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The Duchess of Cambridge has weaponised the headband. Hers is sending a message… can you hear it?
Oh, you’re going to love this. Kate Middleton is bringing back the headband!
I say headband, but this implies subtlety. The Duchess of Cambridge has weaponised hers, which are more the size of small, sovereign countries. Seriously, you can see these suckers from space.
Instead of a decorative strip lined with little teeth to subdue hair into place, a Kate Middleton headband is more of an enormous half-doughnut strapped onto the skull with cable ties, or maybe a glue gun, forming a squishy fabric crescent around the face.
It’s either a fascinator that’s bulked up on protein shakes or a hat that can’t be arsed. Either way, it couldn’t care less about keeping your fringe out of your eyes. A bit like the duchess herself, this headband may be attractive but doesn’t have an actual job to do. The symmetry of this is rather pleasing.
According to breathless international royal watchers, Kate has now worn three variations of this headband in the past few months. She wore a cream doughnut to her son’s christening. She wore a blue one with fake roses to a wedding. She wore a black velvet doughnut at Westminster Abbey on Remembrance Sunday. And even though no common woman in full possession of her faculties either needs or wants one, we must all agree that it’s a matter of time before Kate Middleton’s headband catches on to become An Actual Thing.
It’s inevitable, apparently. Everyone in retail insists there’s a “Kate effect”, where lookalike gowns, shoes and dresses sell out within minutes of her wearing them. It’s true of her children’s clothes, too. Every time Prince George appears in lederhosen, there’s a rush on at Harrods. I bet you can’t move in Chelsea for 5-year-olds in bow ties, wingtips and knickerbockers: such is the seductive power of her taste.
Still, it’s hard to attribute the enduring success of the nude heel, say, or the cork wedge, to Kate alone. I mean, most women at some point during their summer will override their misgivings and give the cork wedge a chance. They’ll go on to discover the cork wedge is, in fact, an empty promise – neither wholly practical nor vampily sexy, not very good in the wet, crummy on sand, and a bugger to drive in. (Kate Middleton, you may have noticed, does not drive.)
Cork wedges are the cockroaches of the shoe industry. Season after season, they return to plague us. We can’t blame Kate Middleton for their existence: they would have happened anyway.
But why the headband, and why now? I’m sure she’d explain it if she had a speaking engagement lined up, but I don’t even need to look at the royal diary to tell you she hasn’t. Instead, royal women communicate to us through the medium of their clothes, in the same way that ground-crew communicate to flight-crew through the medium of ping-pong paddles.
According to the Daily Mail’s “royal expert” who may or may not have had a couple of Pimm’s Cups with lunch, the headband is Kate’s bold new way of distinguishing her style from Meghan Markle, whose dress sense is increasingly regal.
I can understand the appeal of this explanation. I mean, lately it’s getting incredibly easy to mistake one duchess for the other, especially whenever Meghan wears green, or a dress coat, or a poppy on her lapel, just like Kate. Whenever Kate puts on the headband, it helps us distinguish which one of them is Meghan: the one without the halo around her head.
The Daily Mail should really have called me. I could have told them the headband has nothing to do with Meghan Markle, and everything to do with Charles as regent.
While the rest of Kate may be harnessed to the thankless task of duchessing around Cambridge, her head, at least, is preparing for history. Charles just turned 70. His PR lackeys at Clarence House are in overdrive, polishing his image as a doting grandfather, a reader of important royal documents, a lover of gardens, and a feeder of chooks.
The Queen’s wearing the jewels, but the palace is preparing Camilla. This means Kate switching from little league to bigger league, but she can’t glitter too much. Plus, with Meghan on board, delivering glamour is no longer her exclusive job. She must offer a dull, mature solidity instead.
What better way to do it than revive a centuries-old style of headwear, beloved of noble Tudors? This isn’t a headband, it’s a French hood. Married, courtly women rocked these 500 years ago, until Elizabeth
I assumed the throne, pushed it further back on her head and studded it with jewels.
The ultimate English queen, Elizabeth I also liked clothes, but employed her brain to do the talking.
Photo: Victoria Birkinshaw