Megan Rust, an accomplished dressage rider, has created a helmet cover to transform her safety hat into a top hat. The black 4 inch high crown top hat is finished in traditional silk fabric and includes an attractive grosgrain band for extra flair.
Equestrian culture values the top hat as an emblem of elegance. It forms part of formal attire at events like Royal Ascot and morning suits.
The top hat is an iconic symbol of class, social standing, and gentility. In Victorian England, wearing one was considered an act of self-assertion and signified membership of an exclusive class; moreover it signalled support of Liberal policies by its wearers.
Hats can be worn to convey various meanings depending on their color and style; for instance, wearing white or silver indicates uninterest in relationships while yellow/gold ribboned hats signal that someone is married.
As it pertains to dressage competition, numerous riders have expressed a preference for keeping top hats on during international competition. Isabell Werth has spearheaded a campaign to petition the FEI and maintain top hats as an option in senior competitions. her petition has garnered the signatures of prominent dressage riders including British Carl Hester and Laura Tomlinson; Swedish Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven and Patrik Kittel; Danish Olympian Kyra Kyrklund; Dutch Hans Peter Minderhoud and Edward Gal; as well as Australians Brett Parbery and Mary Hanna. Next week the FEI general assembly will meet to decide whether or not reinstate the option of top hats over helmets.
At the turn of the 19th century, top hats took over from tricornes as men’s formal wear. This trend was quickly adopted by well-to-do English society; fashion plates like George Bryan ‘Beau’ Brummel led this revolution in style. Men tried their hardest to outdo each other with looks of insouciance and laissez faire.
John Hetherington is often credited as having invented the top hat, following an (perhaps false) report in St James’ Gazette from January 1797. However, its design would later adapt to meet the needs of industrialization; upper classes searching for ways to differentiate themselves from commoners.
By the late 1700s, top hats had evolved to use wool and fur felt instead of rigid structures such as tricornes; their black hue symbolized its association with Ascot racing. At this same time, short crown dressage topper designs were introduced so as not to fall off while riding horses – their shorter height may have reduced tree collision risk.
Top hats remain fashionable accessories worn on special occasions like wedding ceremonies and funerals, along with formal attire such as morning dress. In equestrian sport, Isabel Werth and Dorothee Schneider wear top hats regularly during dressage competition, and combined driving competitors such as Patrik Kittel and Therese Nilshagen compete under formal riding helmets with top hats to provide essential protection from serious head injuries. Senior competitors competing at CDI4* or higher require formal helmets as a form of head protection against serious head injuries sustained from falls off horses during dressage competition.
Top hats offer elegance, while making an impression at any formal event or competition grounds. Their distinctive wide brim and short crown create an eye-catching silhouette, making the hat easy to spot among other competitors on competition grounds. Furthermore, top hats make a timeless addition to formal ensembles; for example they can be worn at Royal Ascot and Epsom Derby horse racing events as well as formal occasions that require morning dress like Tynwald Day on Isle of Man.
Top hats may have fallen out of fashion during the 20th century, yet many equestrian enthusiasts believe that they should be reinstated. A petition signed by 150 of the world’s premier dressage riders urged the FEI Governing Body to allow senior competitors at international competitions wearing top hats again – including Isabel Werth, Charlotte Dujardin, Dorothee Schneider, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl Daniel Bachmann Andersen and Emmelie Scholtens among many others!
Megan Rust, a professional dressage rider, is creating her own top-hat helmet design. Her goal is to produce something that combines safety and elegance in one product – she hopes that future horse shows can showcase it!