15 June 2013

No Hat, No Service

Porters waiting for work in Yağ Iskelesi
Istanbul, 1954
by Ara Güler

Newsboys smoking at Skeeter's Branch
St Louis, May 1910
by Lewis Hine

Cafe in Pickeville
Tennessee, 1936
by Carl Mydans

Crowd waiting at the gates of the World's Fair: Columbian Exposition
Chicago, 1st May 1893
by Benjamin W. Kilburn

SS11: Artista

SS11: Grinza

AW11: Artista 5

AW11: Artista 6

SS12: Artista

SS12: Spaventa

AW12: Artista

AW12: Scout

SS13: Artista

SS13: Ribelle

[All hats by Reinhard Plank]

My earliest memories of going out with my father are all images of him wearing a hat. Whether it was the height of Summer or the dead of Winter, he never left the house without a hat on his head. His favourite was a houndstooth flat cap, a style most reminiscent of working class men, and indeed it fit his uniform well, with a wool blazer or windcheater, buttoned shirt (he has since switched collared shirts for a collarless variety), pleated wool trousers and loafers. Of course hat hair was part of the deal, and so for as long as I can remember he has kept a small comb in his trouser pocket to keep his appearance in check (whereas my curly hair unfortunately makes carrying a comb rather redundant). For him wearing a hat was simply part of having a "respectable" look.

You do not have to go back too far history to see hats as an essential part of a man's dress, the remnants of which one finds in various strands of life today. Indeed we still see formal hats in dress codes that have a certain traditional grounding, from hats worn at weddings to hats worn by policemen. They remain as a symbol, pieces that stand for an idea rather than an element of dress in and of themselves. Becoming part of a uniform within a specific context their relevance becomes confined, an aside to everyday dress. Today the idea of the hat in its formal incarnation has waned, and the baseball cap reigns supreme, the logical conclusion to the boom of sportswear and more casual forms of dress that arose from the advances in mass manufacturing. The idea of the hat itself has not died, it has merely evolved to reflect the current zeitgeist.

These trends ebb and flow though, so I personally do not see it as inconceivable for everyday hats to return, it merely needs to enter the popular consciousness again. We have after all seen the resurgence of the pocketsquare in the past few years, returning from exile to being part, even, of the newsreader's uniform (and once it is acceptable for the newsreader, it is pretty much acceptable anywhere). Besides I think there will always be an alluring mystique surrounding the more formal aspects of dress. One need only see observe people who profess a disinterest in dress transform when wearing a tuxedo - the James Bond effect is unleashed in full. Of course this is a very specific mode of dress for a very specific occasion, more so when formal hats are involved, and so finding a way to introduce it into everyday dress is required.

I think the idea needs to be demystified to some extent, and made more approachable. The edges need to be softened, the look made less severe, and using designs that work within one's wardrobe rather than standing out from it. As with much of the process of building a wardrobe I think it is about moving in a direction that feels organic and personal, otherwise it risks becoming something one tries on rather than something one wears. For me hats have a certain sense of protection and comfort to them, a quality that I find myself reaching for more and more these days. Much like sunglasses they provide a buffer between you and the world, allowing you that little bit of space to simply breath. I think the best way to describe it would be that feeling you get when you pull the hood up on your coat on a cold and wet Winter's evening. You feel protected, you feel secure, you feel like you exist in your own little world. And I think it is much with same with hats in general, for the brim ever present on the periphery of your vision, and the feeling of having your head covered, gives you that luxury of personal space.

Time to breath, space to be.



  1. Wow,sound like your father who must be my generation! is stylish.I like the style ,a houndstooth flat cap,blazer, button down shirt and pleated wool trousers and loafers.And what he wears these days?

  2. You have a way of adressing the honest and true moments in style. If you keep writing, I'll always be reading.