Hats are about emotion. It is all about how it makes you feel. I like hats that make the heart beat faster. Philip Treacy OBE – Irish hat designer based in London.
Recently I stumbled across the phrase, ‘doff your hat’, which means: raise your hat in acknowledgment of, or in respect to another. Although not familiar with the action of ‘doffing’, I do love hats. But sadly not on me. You see my head is rather on the large size. At 14 years of age I acquired a second-hand horse riding hat, which had been custom made to fit the original wearer’s unusually big head. Being of small stature, pictured on a horse, I must have resembled a Thelwell cartoon.
On a family trip to Las Vegas at age 16, I spent my holiday money on a stetson. Yes. I. really. did. The television series, Dallas, had a profound effect on me. For the record, the hat size was extra large.
As for weddings, well I can forget shopping for hat candy. But, oh, how I love to study the elaborate designs on such occasions.
One of the earliest known hats dates back to around 3,300 BC. It was worn by a bronze age man (nicknamed Otzi) whose body (including his hat), was found frozen in a mountain between Austria and Italy. The hat was made of several bear skins stitched together, complete with chin strap, and was similar to a Russian fur hat without ear flaps. One of the first pictorial images of a hat is in Thebes, Egypt. It is a tomb painting showing a man wearing a conical straw hat, which dates back to around 3,200 BC.
Other early hats include the Pileus, which was a brimless, felt cap worn in Ancient Greece, and later Rome. The Pileus was especially associated with the freedom of a slave. In Ancient Rome, when a slave was freed, a magistrate or commander of an army touched him with a rod, known as a Vindicta; the slave’s head was shaved and a Pileus was placed upon it. Both the rod and cap were considered symbols of the Goddess of Liberty.
In the Middle Ages, women’s head attire ranged from simple scarves to elaborate hennin – a tall cone shape with flowing veil. The latter was worn by European aristocratic ladies, particularly those residing in France and England. It wasn’t until late 17th century that women’s head gear really began to emerge, away from the influence of men’s hat fashions.
The 1800s saw Swiss and Italian straws, together with imitation straws made from paper and horsehair, available to women. Velvet and tulle also became available to ladies around this time. In the 19th century, the bonnet dominated women’s hat fashion – and the bigger the better. I rather hope there is a re-emergence of the bonnet. Many other hat styles became available in the latter half of the 19th century.
This fitted style of hat is synonymous with the Flapper girls and became very popular indeed. It was invented by Parisian milliner, Caroline Reboux in 1908. ‘Cloche’ is French for ‘bell’, and the original was blocked on an actual bell. The cloche covers a lady’s head from just above the eyebrows to the back of the neck. Apparently a lady would relay messages via her cloche, with ribbons: a firm knot signified a lady was married; a loose delicate bow indicated a lady was in a relationship and unavailable; and a large, flamboyant bow showed a lady was single and ready to mingle!
The flattering style of the cloche is a favourite of mine, and so I am keen to share with you some photos of a beautiful hand-crocheted vintage-style cloche hat, designed and made to order by the lovely Rachel Whitchurch. I’m sure Rachel won’t mind me mentioning her amazing talent here. I was immediately blown away when I spotted her crochet designs on Twitter. As well as hats, Rachel designs and crochets exquisite shrugs, cardigans, bags, jumpers and gloves.
Rachel can be found on Twitter @RWhitechurch
Naturally, Phillip Treacy, hat designer, is passionate about hats. Here are three more of his quotes.
There is no attitude required. The hat brings the attitude. And when people try on a hat they like, it is a bit of fun. It makes them laugh. You don’t laugh when you put on a pair of shoes, but you do with a hat.
When people come and visit me and have a hat made, it’s a little bit like visiting a psychiatrist, but they don’t actually realise that.
People, when they buy a hat, they can’t explain why they want to buy it or why they want it, but they do. It’s like chocolate.
- In 1797, English man, John Hetherington received a £500 fine for wearing a top hat. Apparently the hat’s great height and sheen invoked terror and panic; according to The Huddersfield Chronicle, several women fainted at the sight of the hat.
- St. Clement, the patron Saint of felt hat makers, is said to have discovered wool felt when he filled his sandals with flax fibres to protect his feet, around 800 AD.
- In 1865, American, John B. Stetson began selling his ‘Boss of the Plains’ hat or cowboy hat – the same style he originally fashioned around a camp fire while on a long trip out West.
Royal Ascot, Britain’s famous yearly horse race meeting, is well known also as an event for showcasing some of the most flamboyant hats. The following photos are a selection of hats from Royal Ascot 2015.
And finally, a hat that didn’t quite make it to Royal Ascot …
I love the drama of a hat. Phillip Bloch – Fashion Stylist
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog :)