Hats have had a bad rap of late, thanks in part to fedora-wearing Incels. Gone are the iconic associations with the suave Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart, and in their place meninists doffing their hat to m’lady. But really, the hat’s demise began long before its association with internet trolls.
For as long as humans have been documented, we've used head coverings as a symbol of wealth, power and status; think of Abraham Lincoln’s top hat, or Marie Antoinette’s wig. At the beginning of the 20th century, nearly everyone wore a hat of some kind – from beret or silk scarf to Panama or trilby – but by the 1980s, they had been all but eradicated from our everyday wardrobes.
Why? Well, a move away from religion (where dressing in your Sunday best included a hat) and towards a general informality (three-piece suits are no longer an office requirement) is partly to blame, while we have sunglasses and SPF50 to protect us from the elements now, meaning we no longer require the practicality of a hat. Nowadays reserved for weddings, royal events, horse racing and not much else, the hat has had a dramatic downfall over the past few decades.
To be fair, David and Brooklyn Beckham and an onslaught of sartorially switched-on men are sporting flat caps inspired by Peaky Blinders – but what about headwear for women? Perhaps the renewed interest in hair accessories, from pearl slides to velvet headbands, will morph into a wider acceptance of hats. Simone Rocha, Erdem and Molly Goddard all sent head accessories down the catwalks this and last season – crowns, veils and balaclavas – so it’s not looking terribly farfetched.
One brand seeking to change the way we view hats is Hood London. Looking to the glamour of old Hollywood and the golden age of hat wearing but developing styles to suit the realities of today, it's creating pieces that we’d actually wear in 2019.
Founders Adèle Mildred and Gabrielle Djanogly met back in 2009 while making hats in the basement of the legendary milliner Stephen Jones' Covent Garden atelier. The duo established Hood in 2015 as a collective, where they would cherry-pick the hats they loved best from various milliners’ collections, scouting emerging talent as they went along. However, by retaining just 30% of the retail price in a bid to support their makers, the business was not sustainable – so last week they relaunched as a luxury hat label.
"Run as a label we are able to spend more time on our own designs, pushing ourselves forward creatively without being hemmed in by the constraints of a collective and the responsibility of carrying the voice of 15 other milliners," Gabrielle tells Refinery29. "As a collective we tried to keep everything neutral but we now have the freedom to flaunt our femininity and bring our personalities to the foreground. The relaunch has served to boost our enthusiasm for what Hood could become and, starting as we mean to go on, we have collaborated with silk scarf designer, Cleo Ferin Mercury on one of the new designs."
Discussions about hats invariably wander towards Princess Beatrice’s bow-cum-lobster fascinator – designed by Philip Treacy for the 2011 royal wedding – and the general consensus is that hats are for the rich and famous, reserved for high society events only. "It’s strange to think that hats are saved for rare events with a prohibitive price tag," Gabrielle says. "How often do most of us attend a wedding or the races? Millinery shouldn’t conjure up visions of satellites and fluff. It’s this disconnect that prompted Hood to focus on investment pieces that you can wear season in and out; fashion forward without being fad and colours that are easy to pair (you won’t find any chartreuse and fuchsia)."
Hood is ready to rip up the rule book and change the public’s perception of hats for good. With pieces ranging from ultra glamorous netted veils to festival-ready moon-shaped headbands and kitsch heart berets, Gabrielle says we should treat hats like any statement-making accessory. "Hats have been separated from other accessories, but why should they be any different from a necklace or a lovely pair of fancy heels? Maybe a veil doesn’t marry so well with a gal who lives in yoga pants and trainers, but even she should have a few nights out! Most of our pieces are more comfortable than a pair of towering platforms and would certainly get you more attention. Hood will always offer a wide range of hats, from a cosy blocked beret to an evening bat mask."
Taking inspiration from vintage styles from the golden age of hat wearing – "when there was no such thing as 'I don’t have a hat head'" – the brand develops those classic designs into contemporary pieces. "A great hat can take the wearer into another realm of being – whether that’s a goddess, a sweetheart or a vampy femme," says Gabrielle. "Inspiration comes from the characters we want to play, parts of ourselves that we want to emphasis or curate." No different from a bold lipstick or standout coat, we’re looking at hats with a fresh perspective. Heads up, ladies.