Embracing the Summer Hat

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As much a part of summer as cocktails on the lawn, afternoon walks in the shade of the trees and sandy slumbers on the shore, the summer hat is an object of reassuring majesty. For what is chiefly a season of disrobing; a period in which we dress sparingly to preserve comfort, the hat can be an accessory of practical elegance. When the sun beats down brutally, and there are few moments of respite from such oppressive heat, the hat is by far the best thing to wear. Sun umbrellas, though certainly elegant and fit for a lady, are not the sort of thing for the beau boulevardier; they are apparatus, awkward and contrived. The only serious thing to guard against sunstroke, sunburn and unattractive squinting is a good hat with a generous brim.

Though hats are certainly much more popular in the summer months, undoubtedly for the reasons I have advanced, they are still rarely seen. For some, there is an uncomfortable stigma to wearing a proper hat; it is an event, a special occurrence: “Should I wear the new panama today? It’s a bit showy”; “Don’t wear your hat; we’re only going to my mother’s.” This sense of preservation and ceremony only really serves to keep the poor old hat, and please excuse the droll pun, in the shade. Hat wearers are almost seen as eccentrics; as though the wisdom in donning one has long been exposed as superstition and antiquated irrationality. The remarkable thing about a hat such as a summer Borsalino is how much more grace and finish it provides to the wearer. It’s the coronet to the robes of glory; and a sensible summer essential.

I think the question of ‘which hat?’ is a tricky one. For one thing, hats can look magnificent on the shelf, and indeed on others, but they can look utterly wrong when you perch them on top of your own head. The reason for this is that hats are very distinctive; the way they appeal to you in form and shape, objectively, might not be concurrent with the effect you eventually produce. Therefore, it is important to try a good many hats on – for sizing and styling reasons. One man might have a romantic notion of owning a panama of a certain shape, but he might find that another shape or style suits him much better. I too have experienced disappointment with a style of hat that has appealed to me from the pages of a book or the perfectly formed window displays. It is very difficult to look good in all styles of hat, so it is best to accept your fortune when you find it; wider brims are better for those with wider faces and narrower brims, like pork pie hats, generally, look better with slimmer faces. Similarly, wide brim hats worn by those with narrow faces and shoulders tend to look a little odd, drowning the man and making him look rather juvenile and green.

Another important consideration is that, though Borsalino, Christys and Lock & Co make fabulous hats of outstanding quality, stylish and well-made hats can be picked up in less intimidating emporia. And if you discover a hat with a glorious shape and an excellent fit, do not despair if the band is of poor quality or unappealing; haberdashery stores sell good quality grosgrain ribbon and silk that can be fashioned into smart bands for hats very easily and inexpensively by a local tailor.


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Winston Chesterfield is an amateur composer, fashion blogger, trained lawyer and style aficionado. He lives in Westminster, London and blogs at www.levraiwinston.com.

Comments

  1. Nicola Linza says:

    Winston,
    I knew from the title alone in my RSS feed that you wrote this piece. What a great read. I like hats very much myself yet rarely wear them. That stated, you did nail a critical aspect of any hat, that is ‘outstanding quality.’ I might add that the old illustration you placed is very appropriate of the proper ‘look’ while wearing a hat. More often few men today are able to wear hats well, but I think you do, as I do, very well. Regards,
    Nicola