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Hat Tricks

Fascinators from Hatthyllan


“I tried it on, and it looked great. I couldn’t believe it. I never look good in a bucket hat.”

“What’s a bucket hat?”

“You know, it looks like, well, as if you put a bucket on your head, but, um, no, I mean, it’s better than it sounds . . .”



Nevermind the name. There are a billion hat style descriptors, and taking the time to learn them all may not help you find a favorite. Falling head over heels for a canvas hooligan cap does not guarantee you will look as good  in a hooligan cap made out of wool. That’s how it goes with hats. No two are the same. So, before you walk into a shop and say, “I’ll take a porkpie, please,” consider these five factors.  


Function. It helps to be realistic. Ears freeze, so if you want to wear that lovely beret, think about adding a scarf. The wind is famous for catching brims and lids, so if you are in the habit of walking the pier in February, focus on a snug fit. Regardless of the time of year, try the hat on with your favorite sunglasses, hands free devices, and earbuds. The hat has to work with those, too.


MY EXPERIENCE: Sometimes a hat with ear flapsdespite all the functional plussesis still a hat with earflaps. Because I rarely rock a Cossack’s accent or have an airplane nearby while in one of those toasty, ear-flappy masterpieces, people have felt it was their job to comment on my choice with a “You’re not Russian,” or “Welcome home, Amelia.” Some hats remain tightly tethered to their original purpose. So noted.


Fit. Will the hat fit your face, applaud your profile, flatter your best feature, and adapt well to your coat and boots and degree of animation? Each hat comes with its own personality and design lines, and they can complement or butt up against your own.


MY EXPERIENCE: I need a hat with width or thickness, a bit of height, and some type of line that runs from temple to temple. Otherwise, it is fisheye lens-time for my jaw and nose. I’m not looking for presents. It is just that when it comes to hats for me, I am practically the old market woman who can tell which tomatoes will make the best sauce. Yes, at something, finally, I have a clue.


Hair. Want to know a secret? A hat can be a salon session. Stuffing, for example, is an après ski trick. Right before you put on your hat, gently fold at least the top layers of your tresses within the crown, or twist or lightly pin-set. If your hair flattens at the top, rest the hair so it lies against your part. There are lots of under-the-hat updos that allow you to step into the cloakroom and adjust, not scream. No hat should be off limits without first asking a hair care expert for conditioning or undercover styling advice.


MY EXPERIENCE: Most hats style my hair better than I do.


Material. Is a baseball cap in floral print velvet still a baseball cap? I think it is a philosophical question. Wool felt, cashmere, canvas, corduroy, blocked, woven, knitted, dyed, all those plaids and checks I can never keep straight. Maybe some materials will itch or pill or crush, some colors and fabrics are hard to keep clean, but, when in doubt, take a chance on what all of your senses can appreciate. Maybe not taste or smell, but certainly your color cones, your fingertips, the way the world hushes for just a second when you cover your head. A cool silhouette might jazz you up, but it is the quality of the materials that will connect that hat to your soul.


MY EXPERIENCE: On my last trip, I found four hats. One my daughter favored, a black canvas bakerboy. It also happened to look good on her. The second was the bucket hat. I was shocked, and delighted. The last two were identical, both Harris tweed. One was deep blue. Stoic. Rich. I felt my heart move. The other was in toffee and caramel. It made me look sane and gentle. “Thank you,” I whispered. I talked to the hat. In the end, I did not buy. I wanted all but could not have all, so I went home to see which ones I could not forget. I could not forget any of them.   


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