Personally, I don’t do hats. Don’t get me wrong, this is not out of choice – I think hats are a great way to show personal style and add an individual twist to an outfit. I don’t know whether it is my wonky eyebrows, big old ears or strangely-shaped cranium, but I am yet to find a hat which doesn’t make me look wholly ridiculous. However, the good news is that for the lucky guys out there who can carry off head wear successfully there are a plethora of styles, shapes and colours available as the Summer hat is back with a vengeance!
I was inspired to write an article on Summer head wear after a recent experience at Dublin airport where I saw a well-dressed guy boarding a flight to somewhere hot and luxurious literally wearing 4 different coloured straw trilbies on his head at the same time. It not only opened my eyes to an ingenious way of transporting head gear across continents, but also to how popular the straw hat has become as a Summer wardrobe staple.
Hats and head coverings were originally designed for practicality, in order to protect the head from the wind, rain and sun, and also to retain warmth. Later different types of hats became a feature of classifying a person’s rank and social standing and during the Victorian period for the middle and upper classes, leaving the house without a hat was frowned upon and could even result in being arrested and prosecuted. Nowadays, hats are making a positive comeback and can offer an individual the opportunity to put their own twist on an outfit and inject a bit of idiosyncratic style. As well as looking great (on the right person and teamed with the right outfit) Summer hats also offer the practicality of protecting your head and face from the sun and tend to be made from straw, raffia or felt which are extremely lightweight materials and therefore great for travelling and occasions such as holidays or festivals. These materials also offer a good amount of ventilation and are breathable so are great for Spring/Summer. Summer hats are also easy to customise and adding accessories such as hat bands, badges, feathers or flowers is a great way to add individuality.
Hats on the catwalks
The penchant for Summer hats this season was as popular on the designer catwalks as it is on the high street. At Milan Fashion Week last year, designers such as Ermenegildo Zegna, Iceberg and Ermanno Scervino all featured hats in their Spring/Summer 2010 ranges creating a variety of stylish looks. This has filtered down into high street shops such as H&M and Topman where cost-effective versions of Summer hats are available in different collections. I think these budget choices are great if you are planning to purchase a Summer hat for a single occasion like a holiday or festival, but if you want something that you are planning to wear more regularly, it is a better idea to invest in a slightly more expensive hat as they tend to be more durable and better-made. If spending a significant amount on a hat, it is a good idea to also invest in a hat box in order to maintain the hat’s shape and keep it clean.
The Bailey Hat Company (www.baileyhats.com) offer an excellent range of higher-priced hats in their Baileys of Hollywood range, and this company is synonymous with exceptional craftsmanship and unparalleled quality. Baileys have been designing and creating hats since 1922 and through the years have been popularised by designing hats for dapper film stars such as Bing Crosby, Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant – veterans of the big screen who oozed effortless style. Their website contains a wide-ranging choice of trilbies, fedoras and pork pie hats in various colours and fabrics, and also a fantastic gallery look book of their S/S 2010 range offering examples of the versatility of their range and is a great source for ideas and inspiration.
An obvious, and probably the most popular choice of Summer hat currently available is the straw trilby. Straw trilbies have been popular for the past couple of summers and I think it would be nice to explore some other, less-common options – namely fedoras and pork pie hats.
Fedoras were actually originally designed for women in the early twentieth century, but during the 1920s they became popular amongst middle-class men, especially in the cities because they protected the head from the weather and could be rolled up when not in use. Whereas trilbies typically have a narrower brim which turns up at the back, fedoras have wider brims which traditionally remain flat all the way around the hat. Fedoras were popularised during the middle of the twentieth century by TV and film stars such as Gene Kelly in ‘Singing in the Rain’ and Humphrey Bogart in ‘Casablanca’, and were favoured by the effortlessly cool members of the Rat Pack, conjuring up images of timeless, classic style.
Pork pie hats are traditionally associated with jazz/blues musicians and were also favoured by individuals in Britain during the mod and skinhead subcultures. Buster Keaton, the American actor remembered for his silent movies was also a fan of the pork pie hat and actually created his own individual pork pie-style hats by cutting down Stetsons into shapes that he preferred. More recently, celebrities such as Justin Timberlake, Jason Mraz and Orlando Bloom have championed the pork pie hat and demonstrated its versatility by pairing it with tailored shirts and waistcoats, as well as tees and shorts for a more casual look. Pork pie hats are distinctive as they tend to be more compact with a flat top, and aren’t ‘pinched’ like trilbies or fedoras giving them a boxier look. They are particularly good for guys with smaller heads as the dimensions are smaller and more compact. Oversized, badly-fitted hats, no matter how on trend or stylish, will only succeed in drowning the wearer if too big – resulting in the hat wearing you, rather than vice versa.
There are obviously a lot of choices of Summer hats out there with trilbies, fedoras and pork pie hats being the cream of the crop. There also appear to be a lot of hybrid styles available which borrow different aspects of different styles to combine and create exciting new breeds of head wear. Essentially this means that if you are a lover of hats, now is the time to bring them out. But the key thing to remember when wearing any type of hat is the importance of self-confidence, or you may risk looking like you are off to a bad Indiana Jones-themed fancy dress party! Don’t let the hat wear you… you have to own it.