A headpiece made of fresh flowers, a panama worn with flares and aviators, a dinky knitted circular crown. According to fashion week, the new point of interest in menswear for 2020 is all happening up top..
Despite the burst of interest in caps and bucket hats recently, the concept of a more decorative designer hat hasn’t looked this likely to take off in years. But the message from the latest round of menswear shows, which wrapped at the weekend in Paris, is that the hat is likely to become a major style statement.
For most luxury fashion houses, the bankable accessory of the past decade has been the cult designer sneaker, exemplified by the bestselling, super-chunky Triple S by Balenciaga, which also led the recent “dad trainer” trend. The new collections still had showy sports shoes in abundance, but the presence of striking headwear naturally shifts the eye skyward. One explanation is that with trousers becoming increasingly long and wide – from Dunhill to Saint Laurent – you can’t actually see what’s on your feet anyway.
Stephen Jones, one of fashion’s most prolific milliners, who counts Rihanna, Lady Gaga and the Duchess of Sussex as former clients, created the hats for Kim Jones (no relation) at Dior Men’s in Paris.
“Everybody wears shoes. Not everybody wears hats,” he says. “As a signifier of fashion, and as something so visible, there’s nothing like a hat. You can wear a very unusual pair of shoes, but people don’t necessarily see those when you walk into a room, whereas even a simple hat is seen.”
This latest Dior Men’s collection was a collaboration with the American artist Daniel Arsham – himself a hat-wearer. Jones created a small selection of styles for the show, including an “embroidered painter’s canvas visor” featuring quartz, echoing the set that Arsham had created for the show, with giant sculptures spelling out “Dior”. Jones adds: “Things go in cycles. But I think designers are now realising the power of a hat and how different and individual it makes their collections look.”
The latest advertising campaign from the ever-influential designer Raf Simons is also headgear-orientated, featuring a distinctive scaled-up riding hat. Simons went hard on this type of hat in his autumn/winter 2019 collection; all 50 looks shown in a Parisian ballroom in January were completed with a variation on this theme.
At JW Anderson, designer Jonathan Anderson’s woollen doughnut hats mirrored the craft-like knits worn on the body, while adding a certain jolliness. Ditto the oddball, all-shapes-and-sizes hats that Francesco Risso at Marni commissioned artist Shalva Nikvashvili to make from discarded leather and rubbish, ticking the current vogue in fashion for creative ideas around recycling.
Meanwhile, the super-luxury labels Fendi and Louis Vuitton channelled gardening – cue hats galore. In Milan, Fendi closed its show (designed in collaboration with the Oscar-winning film director Luca Guadagnino) with a denim jumpsuit and curvy brimmed number with its FF logo woven into it. Virgil Abloh at Vuitton cited Jamiroquai in his show notes where a monogrammed PVC rain hat and lilac straw technical gardening hat were both featured.
Sources of hat inspiration were broad and varied. The up-and-coming Swedish/Kurdish label Namacheko, designed by the brother-and-sister duo Dilan and Lezan Lurr, cited nuns’ veils and Asian rice hats as inspirations for their designs, which featured scalloped fronts and headscarf backs. The new designer at Lanvin, Bruno Sialelli, presented a series of individually hand painted bicorn straw hats that were “inspired by the kind of souvenir hats that you give to kids, with beautiful landscapes of a dream location”, he said backstage.
Hat statements were also notable on the front row. The GQ Style editor, Luke Day, has been photographed for the past month in a variety of headwear, including a wide-brim style similar to that shown on the Saint Laurent runway in LA a few weeks ago. “Mine is a $15 LA lifeguard hat I got on Venice Beach,” Day says. “I’m really into hats right now. My summer looks are fairly simple, so the addition of a hat just makes it that bit extra.”
He travelled with five Mexican western hats in various colours for fashion week. “My cowboy vibe has gone less hustler and more Dallas, like JR Ewing at the Oil Baron’s Ball,” he quipps.
The designer Spencer Phipps was sporting a cowboy hat at a fashion-week party in Paris, while the photographer Darren Gerrish is rarely out of a hat and has been a fan since childhood. He says his favourite style is the beret, and that he has nine in rotation.
“For me, it is everything – I can wear it with a casual look, a suit or black tie. It defines me. It’s my armour,” he says. His go-to place to buy them is Laulhère in Paris, a tip he was given by Stephen Jones.
The men’s headwear trend is also bubbling on the high street – Zara has several straw styles for £6 upwards while Reiss has a baker-boy cap for £35. James Lawrence, the head of menswear design at Asos, says the label has sold 150,000 hats this season to date, with bucket styles leading the charge. He says that headwear has been “up-trending” for a while because men now feel they can wear hats to all occasions and it “doesn’t feel as contrived as it once did. Hats are now used to complete your look, rather than just being practical.”
“People are embracing the hat a lot more, especially men, who are gaining confidence in their style,” says Nick Fouquet, a hat designer who set up his label in 2013 and includes Keith Richards as a fan. “A lot of athletes, especially basketball players, are leading the way and inspiring the fashion landscape with their attire and outfits.” Like Jones, he believes that a hat can make far more of a statement than a pair of sneakers.
Damien Paul, head of menswear at Matchesfashion.com, says hat sales are up over 150% compared with last year, with fedoras, panamas, bucket hats and summer beanies all performing well. “For autumn, we have more than 300 styles from designer names and more niche artisanal brands,” he says.
For further hat inspiration, look no further than Willem Dafoe as Vincent van Gogh in Julian Schnabel’s excellent At Eternity’s Gate. The actor offers a masterclass in how to wear, among other head attire, the now-trending wide-brimmed straw number. He looks spectacular.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010