Accessorizing is one way of defining a personal style. The use of the accessory can define an individual aesthetic. A plain black dress may be accented with vintage fur and chunky gold jewelry or ladder-ripped nylons and a floral crown — two pretty different looks derived from a couple extras thrown on a basic garment. The key to creative wearability is in the customization of the outfit: the accessory.
My favourite accessory is the hat. Most popular are baseball caps or the hipster-chic cuffed toque, but I’m more a fan of good old-fashioned wool bowlers, pork-pies, boaters, fascinators and tilt-toppers. Caps that were popular decades ago, fell out of fashion and are wheedling their way back into street style with the resurgent love of secondhand clothing.
Even American Apparel, a company that bases its business on offering city dwellers trendy basics, has picked up on this new milieu of millinery. They sell a swath of headgear, including a unisex wool beret in 15 colours and a floppy 1970s-esque wool hat in 12 colours. It’s an impressive array of contemporary options for two classic hat designs. Urban Outfitters offers customers pieces such as the Brixton Avenue Boater Hat or Silence and Noise Grosgrain Bowler Hat.
Rather than just being an item to match with one’s shoes, a favourite accessory can be worn until it is rubbed raw with memories. My favourite everyday hat (a dinner party or black-tie event hat is a different matter altogether) is a grey felt pork-pie I plucked from the racks at a thrift store in my hometown. The pork-pie is typically crafted from felt or straw and defined by its flat brim and crown. I’ve carted this particular pork-pie along with me for years, and it has seen me coast along some good times. Three summers ago, I laid it over my face during vehicular afternoon naps on a road trip down the craggy coast of Oregon. It is also great for catching 40 winks in parks or atop grassy knolls during an August afternoon. My hat has jangled with change, passed around to friends as we tried to wrangle enough money for a communal treat: a bottle of wine or box of pizza. I’ve had my pork-pie knocked off my head for a romantic smooch. I’ve chased it across four lanes of traffic when the West Coast wind has buffeted it off my head on more than one occasion. (Don’t do this.)
Like any much-loved and oft-worn item of clothing, my hat is saturated with memories and has become a keynote of my outfits. Cultivating a look around an accessory that one really loves helps to define personal style. Whether you opt to purchase new or vintage, hat love is bold and back in demand.