I just got back from New York, New York, and since I spent much of my winter holiday hanging with my nieces Flora and Ava, twins aged 18 months, the biggest fashion trends on my radar were of the turtleneck onesie and snap-crotch corduroy pants variety (very chic, I thought; very Vivienne Westwood). But on one of my last nights in town, noshing on baked oysters and artichoke dip at last winter's hot spot Freemans (I may be living in the past but you can't beat the taxidermy menagerie), a cozy Anglophilic hideaway in an alley off Rivington Street, I sniffed out a bona fide trend in its infancy. Are you ready, gentlemen? Forget trucker hats, cowboy hats, and, as already noted in the SC, skull caps. The latest hipster headgear is none other than the top hat. While my friends and I were waiting for our table a very cute long-haired boy showed up, dressed in camo, a white hoodie, and limited edition Nikes, accessorized with a snappy grey felt top hat appropriate for an Edwardian dandy. And his was the second stovepipe I'd seen that day. In the afternoon I'd noticed another downtown urchin type strolling along St. Marks Place, wearing bondage gear and skinny jeans capped off with a black top hat. His look was more punk chimney sweep than Lord of the Fly Boys, but both were equally eye-catching. How can you go wrong with a hat that adds eight inches in height and references Abraham Lincoln, Fred Astaire and, yes, the New Year's Baby in one fell swoop? Unfortunately Lord Grey needed to be seated immediately so he split before I could take his picture. Instead I'm offering two possible recent sources of inspiration for this mini trend. (Please feel free to share your own top dawg sightings!)Lars Von Trier's Dear Wendy, a supposedly cautionary love letter to American gun culture, was a bit of a misfire, but the pistol-totin' teens looked sharp indeed. Dubbing themselves The Dandies, they dressed in antique clothes and fired at targets in their shabby chic lair while listening exclusively to the Zombies. Jamie Bell, of that hit boy ballet movie I never saw, is a stunner. I'll concede his chapeau has a slight pilgrim slant, but hey, it's close enough.
The political activist performance troupe Billionaires For Bush were a very visible presence on the LES scene for almost all of 2004, leading up to that dark day in November. Seemingly taking their wardrobe cues from boardgames like Monopoly, and owing to the aforementioned flattering nature of top hats, almost all of the male “Billionaires” rocked that look. Pictured here is Phil T. Rich, leader of the pack. Of course this all begs the question: where can you get a top hat to call your very own? A website called Top Hats seems like a good place to start, and flea markets are a pretty sure bet. I lucked into a genuine beaver beauty at a flea market in Brooklyn for 20 bucks, but they generally run in the hundreds. Hell, if you don't care about the quality, buy a plastic one at a party supply store for $2.99. Now if you're just looking for an excuse to don such a dandy topper, what better occasion than New Year's Eve, baby?