Melanie Rickey wonders if a bonnet can ever be truly fashionable
Wearing a hat and looking stylish in the winter is a bit of a joke. At the first hint of cold most people simply eschew fashion in favour of looking like a smurf, Monica Lewinsky, or even the poor London Underground staff - who really don't like their new Phillip Treacy helmet hat. Nevertheless looking a bit silly is OK in winter, as long as it's intentional. Wearing a knowing smile with a ridiculous hat works wonders ... just look at stylist Isabella Blow for proof.

Jean Paul Gaultier's winter collection included a celebration of the Peruvian winter hat in all its kooky glory. There were berets, snoods, skull-caps and lots of intricately knitted numbers, with Noddy-like peaks, and ear flaps which can be fastened under the chin. Some had furry linings that poke out like an extra shaggy fringe.

These brilliant hats, in mohair and alpaca, cost pounds 85 each, (well, they do have Gaultier's label and a few sequins sewn in). A cheaper alternative can be found at Tumi, a shop in London's Camden Town which specialises in South American clobber. Its Peruvian and Ecuadorian hats, made of crocheted alpaca, are pounds 6.95 (mail order, 0171-485 4152).

The other way to go for winter is urban/sporty. Prada has come up trumps with the hat of the moment, shown here. They haven't given it a name, preferring to describe it as "Extrafine Merino wool with finishing panels in stain-resistant nylon, waterproofed with Teflon", but it looks remarkably like a bonnet. It fits the head like a hood, fastens under the chin with Velcro, and has the distinctive red stripe subtly indented with the word "Prada" sewn onto the back. The one shown here is pounds 90, and a peaked balaclava with neck and upper shoulder coverage, also by Prada, is pounds 120.

Hussein Chalayan is probably to blame for this trend. His winter collection featured models with huge egg heads, and this bonnet/helmet thing is surely a toned-down version. Whatever. The good thing about these hats is that they are very warm, hide bad-hair days, and have water-resistant coatings. "Real" versions can be found in camping shops. Lowe Alpine (available from Ellis Brigham, 0171-240 9577) do very stylish thermal balaclavas for under pounds 30. Speaking of helmets, it was a pleasant surprise to find out that Louis Vuitton actually makes real helmets for motor-cyclists, decorated with its Damier checkerboard pattern. The perfect example of form following function

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