I must confess to feeling the tiniest irrational suspicion of hat-wearers. I know, I know, it’s petty and says more about me than them – deep down I wish I had the confidence to strut about nonchalantly wearing a trilby or fedora or whatever, but it just feels so... ostentatious? unnecessary?
The sad thing is, I really do love hats and I think I have the kind of face that can carry them off - you know some people just look a bit... wrong in hats? I’m not one of them, I just lack gumption.
I long for the days when a hat was as essential a part of everyday dress as your coat or skirt (just like a ladylike pair of gloves) but today it feels anachronistic or a bit, dare I say it, show-offy. I can only wear hats to weddings, on holiday or as fancy dress without feeling ridiculously self-conscious.
Now hip young things can get away with wearing pretty much any headwear they fancy – the world is their dressing up box. As you become more ‘mature’ and less in thrall to passing trends, there are a few, let’s call them guidelines (because rules sounds so strict), to observe.
Baseball capsI don’t mean in an ironic Hoxton circa 2001 truckers cap hideous hipster way, or even worse, a Timmy Mallet ‘90s nightmare parody style, but more like a lovely little bit of unexpected, coolly contrasting fashion punctuation. Imagine a neat, sporty baseball cap sitting atop a cashmere polo neck and a long floaty skirt. Yeah! That’s what I’m talking about!
BeaniesBeanies are easy in winter – they’re actually serving a practical purpose. But in summer? In neon? I think I’m going to leave that one to the kids, thanks.
BoatersI actually gritted my teeth and bought a fancy dress boater from eBay after watching Audrey Tautou looking so gamine and androgynous in hers in Coco Avant Chanel. I took it on holiday but Mykonos was really windy and the stupid thing would barely stay on my head, let alone lend me Chanel-esque levels of chic. No you can't see a photo.
In my quest to discover how to be braver when it comes to wearing hats, I decided to put some questions to an expert: Amber Butchart, fashion historian, broadcaster, one half of the Broken Hearts DJ’s and turban-wearer extraordinaire...
"I've been wearing turbans for quite a few years, definitely since my days as buyer at Beyond Retro. But I've been wearing them everyday for about eight months nonstop at the moment, mainly due to the awful weather we've had this year. It's too cold to take them off, even in June. I think turbans and berets (another one I'm a big fan of) are easier to wear everyday than sculpted hats made of felt etc. which can definitely feel very 'dressy'."
"Wearing hats can affect your posture and the way you move, and as they make you more noticeable you have to have the confidence that goes with all good hat-wearing. Soft hats like turbans or berets are definitely an easier option and I've never felt self conscious in them. I like that a hat definitely makes an outfit look properly 'put together,' even though pulling on a turban is so easy (not to mention comfortable)!
Do you have different headgear for different situations?"I like to match my turban with my outfit (my boyfriend calls my the Turbanator) but besides that no. I also have a number of different brooches for the front that I change depending on what else I'm wearing. There's a turban for every occasion, surely?"
What's the reaction you get from people when you're out and about?"It's always really positive. I have a blue turban that cost about £2 from Paks on Ridley Road in Dalston, but when I wear it people often ask if it's vintage, they tend to think it's 1930s even though it's polyester. People have got so used to seeing me in turbans that one company - Akhu Designs - even started making a range of 'Amber Jane' turbans which was very flattering! There are a lot of leopard print options, and also Ankara print fabric which people always seem to love. I think wearing hats makes people smile. There's an element of whimsy to it that people appreciate."
Felt HatsI am so going to be wearing a floppy, wide-brimmed felt hat this autumn because I actually own two! It’s probably going to take me a summer of practising in less ‘hatty’ headgear like baseball caps to build up my confidence, but if you don’t see me striding around fashion week looking like Annie Hall, I’ll eat my... oh never mind.
FascinatorsJust. No. I’m with Rebecca on this one - if the dress code requires you to wear a hat, wear a proper sodding hat for goodness sake, with a brim and a crown, not a stupid little bit of feather perched on a hairband. Honestly.
I think wearing a hat with just the right amount of attitude is a bit like wearing red lipstick when you’re not used to it – you need to practise and find the right style for you. I have mastered red lipstick so there is no reason why I shouldn’t be able to do the same with hats.
How about you? Are hats strictly wedding-only or do you regularly sport a fetching fedora/beret/turban?