack shirt and beat-up jeans. Someone who doesn’t pay too much attention to himself.” He then revealed that he believes the fedora could be the item that men are missing. “A fedora is a signature item. I would argue that if there is one item that says a guy has class, I would say a fedora.”  

But men don’t wear fedoras as often as they can, and a big reason is they don’t know how to do it in the way that Sinatra or Jones did. In an interest of teaching men to avoid the fedoras of the late 00s and recapture the style of the Mad Men, Fola offers these tips. 

  1. Start with the Crown – Try staying away from hats with wide or really tall crowns. For new hat wearers, a modest crown (like you will find in the Geoffery or Trilby) is easiest to work with, and looks great on just about any head shape. A good crown height to start with should be approximately 4” in height, with a pinched crown design, also know as a diamond crown.
  2. Choose your Brim Width – After identifying a crown you love, figure out if you’re going for a bold or modest look. For a bold look, stick with a wider flat (like you will find with the Ferguson, Lonestar or Alexander), or turn-up brim 2.5” in width or more. For a simple, classy, modest look, stick with a ‘stingy’ hat brim of about 2”-1.5”(check out the Trilby or Porkpie for those). Hat brim choice is simply a matter of preference and attitude.
  3. Pick a Color – A fedora is a great way to make a statement with your style, and that opens a new world of opportunities. Even a simple fedora in a neutral or dark color like Brown, Grey, or Black will fetch many compliments. For an even bolder look, consider a splash of color like Burgundy, Ivory, or shades of Blue.
  4. Match your personality – In its simplest and classiest form, a Fedora crown featuring a ribbon (like these options; James, Ferguson, Miller Ranch) and feather combination is a fail-proof crown décor. This usually lends for a classier polished look altogether and can be worn with almost any ensemble.  For a more edgy & rugged take, opt for a fedora without a crown decoration, or one with a leather band (like these options here; Geoffery, Naked) or distressed fabric around the crown
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Elevate your casual looks

If you want to understand why fedoras are the perfect accessory for you to invest in, look to the Indiana Jones Signature Style. He is the perfect example of versatility from casual to dressy style, both with the stylish fedora. Applying that to your everyday outfits will take a few rules.

First, find consistency in your accessory. If you are going to be wearing something a little more rugged, then be sure to focus on something less fashionable and more functional. If you are looking to wear this on the street, then you can get a little more fashion-forward with the hat.

Second, don’t be afraid to let your personality shine. Most guys don’t wear a fedora right now. That means it is your opportunity to make a statement. Maybe even make the rules. Have fun with the style, and trust yourself.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Make a statement with your suit and tie

Let’s face it; if you are dressing up in a suit or elevated casual style, then you are already going to stand out. As the world got more relaxed in 2020 due to people staying in more, the number of men wearing suits and blazers began to dwindle. They are coming back with a vengeance now as men are getting out more, but you still have time to lead the way. And a great way to do that is with a fedora.

First, sometimes less is more. There is such a thing as over-accessorizing. If you are wearing a fedora, you are making a statement, and it is best not to distract from that statement. Let your fedora speak, and don’t drown it out with too many other pieces.

Second, believe in your ability to wear it when no one else can. Some people may tell you that fedoras are a thing of the past. Trust that is true about all fashion statements until someone like you brings it back in a stylish way.

If you are on the fence with a fedora, Fola will convince you. “A fedora expands your closet. The same way that a sneaker can make a man look out of touch or really youthful, you put a fedora with that same sneaker, and all of a sudden, it looks classy.”

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Mark McKee
Mark is a full-time freelance writer and men's coach. He spent time as a style consultant and bespoke suit salesman before…
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