‘Fashion is a vampiric thing, it’s the Hoover on your brain. That’s why I wear the hats, to keep everyone away from me,’ said the late fashion icon Isabella Blow, famed for her outrageous Philip Treacy millinery.
Let’s be frank: a statement hat isn’t part of your everyday attire. Blow – who actually wore the hats to stop people from being able to air-kiss her – was never without her fabulous headgear, but for most of us the extent of our hat roster is a beanie in cold weather, perhaps a straw one for summer holidays.
Fanciful hats are usually reserved for special occasions – top hats at Ascot, a plumage arrangement for a wedding. Which means that wearing them in any other setting is about making a statement; adding a sartorial exclamation point.
Sir Elton John is the most well known of flamboyant hat wearers; his have varied from rhinestone baseball caps to lavishly feathered top hats to sparkle-encrusted bowlers (right). More recently, Pharrell Williams’ oversized Vivienne Westwood Buffalo hat and Lady Gaga’s stetsons (Madonna passing on that particular baton) have drawn attention.
A statement hat isn’t about function but performance, so you have to commit to making an impact. The artist formerly known as Reginald Dwight might have paired his exuberant head decoration with equally OTT ensembles, but it’s wisest to dial back the theatrics in everyday life.
Some of the most enduring style images feature hats, and they’re all the better for being the focus of the outfit; think of Humphrey Bogart in his trilby, or Diane Keaton as Annie Hall in her jaunty boater.
Broadly, headwear falls into two categories: structured and unstructured. Let’s assume you don’t need guidance on the latter, the beanies and berets of the world. If you’re tempted by the former, steer towards styles that will work with your existing wardrobe; a final flourish instead of a jarring extra.
For instance, if you’re a man, a tweed flat cap or baker boy is a no-brainer if you’re usually in country attire (never with a suit or you’ll risk looking like a painful Peaky Blinder wannabe). For women, a sleek fedora in plum or olive is an easy ‘in’ with hats. On that note, millinery purists insist that a fascinator is decidedly not a hat, so steer clear for now; it’s a tad mother-of-the-bride in the wrong hands. No one wants to be known as the Mad Hatter.