From a chic pillbox to a feathered cap, the personality hat is back | Hats

There was a time when it was shocking to venture into public bareheaded. You or I would no more have done our weekly shop without a hat than we would have done it barefoot. Now the opposite is true. Hats, which used to be a badge of duty and propriety, have become the opposite – a bold sartorial choice that marks you out as a flamboyant dresser.

There are exceptions. Some hats are so normalised we barely register them. A beanie on a wintry walk, a baseball cap on a sunny beach. And there are still occasions – weddings, Ascot – where hats are part of the ritual. But beyond these narrow guardrails, hats have become an eccentricity.

But the exciting news from the catwalks is that the hat is back. Not just the practical hat, the personality hat. We all know the difference. A cowboy hat may keep the rain off but no one ever wore one for that reason. A personality hat might have practical benefits, but it is mostly for the vibes.

The new personality hat can be a glassily feathered military cap (Prada), an oversized sun hat (Chanel) or a chic old-school pillbox (The Row). In other words, this isn’t about the hat as one element of a look, in the way the bucket hat was part of a Y2K revival. The hat can be whatever you want, so long as it has personality.

Lots of things happened to put us off the hat. Two world wars, for a start: men and women who had to wear hats in the forces wanted to leave that association behind in civilian dress. The motorcar (convertibles are windy; non-convertibles are a squeeze.) Hairstyles, from beehives to mohawks, which were not minded to be flattened or hidden. As hat-wearing faded from fashion, it began to look old-fashioned.

But hats will never die, because the right one is transformative. There is an indelible glamour to a hat. To look at the world from under a rakishly tilted brim lends an instant air of mystery. It adds sophistication to your silhouette, emphasis to every shake of the head or jut of the chin. People notice a personality hat, because it speaks of intentionality in the way you have put yourself together.

Hats can label you. A pillbox or a cloche gives a serene, ladylike air. A fedora suggests maverick. A hat can signal allegiance to a type of music, or a culture, as a beret does to French bohemia. Which may be why most of us now shy away from hat-wearing, when a fractious culture tends to make identity feel endlessly argumentative.

But I get the sense that a lot of us are hat-curious. Whenever there is a vogue for a fun hat – like those beanies with outsize pom-poms a couple of winters ago – it seems to catch on fast, which suggests that we love a hat, but also see safety in numbers. The quiet-luxury trend for understated baseball caps in neutral tones with offbeat lower case slogans is another case in point. You get to make a low-key statement without feeling too much of an outlier.

Personal style is seeing a resurgence. We are all much less concerned with what’s in and what’s out. Now that trends are less key, we are all looking for our own north star, to define our personal style, to find out what brings joy to the process of getting dressed and makes us feel like our best selves. It is not outlandish to suggest that the hat, as ultimate marker of character and individuality, could make a return as we become more confident in who we are and what we like.

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Since I stopped paying so much attention to the what’s-in-what’s-out of fashion, I find it easier to think clearly about what I want to look like. I have not as yet experimented with the personality hat. I have questions. For instance, I love the idea of a pillbox, but I think I’d feel silly wearing it indoors, and it seems a bit over the top just for going for a walk. But, that’s just me. The whole point of a personality hat is that it’s all about you.

Styling assistant: Sam Deaman. Hair and makeup: Sophie Higginson using Ouai and Tom Ford Beauty. Model: Liz De Aza at Milk. Hat: Maison Michel Paris. Shirt: Camilla and Marc

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