Niamh O’Donoghue explores the fashion history of the hat and tells us why she thinks more Irish women need to embrace them…
I wear hats day-to-day; mainly my beloved high-street fedora. I enjoy the feeling I get when I wear it: it gives me a sense of confidence and presence – authority if you will – and my outfit feels complete. It’s my finishing touch! I’ve been told that I’m a “hat person”; which I’ve identified as a type of person that can “pull-off” wearing a hat – whatever that means. But it’s time to ditch stereotypical “types” and start embracing these beautiful accessories..and just in time for summer too.
Once a necessity worn by deities of high society – heirs and graces, lords and ladies – hats are now a frivolous accessory that, in an instant, have the ability to morph a simple outfit into an entire thought-out and chic ensemble. It’s a simple and cost-effective way to renew and reenergize a look or style, so why aren’t more people doing it? During the 1960’s in Ireland, milliners produced 1000 hats a week for the Irish market alone. While the number has dwindled slightly, there is still a large amount of highly skilled milliners here in Ireland, but are we actually buying hats?
My favourite felt fedora from H&M
The general consensus among IMAGE staff is that the majority of people here tend to wear a hat in winter to stay warm, but don’t generally wear hats because of head shape and head size. What’s more, they’re anxious about what other people might think (which is surprising to me because these lot are quite a confident bunch) and prefer “to leave hats to the holidays”. There are the odd staff members though, like me, who tend to venture outside the comfort of a winter beanie and enjoy a year-round beret or fedora. From my not-so-journalistic-and-mediocre analysis of the IMAGE staff, I’ve come to the conclusion that Irish people may be too shy to don an everyday hat, and like using “I don’t have a ‘hat head'” as an excuse. Since when did we become so conservative? And how can we reintroduce hats to our wardrobes?
What Style Should I Choose?
Well, do you have a head? Yes? Then you can wear a hat. Most people avoid hats because of head shape and face shape. Granted: hats don’t suit absolutely everyone, but for the most part, the majority of us are ill-informed about the shapes and styles that best suit our individualities and shape. Choosing the correct style can be a daunting task; there’s the fedora, the trilby, a boater, a wide-brim, a peaked cap, a sun hat, a flat cap, a baseball cap, a beanie, a bucket, the trilby, and the Panama – to name a few. If you’re unsure about which style suits you then you’re best off visiting your local milliner. Here, you can get your head measured and get an expert opinion about which hat will suit your face and head shape. I recommend dropping into milliner Anthony Peto on South Anne Street where you’ll be met by Petra – Anthony Peto’s right-hand woman and very experienced milliner who will have you fitted-out with a perfect style in no time. All that’s left now is to put your thinking cap on (..ha).
What’s more, we’re blessed to have an abundance of spectacular Irish milliners on our doorstep like John Shevlin, Catherine Cooke, Jennifer Wrynne, Anthony Peto, Martha Lynn, and of course, Phillip Treacy, that it’s a shame not to give a hat a try. Not only are you investing in a piece of art and a legacy, but you become a member of quite an exclusive community of hat-wearers. Despite Irish millinery’s popularity streamlining, only last month did Lady Gaga hail Galway-born milliner Phillip Treacy “the greatest milliner in the world”, and accumulate profits exceeding €386,487 last year. Treacy has also fitted hats for Madonna, Beyonce, David and Victoria Beckham, Grace Jones and Sarah Jessica Parker along the way too; continuously flying the flag for Irish millinery.
In need of some hatspiration? Take a look at our gallery above and see how fashion insiders perfectly style their head gear during Fashion Weeks around the world.