Tuesday, 30 March 2010

On hats

Love the pictures of actress Clémence Poésy looking super-French and sultry in a vintage fedora in the April edition of Vogue. And I am distracted from reading the Times’ (very readable) fashion supplement on a Wednesday by Lisa Armstrong’s cool hat. So, rather than embrace trends such as ‘double denim’, or all those clompy clogs and wedges that everyone keeps insisting are madly 'must-have' (don't know about you, but just because Alexa Chung wears clogs I don't plan to clomp around trying to pretend that having great lumps of wood attached to my feet is in any way enjoyable or chic), instead I plan to seek out a new hat. Like treating yourself to a new lipstick, I reckon this is one of life’s great – and not (necessarily) expensive – pleasures. Timeless, ageless and fun.

Some people think you need to be brave or madly outgoing to wear hats. But when I interviewed the queen of hat-wearers, the late Isabella Blow, she insisted that she was actually incredibly shy, and that hats were a kind of armour: 'I see them as a form of protection. And anyway, the attention you get when you’re wearing a hat – well, it’s the right kind of attention.’ As Philip Treacy puts it, ‘Everyone is seduced by a hat’. Hats are a talking point, an ice-breaker. Not to mention a cover-up on a bad hair day.

If money were no object, I’d hotfoot it (not in clogs, obviously) to Lock & Co. in London, the most perfect little specialist hat shop dating back to the 17th century. Tucked away in the backstreets of St James, it’s one of those unique little finds that make you glad you are in London. It’s more than £200 for a bowler hat here, but you’re investing in the finest quality and top-notch service. Paul Smith’s bowlers (£180) are typically fun and irreverent: the tomato-red one really would make you stand out in a crowd. And this great navy one (above) has a brilliant red lining and comes in a fine hatbox embossed with gold lettering, if that matters (which it surely does).

I’m only just discovering asos – I always thought it just flogged copies of stuff celebrities have been seen in, so avoided it like the plague – but turns out it has a decent selection of hats, including a bunch of Philip Treacys reduced to half-price (around £120 for an emerald green trilby), plus a rather dapper range for men. And the bowler hat looks almost too good to be true at just 20 quid. Though, clearly, it helps if you look this good in the first place.

Bowler hat, £20, www.asos.com

A last thought: a few years ago I did an evening millinery course at London College of Fashion and thought it was absolutely brilliant. I made two hats, one felt and one straw which, considering I can barely sew on a button, seemed quite an achievement. In Ireland, try milliner Lina Stein’s courses. Otherwise, check out vintage shops and military hat suppliers for unique and well-made hats.


  1. Lock & Co looks fabulous. The Chelsea hat next to this post is beautiful.

    C4LA are a good little hat shop, near Old St. Reasonably priced but good quality.

  2. Thanks for that, Caroline. Will definitely check it out. You would love Lock & Co. - it's like stepping back in time. And while the trilbies, fedoras etc are pricey as they're so well-made, there are less expensive hats on offer too: under 'Men's Winter Hats', for example, there's a range of wool and cashmere hats and caps that are great; I got the black 'Skipper' hat (£65) and wear it all the time. And I love the men's 'Marseille' linen cap, too - pretty jaunty! Thanks for following the blog. Sarahx