Head over Heels | Lindsay Conn

I bought a new hat. Not a beret, not a beanie, and certainly not one of those appalling knitted caps. A real hat: the headwear of choice for the siren and seductress. As I tried it on, posing in the mirror, arching an eyebrow and admiring how well the colour went with my pasty complexion, I asked the shop owner if she sold many hats. Apparently not. “Girls come in here to buy them,” she lamented, “but only to wear to Club Noir.”

I left clutching my veiled, jade pillbox vision with her words ringing in my ears. Either the hat had become an item of fancy dress, or simply something for the stereotypical crazy old lady. Perhaps it’s a bit of both, but, regardless of the reasons, women today are terrified of wearing fancy headgear. A gander at The Answers (i.e. Google) confirms this, with a plethora of results instructing the phobic on how they can wear a hat without feeling like a tit.

Local milliner Holly O’Hara reckons that hat-wearing went out of fashion with the big hair of the early Sixties. “Then Woodstock happened and everyone was wearing flowers in their hair.” According to Felicity Faichney, milliner and founder of Hatwalk, a theatrical event showcasing the talents of Scottish milliners, ‘the rot’ goes back even further, to the Twenties. This was a time when women had to opt for more modest hats, such as cloches, in order to comfortably fit inside their boyfriends’ fancy motor cars. Since then, hats have become the social outcast of style, a relic with no place in contemporary society.

Knowing this, I was a little sheepish when I first wore my beautiful purchase. I carried it around with me until midday, when I met a friend for lunch. She didn’t bat an eyelid when I returned from the loo, hat tilted to the perfect position. I wore it in the front row of a lecture, and received only complimentary comments. During those first two hours, I couldn’t meet the eye of any stranger: I felt like the antithesis of the ‘hold your head high’ attitude I am endorsing. The transformation came on that scariest of places, Great Western Road, where I cast my shame aside and promenaded with pride. To my surprise, the great majority of people didn’t even notice. Those who did gave admiring glances, and there was even a wolf-whistle or two (not that I approve of such behaviour). An hour later, I was strutting around with abandon. I even popped down to the shop for a pint of milk wearing it.

What could be bad about a stream of complements and an outstanding chance to flirt? You’re always more likely to have a bad hair day than a bad hat day. I give the last word to the sadly departed Isabella Blow, a woman idolised by many for her lavish headwear. No-one else could say this with the same veracity: “Men love hats. They love it because it’s something they have to take off in order to fuck you. Anyone can wear a hat.”

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