Monday 20 November 2017

It's official - the boater hat is the best dressed woman's go-to accessory this summer

Ladies day Judge Courtney Smith at Ladies Day at the RDS Horseshow in Ballsbridge. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins
Ladies day Judge Courtney Smith at Ladies Day at the RDS Horseshow in Ballsbridge. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins
Best Dressed Lady winner Aoibheann McMonagle at the RDS Horseshow in Ballsbridge. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins
Aoibhin Garrihy was one of the judges of the Best Dressed Lady competition at the Galway Races. Picture: Tony Gavin
Ladies Day Judge Courtney Smith at Ladies Day at the RDS Horseshow in Ballsbridge. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

The boater hat – favoured by barbershop quartets, WC Fields, and local butchers – is back in fashion.

It may seem an unlikely, and slightly impractical, style revival but apparently the straw hat is set to replace the flower crown in terms of Insta-popularity.

There’s a chance it might even outflank fascinators on the Irish race day scene –fingers crossed.

Hat maker Anthony Peto has seen a significant increase in sales of boaters in his South Anne Street store in recent months.

Best Dressed Lady winner Aoibheann McMonagle at the RDS Horseshow in Ballsbridge. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins
Best Dressed Lady winner Aoibheann McMonagle at the RDS Horseshow in Ballsbridge. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins

 “Boater hats are retro and raffish,” he said.

“They are reminiscent of picnic baskets, punts, and floppy hair. A boater hat is not a trilby, it’s a little more individual, it is subtle and summery.”

The hat, which features a flat brim topped with a flattened pill-box crown and is typically surrounded by a ribbon band, first became popular in the 1820s.

It continued to be worn throughout the 19th century – movie stars like Buster Keaton were rarely spotted without them.

Aoibhin Garrihy was one of the judges of the Best Dressed Lady competition at the Galway Races. Picture: Tony Gavin
Aoibhin Garrihy was one of the judges of the Best Dressed Lady competition at the Galway Races. Picture: Tony Gavin

However it fell out of fashion after WWI when the panama became more preferable headwear.

The boater has always retained a band of loyal style advocates; Coco Chanel was a fan, they popped up in Scott F Fitzgerald’s novels, designer Thom Browne brought them back on to catwalk in 2015, and our own Aoibhin Garrihy wore a modern-day version of a boater while judging Best Dressed at Galway.

According to Mr Peto, our national love and appreciation of James Joyce means Irish men and women are partial to a decent boater.

“History and literature hugely influences Irish people’s choice in headwear. Around the time of the 1916 centenary celebrations, everyone wanted homburg hats – because that’s what men wore during that period of history.

10/08/2017 Ladies day Judge Courtney Smith during Ladies Day sponspred by Dundrum Town Centre at the RDS Horseshow in Ballsbridge, Dublin which runs from the 9th to the 13th of August. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
10/08/2017 Ladies day Judge Courtney Smith during Ladies Day sponspred by Dundrum Town Centre at the RDS Horseshow in Ballsbridge, Dublin which runs from the 9th to the 13th of August. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

“People often come in asking for slouch hats similar to the one that Oscar Wilde used to wear. And of course there’s the image of Joyce in his boater.”

It has to be acknowledged, however, that while Joyce sported a boater before the First World War, he fell in line with changing fashion and adopted a panama once the war was over.

Mr Peto warns a substantial amount of confidence is needed to wear the hat well; as we all know there is nothing more tragic than a self-conscious man or woman in a statement hat (see Brian Cowen is his doctoral bonnet).

“The boater is a stiff hat so you need to get the angle just right; it’s more flattering if you wear it sideways or pushed back to make it more jaunty.

“It requires buckets of confidence and charisma – and it must have just the right amount of brim to suit your face”.

The boater doesn’t soften features the way a Littledoe Linda or floppy straw hat does – so you may try to plenty before finding a keeper.

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