Carola Long: 'Fair-weather hat wearers have a sheepish air which suggests the accessory landed on their head by accident'

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Indy Lifestyle Online

All it takes is a few sunny days. At the merest glimmer of UV light, the British come out of mass fashion hibernation and start contemplating spray tans, indecently short, scruffy denim shorts, and, of course, hats.

The trouble is that like a pair of blindingly white, sun-starved pins you can spot a fair-weather hat wearer a mile off (I know, I'm one of them). The giveaway is a sheepish air which suggests the accessory adorning one's head has landed there by accident, and you've never seen it before in your life. Unlike natural-born hat fans such as Lou Doillon or Johnny Depp, whose headwear is an expression of their self-confidence, most people tend to wear hats rather apologetically, and part of the problem is the fear of getting it horribly wrong.

You can't throw a tent peg at a festival (or on a British beach) without hitting one of the following examples of hats to be avoided at all costs: Woody Allen-ish floppy cotton hats, tropical-pink straw styles that look like they should be hit by children bearing sticks piñata-style, cowboy hats, trilbies with ornate trims or in pastel colours, baker boy/ baseball hybrids. These are the hats of shame. So what does that leave?

My money would be on classic simplicity, not a gaudy number that screams "Accessorize at the airport". Androgynous styles, such as a panama or trilby in natural straw don't look too try-hard, and if you want to splash out, consider La Cerise Sur Le Chapeau, the Parisian makers of handmade, customised hats who ship to the UK ( lacerisesurlechapeau.com). Marks and Spencer's men's panamas in small sizes are a cheaper option, or for a broader brim and a more elegant effect, Reiss have a lovely straw hat with slim black bands (pictured below, £39).

The straw boater is having a comeback – find them at Asos and at Zara – thanks to the autumn/winter 2009 Chanel show and 'Coco Avant Chanel'. In the film, the milliner-turned-designer upstaged the overblown creations worn by the aristos around her with a simple boater. The same principle still applies: keep the design classic (and don't team it with anything resembling an umpire's uniform) and you'll keep a cool head.

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