Recently I decided I needed a new hat. I wear beanies through the winter, baseball caps, a panama and a floppy-brimmed beach hat regularly. They are easy hats to wear: they are practical, everyday hats. Now I wanted something that made a bit more of a style statement.
I looked for advice from Dior himself. In Dior and I, he writes:
‘The particular shape and size [of hat] to balance the “line” of the dress has to be decided…It would be out of the question to show a collection without hats. However ravishing the dresses, the mannequins would still have a naked air. This is not an exaggeration; there are circumstances when one may overlook the feeling given a face by a hat, but never in presenting a new line where a hat is essential in achieving its proportions.’
I went hat-hunting and discovered a marvellously inspiring boutique. In an unpromising location, steps from East London’s concrete-clad Old Street roundabout, CA4LA is a treasure trove for a hat-wearer. The brand is well-known at home in Japan but not so well-known elsewhere. I was surprised by the range of their stock. I’d been expecting to see hats with a Japanese style aesthetic – floppy straw hats, bows, bucket hats, visors. What I had not expected was their extensive range of more traditional styles in a wide choice of colours – fedoras, bowlers, flat caps, trilbys – and the kinds of show-hats you could wear for a day at Royal Ascot. They work with a range of designers and suppliers and seem to hold an impressive inventory of stock.
As I tried the hats on, I tried to analyse what worked or didn’t and why. This is not something you can rush and it was also clear that my chinos and casual jacket were not helping matters. I knew what I liked but frustratingly what looked great on a wooden stand did not look so great on my head, no matter how I angled it.
I left, loving some of the hats I’d seen but frustrated that I could not make them ‘suit’ me. It took me another week or so to work out what was going wrong.
To be continued.