13. Postwar Elegance

Borsalino hatsWith the end of the First World War, life returns to its everyday routine and the mundane world. The tuxedo returns to dance halls; it’s short, single breasted and bombé.

New silk hats were found in the rich wardrobes of the nobles of Central Europe, those that travelled on the Orient Express. Races started up again and young adults wore Derbies; an updated American version of Bowlers. They were smaller, less formal, and could be worn by day even in town. It was the twenties.

The new Borsalino felt hats were advertised in 1921 by Dudovich. They adapted to a new more confident way of dressing, more in agreement with the esprit nouveau. Le Corbusier named a pavilion after them at the Paris Exposition.

Beneath bizarre felt hats lied the artistic idea of the Dadaism which concealed rationality in the sake of spontaneous and uncontrolled expression. Meanwhile, Pirandello’s head was inseparable from classic felt hats, as perfect and as rigorous as his writing. The new night owls went to night clubs and rode luxurious Bugatti.

L’illustrazione italiana” was a widespread magazine that supplied eloquent images of fashion in those years. Prince Humbert of Savoy was photographed in his impeccable grey felt hat with bell brim, while the WINDSOR CAPS arrived from the royal English Court and were worn flattened on one side of the forehead.

They were golden years for caps: blue one-piece wool berets having a “wick” in the centre, in herring-bone or chequered tweed used for hunting, and in stiff blue gabardine for winter sports and yachting.

Tazio Nuvolari piloted his new Alfa Romeo wearing a race cap and goggles. These then became indispensable gear for all drivers. The Savoy royalty were photographed next to a plane, advertising flight style by wearing a leather helmet with chinstrap.

Movie stars were quickly imitated and Rudolf Valentino launched the bewitching look from beneath the brim of his felt hat with studded ribbon. He was the irresistible symbol of charm.

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