This year’s headlining accessories aren’t shoes, but hats. Here’s how to embrace the charming trend and doff it like a pro.
I used to wonder why I am drawn to hats, headgear and hair accessories, and now I know.
The answer can be found in a quick mental flip through paper and plastic albums starting circa 1967, the year I was born.
There’s me at six months or so in a frilly white cotton cap at my baptism. Six months later, at age 1 year, in a silk brocade Chinese hat that matches the frog-buttoned Mandarin top I’m wearing; me in a red and white polka dotted scarf; in different coloured broad-brim hats for outings at the Botanic Gardens and Haw Par Villa, and at my sixth birthday party, the list goes on.
When I was a child, my mother was my master dresser and wardrobe mistress. I had no say in what went atop my then rather large, spare-of-hair head. As hair volume came late to me, I suspect that to compensate for the lack of follicular endowment, my mother made me wear headgear and hair accessories to hide my baldness. Anything – including rubbing brandy on my pate – to ensure my nearly-non-existent mane looked fuller.
How else can you explain making me wear not one, but two marabou-trimmed hair bands at any one time, entwining my wispy pigtails with multi-coloured devore-lined twisties, burdening my skinny ponytail with over-sized bauble hair ties, and pinning a mini mop of corkscrew curls (essentially a hair piece) to give my stubbornly flat locks the illusion of height and volume.
Much fun for Mum, though it was not always amusing for me, not when the pins pricked my scalp, or when these objects d’art felt heavy on my head. Except for the curly toupee, which I liked, for it made me feel worldly and sophisticated, like the songstresses who performed at the wedding banquets we attended in those days. But by and large, those accoutrements made me feel like a mini freak.
At an age when I was happy to blend in, it was at times traumatic to be honest. And if you knew of my situation then, you’d have expected me to grow up disliking hats, caps and all manner of hell-ccessories, and that standing out because of the way I dressed would be a sort of sartorial hell for me.
On the contrary, the effect of my mother’s forced decoration has turned me into a fan of quirky dressing. In staid and homogenous Singapore, sometimes all that means is to wear a hat.
Yes, me, a fan of standout fashion, imagine that. Not afraid to look weird or different by wearing a beret or a headscarf to the office, a gentleman’s trilby hat to Sunday brunch. It’s called the mere-exposure effect, or the familiarity principle, which according to Wikipedia “is a psychological phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them.”
I should thank Mum for helping me to embrace – albeit by force – fashion’s weird and wonderful.
As an adult, I like a little drama on the head, even when skiing. While most do beanies, I brave the slopes in an ushanka. The first and only time I went to London, I came home with four Carnaby Street-inspired hats. I like accessorising beachwear with a floppy, not so much to shield my face from the sun, as for style. By the way, I am still looking for a top hat to go with my tuxedo.
Strangely though, I’d never been into the basic baseball cap, not until I saw actress, film-maker, author and publisher, Jeanette Aw wear one recently. It was dark blue or black, logo-less, and sat on her perfectly-shaped head, well, perfectly. Normcore and cool. Now I want one too.
I am excited about Spring 2018’s hat and headgear trends, to say the least, but I’ve curated only a small selection that I feel are both flattering and timeless, because hats and such should be worn over and over, with as many different things in your wardrobe as possible, and they should bring out your features and flatter your outfit, not make you standout just for looking odd.
Berets & Newsboy Caps
Berets and newsboy caps with a twist come from the House of Dior. They are fine examples of what a little netting at the right places can do to transform the ordinary into the extraordinarily exquisite. I like these with a little rugged denim. This perennially spunky newsboy hat from Ralph Lauren works on all sorts of spiffy streetwear too.
Super-sized Straw Hats
Missoni and Saint Laurent know that size matters and more is more, when it comes to being big on style. How to wear a hat this huge? With fewer articles of clothing of course – micro shorts and mini dresses balance everything out.
This ultra-wearable military-style cap from Nina Ricci is versatile – it suits both dressing up and down, as it’s none too serious, yet has a touch of girlishness.
Woman’s Cowboy Hat
One of the reasons I was hooked on West World, the TV series, is what the female characters wore. And this cool wild west hat from Dior’s Resort collection, is just the thing to take me back to the West World set. I like it with a poncho or a cape, and definitely with knee-high boots.
Indiana Jones, only much more fashion-forward. This archaeologist-inspired hat from Loewe keeps the sun off and says you know a treasure when you find one. I’d pair it with a 1940s liberty-print dress and lace-up boots.
Singer Erykah Badu made me fall in love with turbans. And I’ve found three different styles to showcase this head-turning accessory: Marc Jacobs’ diamonds-and-pearls high luxe look, Tokuko Maeda’s modern exotic creations, and Markus Lupfer’s innocent ingénue imaginings. If a full turban is too OTT for you, opt for a faux turban ala Gucci. I particularly like this animal-print number, with a clever rosette accent, just the thing to soften a serious suit or jacket.
Stay cool in headgear by pairing it with an outfit made for hot weather. The hat will keep you warm in air-conditioned interiors, so it’s all good.
Prevent hat or helmet hair by keeping a barrette or hair tie handy, to hold your hair back into a top knot or ponytail, should you decide to do without the hat (or turban/scarf) partway through the day. If you have short hair, keep a small tin of hair wax handy for mussing up your mane post-hat tricks.