Scrolling through some marvellous old footage of VE day recently, I was struck how, in the early years of the last century, everyone wore a hat. Everyone. Silent crowd scenes were punctuated by the air filling with flying boaters, bowlers or flat caps, enthusiastically launched by their wearers. How did they ever get their own hat back, I wonder…? I certainly wouldn’t be lobbing my millinery around! That withstanding I decided to note down here a collection of my favourite 20th century hat wearers.
Possibly our most celebrated hat wearer of that century. Mr Churchill was known for his collection that ranged from his trademark ‘Lincoln Bennett’ Homburg…through to the “Tom Mix” Stetson hat he wore in the USA in 1929.
Churchill might have picked up a few tips from the septic tanks (he was after all, half-blood) But the greatest wearer of the Cowboy Hat was of course, John Wayne. He also sold us back the flat cap in his appearance as the prizefighter Sean Thorton in John Houston’s 1952 Technicolour Craic-fest, The Quiet Man. Wayne was also seen in a Fez, in his real-life role as a Masonic Shriner Grand Master.
The Fez was sadly outlawed in its native Turkey in 1927, by moderniser, Mustapha Kemal Ataturk. Ataturk’s law did not however, prevent our most-loved comic, Tommy Cooper from making it his trademark comedy headgear – and hasn’t prevented one or two of us from harbouring an illicit fez or two in our hat collections.
Patrick Macnee Alias John Steed
The demise of our hero, Patrick MacNee, aka John Steed, has reminded us how elegant the Bowler could look, and not just the preserve of the City and the Holkham Estate in Norfolk. And yes Peter Christian still supply bowlers, not often in catalogue but always available online.
The popular TV revival of Sherlock Holmes has thrown the deer stalker back into focus. It can look very good worn with tweeds a la Basil Rathbone… but not a la John McCririck, for obvious reasons.
And the modernists amongst us look retrogressively to Old Blue eyes and his easy way with a short, snap-brimmed trilby or an insouciantly tilted straw pork pie.
Hats have rarely caused a stir in recent times but Pharrell William’s oversized hat certainly did – and to be honest I like the cut of his jib. I’d have one, perhaps because it is an original Vivian Westwood…
Whatever your preference, head shape or size, it’s clear to me that the well-dressed man needs to embrace the hat. You know what they say… “If you want to get ahead get a hat”