Trend Spotlight: Hats are Back

FashionTrends to Try

Trend Spotlight: Hats are Back

Unpacking the resurrection of the baker boy cap, the beret, the cowboy hat and the fedora.

“It doesn’t matter whether or not you have a head, you must wear the right sort of hat” – Nikos Kazantzakis. Yes, cast aside the Penn sweater and the Moncler monstrosity. Hats are back. It took centuries for us to stop wearing them and now the baker boy cap, the beret, the cowboy hat and the fedora have been resurrected from the nineteenth century and reinvented by designers such as Karl Lagerfeld and Manokhi. Ruslan Baginskiy, the popular milliner from Lviv, has breathed fresh air into the realm of the hat-atelier. The designer’s stiff-brimmed nautical hats, embroidered with the iconic RB initials, now grace the heads of Elsa Hosk, Bella Hadid, Romee Strijd and Kaia Gerber.

How did this new trend occur? Hats have always been symbols of class, social and professional status. The silk top hat, which evolved in style and shape from “The Aylesbury” to “The Turf,” “The Oxonian” to “The Tilbury,” was analogous with wealth, respectability and status, the ideals of the bourgeois man. Hats were made bigger and better for those who enjoyed foppish exhibitionism like the eighteenth century highly self-conscious Dandy. Baker boy caps on the other hand, also known as fisherman, newsboy or poor boy hats, conjure Dickensian images of Oliver Twist and Dodger in Victorian London. These hats were often made with corduroy, a durable cloth originating in eighteenth century Manchester, and worn by townspeople inhabiting squalid industrial areas. Nautical hats formed part of the sailor’s uniform and were made of material resistant to the elements. Their association with chaps in uniform, ships and the sea have always given them a raffish character, epitomized by the tap-dancing sailor-boys, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire.

In the hands of fashion designers, those hierarchies are dismantled. The poor boy cap is now an item of luxury and the sailor’s cap has been encrusted with jewels and glamorously refurbished to glitter in the windows of Bergdorf Goodman and Henri Bendel. This is what fashion has the license to do: source, dig, uproot and replant to make a weed blossom. The compelling question that arises in this reinvention of the hat in its more nuanced form is concerned with appropriation of identity. When we see Karlie Kloss and Gigi Hadid hailing a cab in the East Village wearing a newsboy hat retailing at $160, is it simply fashion’s way of playing puppet master with history? Kim Kardashian, whose net worth is around $175 million dollars, graced the cover of Vogue Taiwan’s January 2018 editorial in a corduroy baker boy hat.

Karl Lagerfeld took hat inspiration from nautical style in his The Métiers d’Art collection unveiled in the port of Hamburg. The CHANEL milliners saw the androgynous charm of sailor style. They have gentrified and modernized the maritime fisherman hat so that the runway is a deck for nautical elegance in the form of embroidered, embellished and beribboned seafaring caps.  


Milliners like Philip Treacy who designed hats for Alexander McQueen and whose surrealist, Avant-garde hats have been worn by Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, Princess Beatrice and the aristocratic elites have also experimented with traditional designs to create fascinators and hats which blur the line between haute couture and high art. Treacy’s hats embody dreams and transcend function. Though they are most often spotted on the blow-dried heads of the elite, they poke fun at tradition and rattle the power and symbolism bound up with the hat in a postmodern kind of way. Who would have thought that eggs, beans and fried sausages (the traditional English breakfast) would end up on a fascinator, slanted to the side and exhibited at Royal Ascot on the head of someone supposedly posh!

Peter White/Getty

Now that we’ve swept through the history of hats from the Victorian to the postmodern, the question is, how can I look Baginskiy as I walk to Van Pelt but save my dollars for late night Wawa coffee runs? Urban Outfitters are stocked with exquisite berets in beautiful macaroon colors for $29, Forever 21 sells baker boy caps for under $15 and Zara has a range of nautical hats for $25.90. My favourite place to browse for hats is on the Australian website Lack of Colour. So put your Penn cap down, save your beanie for another time and take a risk with a beret…you never know, it may spark a French kiss around Valentine’s day.  

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