Fear Not the Hat (Fear Only Unflattering Ones)

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One of the few things that I cannot buy online and be assured of a reasonably good fit (I apparently have an astoundingly average build) are hats. Not only is it difficult to find a cool one, but after having found a cool hat, it will find me about one out of 100 times. I have bought two hats in the past year. So, that means that I’ve tried on about 200 hats, and looked at about… a thousand, at least. Now, not all of these are unique designs. There are always slight variations in hats, and even very small differences can make a big difference in how good (or, more likely to be the case bad,) a hat looks.

My favorite hat is an Engineer’s cap for English millinery “Fred Bare” (not to be confused with the Australian childrenswear brand.) It is made from black (now faded black) waxed cotton, and so nearly waterproof, with a soft cotton lining. It is pleated in the front, and the material being very malleable, can be “shaped” on the head. I liked it so much I bought a second one six months later, in a deep chocolate and chestnuts color. Fred Bare also makes a military style cap from the same material, with a broader brim, and also any manner of straw fedoras, which are very popular right now.

Military and Engineer’s caps are particularly popular with young males wearing slim jeans and canvas sneakers, and a lot of good models can be found at army surplus stores from about a twentieth of what a Fred Bare cap goes for. On the opposite end of the price scale, Lanvin offered a silk and linen cap reminiscent of the hats worn by British soldiers in British military campaigns, Balenciaga had a remarkable satin cadet hat (that came with an equally impressive $350+ pricetag) and Eugenia Kim (www.eugeniakin.com), from New York, is also offering a cadet style cap, as well as a lot of fedora, porkpie, and straw panama styles, and you know that they are cool, their being sold at New York trendsetting stores like Bblessing (www.bblessing.com) and all.

Of course, fedoras are seen on the heads of many annoyingly trendy people everywhere, especially in lower Manhattan, Los Angeles, and on the heads of people everywhere who think that they share some communion with said trendoids. If that does not deter you, or if you are a trendoid, Still Life in New York (www.stilllifenyc.com) is the place to pick up fedoras, or newsboy and drivers caps, which are acceptable hipster alternatives to the fedora, albeit not quite as current.

My wife is lucky. Nearly every shape or size of hat looks good on her. So she only has to try on hats for color, and can be classic, or trendy, or whatever it is she wants, rather than be like me, stuck with one or two particular hats, and so either a hipster, or a doofus, or whatever the connotation that type of hat carries at that fashion moment. On the other hand, she could not write a catalogue of hats purely from experience. So, you win some, and you lose some.


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Fok-Yan Leung can be found discussing men’s style at Styleforum.net.