Use your head: hats for men are making a comeback

From displaying creativity to hiding thinning pates, Irish men don hats for many reasons

One of Anthony Peto’s hats available at his Dublin shop. Peto says the secret to providing interesting headwear for men season after season comes down to playfulness, colour choice and subtlety 

One of Anthony Peto’s hats available at his Dublin shop. Peto says the secret to providing interesting headwear for men season after season comes down to playfulness, colour choice and subtlety 

 

“A hat gives you authority – which is why it was favoured by gangsters. It’s like a crown, a symbol of power and people will take you more seriously in a hat – which is why they are popular with lawyers.”

So comments leading hatmaker Anthony Peto whose workshop is based in Paris, his clientele all over the world and his Dublin shop a mecca for hat lovers, male and female. Well known for his captivating creations for women, his hats for men cover all types from the more formal homburgs and toppers to camperos (worn by gauchos), hand-blocked panamas, fedoras, trilbys, boaters, pork pies, beanies, flat caps and berets. You need to know the lingo.

Fundamentally it’s got to be fun and something that captures the imagination

With a shop that he says has proportionally more hats than Harrods, the secret to providing interesting headwear for men season after season comes down to playfulness, colour choice and subtlety. 

“Men are very conscious of details whereas women go for the look and don’t worry about whether a ribbon is two or two and a quarter inches. Men can be very particular which is why we have some shapes that seem to be identical – unless you look carefully”.

Playing around with shade, shape and proportion, sometimes adding a provocative or mischievous element to a classic style are part of his approach and craftsmanship. “The hat in the classic shape is what appeals to most but everybody looks different in it partly because the wearer’s personality transforms the hat”.  

Influences often come from sportswear – bobble caps, ski caps and felt caps that mimic their shapes bridge the gap between casual and smart. “Fundamentally it’s got to be fun and something that captures the imagination. Hats can become an obsession and a different way of projecting personality,” he says.

Good way to tell a story

That’s a view echoed by Jake McCabe, a young graphic designer who maintains that wearing a hat “is a good way to tell a story about myself and not from an egotistical point of view. There is a creative flair in dressing up and that is a huge thing for me”.  

“I am more into classic menswear mixed with modern pieces – a collage of old world with new age – and not being afraid of being more extravagant,” he says.

Using hats to make an impact and a talking point needs daring.  “With social media you only have a few seconds to make an impression and if I don’t catch you then, I will never catch you again. A hat makes you stand out and adds a bit of presence,” he adds.

In Dublin lawyer Mark Harty’s opinion, hats make men look better dressed. “You can get away with a cheap suit if you have a good coat, good shoes and a good hat – and less carefully dressed underneath. People assume that everything else is well put together so it forgives a lot,” he says.  

“I wear hats when there is access to nice ones and there was a dearth of good hat shops [for men] in Dublin selling nothing other than the most conventional – so I used to buy in London. I tend to like a navy fedora with a narrow brim and I also think that a very fine flat cap can cut a bit of a dash on the street. It’s a seasonal thing and the only difficulty is where do you put them when there are no hat hooks – I have four small children and hats tend to get battered.”

Now it is more acceptable to care about your appearance than it was in the past, but some can pull it off and look really cool while others look idiotic

A thinning pate makes artist Gary Coyle conscious of head gear and he recalls that growing up in Dún Laoghaire people wore beanies and nobody wore a hat with a brim unless going to the races. 

“When I was living in New York everybody wore hats because it is so cold in the winter and you have to have one in the summer because it is so hot. I love clothes and would wear a cap – but not a baseball cap – more than a hat and it really is a statement.

More acceptable

“I spent an hour in Kevin & Howlin looking for a hat which is a cross between a baker boy hat and a gamekeeper’s hat, but one is too narrow and the other too wide, so a friend is buying one for me for my birthday, something with a brim. Now it is more acceptable to care about your appearance than it was in the past, but some can pull it off and look really cool while others look idiotic, but it does draw attention. It is easy to get wrong – a brim too wide or a crown too high. I am agonising over brim width at the moment . . . ”

 For musician John McRae, owner of Dún Laoghaire School of Music, his recent conversion to hats is because he sees them as a great way – apart from glasses – of changing his appearance and making it look more interesting.

“I bought a couple of homburgs and an Otis (a wide-brimmed hat) and though they are quite formal, they go well with a suit or with jeans – they go with anything. The only difficulty is where to put them when you’re out. I wear them travelling at weekends and cycling between Blackrock and Dún Laoghaire – but not in high winds!

All hats featured here are from Anthony Peto, 14 Sth Anne Street, Dublin 2. 01 6359977, Anthonypeto.com

Photographs by Johnny McMillan, styling by Catherine Condell assisted by Grace Brown, model Laurence O Fuarain – LBM Actors  Grooming Leonard Daly

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