- After an exceedingly mild autumn, winter is upon us and the weather is finally turning cold, some might say frigid on certain days. Beyond the obvious defense of wearing heavier winter clothes, an essential accessory this time of year is a hat. May I suggest something other than the baseball cap variety over the next several months of cold weather?
Dress hats, for lack of a better expression, have been with us since the time of Alexander the Great
, although during his time they were used as a symbol of rank and worn primarily into battle. It has been noted that Alexander's helmet was decorated with a feathery plume and feathers remained essential elements of hats for both men and women through the ages of fashion, particularly in the royal courts of Europe. Napoleon had his familiar Biscorne with the upturned corners and General Charles de Gaulle had his Kepi. None of these few examples would be worn today as everyday apparel, so let us consider a few styles that might.
The most common and my favorite is the Fedora, made iconic by the likes of Humphrey Bogart in any number of movie roles and Harrison Ford
as "Indiana Jones." This style of hat has remained popular and was an essential piece of men's headwear in the 1930s and 1940s, when it was at its height of popularity. Made from felt, a non-woven form of wool fabric that is created by a process of condensing and matting wool fibers, it is considered to be the world's oldest fabric.
The Fedora is creased down the center of the crown, which is the top part of any hat, and double pinched at the peak or front of the crown. The brim, usually about two to two and a half inches in width, goes all the way around the crown and the front brim is turned down with the back rim either turned up or down depending on taste. I prefer mine turned down. There is also a decorative hatband that encircles the Fedora where the brim and crown meet; it is usually an inch and half ribbon made of silk or linen. Felt can be dyed any color, but most Fedoras are black, brown or grey.
Sir Winston Churchill was known for wearing a Bowler.
A Trilby, becoming increasingly popular of late, is a variation on the Fedora with a thinner brim that is always turned up in the back. I am seeing a modernized version of the Trilby everywhere these days on both men and women. Stiffer in construction than the traditional Trilby, a checkered black and white pattern seems to be the choice of color these days.
Both the Fedora and the Trilby are variations on the Homburg, considered a semi-formal hat at the time of its popularity in the 1930s; it was made popular outside of Germany by Edward VII of Great Britain. Also made of felt, it has a center crease but no pinched crown and the brim, about as wide as that of a Fedora, is stiff and turned up slightly at the edges.
Somewhat dated but still available is the Bowler, most associated with Sir Winston Churchill
. The crown is round and there are no creases or pinches whatsoever. The rim is narrow and stiff. Made of felt it can be dyed any color, but most Bowlers are black and like the Fedora, Trilby and Homburg have a satin or silk hatband.
Berets are always warm and stylish.
Two less formal or, again for lack of a better word, dress hats that are favorites of mine are the Flat Cap or Ivy Cap, which is colloquially referred to as a "skimmer" and the Irish Walking Hat, commonly found covering the head of New York's late, great senator, Patrick Moynihan. Both have Celtic lineages, so how could I possibly not mention them? They are considered country hats and are exceedingly warm as they are generally made of wool tweed. Both are crushable and can be slipped into the pocket of any overcoat or winter jacket. The best versions of these are made in Scotland and Ireland from the world famous Harris Tweed fabric.
My father once said to me, "If you are going to wear a Beret, you'd better be able to fight." I see less of these iconic French hats with each visit I make to Paris, but I have always been fond of them and they remain quite common in the French countryside. They are made of wool felt, are extremely warm and, in my opinion, stylish and understated. They come in many colors, but I think a simple black Beret is an essential for any wardrobe.
Of course, one can always wear a baseball cap, cowboy hat or knit wool cap, but try on one these alternatives that will lend an added element of style to any ensemble. Remember what your mother taught you and an essential of Hamptons good manners, take your hat off once you enter a room.
Frequently mistaken for the "Most Interesting Man in the World" from the Dos Equis commercials and the iconic gray-bearded Sean Connery, DMH is the Senior Contributing Editor at Hamptons.com. www.hamptons.com