Paul Galvin: Under your hat
Published 07/05/2011 | 05:00
Being at least the second most stylish man in Ireland, I like to think I can pull off most looks quite well. Or quite badly, depending on your point of view. Regardless, I do my best.
Fashion is fun and I'll give anything a try. Except hats. I just cannot wear hats -- for a few reasons. I like my hair too much for a start. I've been cutting it myself for the past two years and I feel duty bound to show it off. Allied to the fact that whatever shape my head is, it's totally unsuitable for hat wearing, which is a pity.
But then there's very little one can do about the shape of one's head, is there?
I thought my hat-wearing woes were over when I heard about head shops. You can imagine my excitement when I heard they were a place to go to get off your head. Alas, no, it wasn't what I hoped.
I've had no choice but to wear hats at times, of course.
My mortar board looked as ridiculous as it sounds perched upon my mortified mantle the day I graduated. I looked like a one-legged table.
There's something very cool about a guy wearing a hat. It requires a certain insouciance that not everyone possesses -- and the proper head shape. Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack possessed both.
They kicked off a boom in hat wearing in the 1960s with their suave, lounge-lizard look and the trilby took over from the fedora as the hat du jour.
For what it's worth, there is little difference between a fedora and trilby. A trilby is merely a shorter-brimmed fedora with a dent in the crown. Confused? Well, just think Sinatra or Justin Timberlake for trilby and Johnny Depp for a fedora.
Depp doesn't look fully dressed without his fedora. It just looks right on him, whereas on me it looks wrong -- with the notable exception of the Bugatti trilby, which defied all the laws of millinery and looked cool on my head.
Made of 100pc paper, it happens to look equally as good in my hand. Now that's a cool hat. I like the Bugatti so much that I carry it around in my hand. It's an accessory, after all -- who says it has to go on your head. Hats off to the people at Lynch on Camden Street, a third generation of family hatmakers, for introducing me to it.
Millinery is a real traditional family business in many cases, passed on from generation to generation. I can't wait for summer to wear the Bugatti out witha vest and some shades as I drive along the Kerry Riviera.
The vanities of the 1970s saw hats all but disappear from the public domain, as men and women saw their hairstyles as being key to looking their best; bobs replaced Guevara's beret. See Benicio Del Toro play El Che in the 2008 movie 'Che' for how to wear a beret and still look super-cool.
Incidentally, we have our own Irish version of the beret. Who remembers the caubeen? I do. I've always loved the look of fishermen's or cord skipper hats. Very common on the west coast, I think they look great. The Galway Hat Shop sell great ones online.
Baseball hats are the most wearable and the most popular for Irish men and are available in most sports shops and clothes shops. They're probably the easiest to wear and the least showy, so Irish guys don't feel self conscious wearing them.
Von Dutch used to make great baseball hats, though I don't see them much any more. You can't go wrong with a Yankees hat, of course, but for me the best baseball hats are by Goorin Bros. They do everything from baseball and bowler to beanies and panamas. It's another family affair with a fourth-generation son in charge of the business.
For men, wearing hats will always be a more casual pursuit. Habit -- no, not that kind of habit -- practicality, anonymity, unruly hair or simply the weather can dictate whether he throws on a knitted beanieor a baseball cap. It's rarely to grab attention.
Which brings me to the two tireless pursuits that keep milliners busy in this country: weddings and horse racing. Kilkenny-based milliner Rebekah Patterson started out dressmaking and was soon inundated with requests for matching hats and headpieces to go along with wedding dresses.
And so, as is custom in Ireland, wedding days are nothing if not an opportunity for the girls to stick a fascinator on their heads and wander around dazzling men, scaring peacocks and ruining photo opportunities. It's indeed a fascinating thing to behold.
Which brings me to racing -- another gala day out for hat wearers. Hell, even the men will don hats. Top hats, bowlers and flat caps are no strangers to the winners enclosures. You won't see a beanie or a baseball hat, though; they're for the streets, not the meets.
Catherine Cooke is another bespoke milliner from Ireland, who works out of Dublin -- her headpieces are regularly seen at race meetings the world over. Suzie Mahony is based in Loughrea.
Ireland's most famous milliner is, of course, Philip Treacy, who counts Lady Gaga as a client. Rumour has it she even applied for an internship at his millinery.
The climate is often the biggest factor dictating whether or not we're willing to mess up our hair with a hat. Visit NYC in the winter and you'll need a Russian trapper hat or risk losing your ears. And winter days in Ireland aren't much warmer, so a woolly hat is always useful.
Summer days aren't always so roasting either, but can require a baseball hat if it's sunny. We rarely venture too far from the old reliables for fear of a slagging from our mates. God forbid that should ever happen!
We don't mess around with hats in Ireland. They're for fancy Continental types. For us, a hat is a hat is a cap. And for me, a hat is just a cap that messes up my hair.