THE STYLE CLINIC
Get ahead, they say, get a hat. Or at least, that’s what they used to say. But times have changed, and bowlers and titfers and the rest have gone the way of all things.
And what I want to know is which hat to get? OK, I understand that in intense sunshine it can be an idea to cover one’s head. And that there are straw things for that. And in sub-zero conditions a hat makes sense, too. And you can buy woolly things for that. But the rest of the time, when it’s merely mild, or just a bit nippy, I’m bamboozled. Is there a hat that is acceptable for the stylish modern man to wear that doesn’t look like a desperate attempt to cover a bald patch? Should I bow to the inevitable and buy one of those American baseball caps? Sometimes I wish I was a cowboy or a chef or a bishop. Their hats come with the job. But I’m not one of those. I’m a loss adjuster. With a comb-over. Bertrand, Hackney, London The thing about hats, Bertrand, is like most things in menswear, unless they’re serving a very specific function (signifying your bishopric, for instance, or keeping the Arizona sun off your heiferherding face), they’re superfluous to requirements. Hats worn purely for “style”, in my opinion, are nothing more than affectation, and, as John Locke put it: “affectation is an awkward and forced imitation of what should be genuine and easy, wanting the beauty that accompanies what is natural.”
There are, as with all things, exceptions. Bowie was the picture of give-a-fuck insouciance wearing a fedora during his Thin White Duke period, and Frank Sinatra looked great wearing a trilby throughout the Fifties. Even Liam Gallagher looked stylish, in a scary, scruffy way, wearing his collection of bucket hats during the Nineties. But all these examples are a) protected by the gossamer veil of nostalgia and b) demonstrated by men so overspilling with personality and charisma that each would have looked good wearing a turban made from his grandma’s curtains.
Personality accessories — affectations designed to imbue their wearers with character they don’t actually possess — are, in short, best avoided. Jazzy pocket squares, fancy ties, jaunty hats. Unless you are a man so confident in his own abilities and so respected within his field of influence (which I have no doubt you are, Bertrand) that you can wear whatever you like, whenever you like, anything other than a Panama in the summer or a deerstalker in the winter is better off left on the hat stand.
If you are determined to wear a hat out of season, there are a few options that will inflict minimal damage and maybe, just maybe, make you look more stylish. An ultra-minimal wool or cashmere baseball cap in a neutral shade of navy, black or charcoal can be a tasteful way to cover up an early onset bald patch. This style of hat can look surprisingly good worn with tailoring in a complementary shade. Whistles does a nice line in these, as does Cos. Lock & Co also has a great range of engineer’s hats. There are light linen versions for warmer days and there’s a great cashmere option for when the temperature drops. If you’re bald, a good mild weather choice can be a merino wool burglar beanie, designed to sit high on the head
(never slouched down to the nape of the neck). Ami does a fine selection of these. Just be sure to wear one with more casual outfits: beanies and suits do not mix.
And as for your comb-over, Bertrand. Cut it off. For the love of God, cut it off.
Black wool-cashmere train driver cap, £200, by Lock & Co Hatters;
Grey wool cap, £50,
Red wool beanie hat,
£70 by Ami;