The right hat can elevate a dressy outfit to perfection, but it can also be a fashion faux pas if you’re not careful. In a formal setting, it’s especially important that you consider your headwear carefully, as even reserved hats are often viewed as statement pieces. The goal is to find a cap that complements your ensemble rather than distracting from it.

Fashion is very personal, and formal wear doesn’t have to be boring. If you enjoy extravagant attire, a hat can add that extra touch of flash that exudes luxury and class. The number one rule is to dress with intention. Create a cohesive outfit that makes sense; otherwise, you run the risk of your hat stealing the show (and not in a good way).

Choose Modern Hats Rooted in History

Formal hats were very commonplace in the past, but the days of the stovepipe top hat are long over. That said, contemporary formal hat designs are still rooted in yesteryear but with updated silhouettes and accents that better fit the dress of the modern era.

It’s best to stick with current headwear brands rather than seek out a vintage hat, as wearing an outdated design could turn your snazzy outfit into a period-piece costume.

Here are three traditional hat styles that are still highly relevant in the modern era and appropriate for formal occasions.

1. Fedora

The iconic fedora style was quite popular throughout the 20th century, and it has proved to have staying power in today’s modern world, too—a quick stroll on the red carpet will reveal plenty of celebs wearing them. However, a fedora can look tacky if you’re not careful.

In order to pull off a fedora, start by investing in a nice one. Simply put, a cheap fedora is never a positive addition to an outfit. While vibrant patterns, colorful feathers, and other gaudy embellishments can be tempting, it’s best to keep it simple and refined for formal events. Make sure your fedora isn’t too big or too small—there should be enough space for one finger between the hat and your head.

2. Western Hat

This is another style that demands caution, but the results can be quite striking if you select the right hat (and outfit). Opt for a sleek, sophisticated Western hat with a modern profile. Like the fedora, quality matters.

Western hats are steeped in heritage, but they can absolutely be worn with modern attire. Make sure your hat is impeccably clean, choose a coordinating color that complements or matches the rest of your outfit, and consider wearing other upscale Western-style accessories like belts, jewelry, and boots to bring cohesion to the look.

3. Flat Cap

A flat cap is similar to a newsboy cap, but it’s less casual and more suitable for suiting up. Even more than the aforementioned styles, flat caps absolutely must be worn with the proper ensemble, or it’s going to look out of place.

In order to pull off a flat cap, you need to go all out with the rest of your outfit—a generic, rented suit and tie isn’t going to cut it. Match the fabric and pattern of your hat to at least one component of your ensemble. Layers work great with flat caps, as the cap acts more as a complementary layer than an individual showpiece.

Wearing a flat cap with formalwear is a bold choice, but if you do it well, you’ll look so dapper. Consider every single detail all the way down to your shoes. Make sure your outfit fits perfectly (getting it custom tailored is highly recommended), and don’t be afraid to get inspired by vintage styles. Scarves, vests, sweaters, and pocket squares can add some texture and visual excitement that helps to turn your flat cap into part of the look rather than the focal point of it.

Don’t Force It

Fedoras, Western hats, and flat caps are all solid choices for pairing with your formal outfit, but they also have one thing in common: they only work if you wear them well! Part of learning how to dress and present yourself for success is knowing when something doesn’t work. Context is everything.

Plan your whole outfit in its entirety—if a hat makes sense once you have a full vision of the look, go for it. Confidence also goes a long way in pulling off a bold fashion choice. If you don’t feel confident in your hat, either find a new hat or change up your outfit.