How to dress like a grown up: The hat Kate SHOULD be wearing this summer
Kate’s Vogue cover highlighted this summer’s trend for a relaxed hat but what she should have chosen was a Panama hat made of neat straw, they are flattering for almost every woman?
By SARAH MOWER FOR THE DAILY MAIL | PUBLISHED: 23:53 GMT, 15 May 2016
The strange case of Kate Middleton’s hat on the cover of Vogue’s 100th anniversary issue has engendered an inordinate amount of fashion chat over the past couple of weeks. What kind of a hat was that, exactly, and — far more importantly — what was is it supposed to convey?
I must admit the latter point stumped me, too. Presumably the desired effect was to make Kate look normal, natural and off-duty. We were to surmise that this is something she throws on as she leaves her home to go striding about the fields of Norfolk.
But the effect was more Australian Outback than English countryside. A sort of outdoorsy, wide-brimmed number gone a bit cowboy. One thing it did definitely highlight, however, was this summer’s trend for a relaxed hat. What Kate should have chosen, though, was the Panama, a casual, utilitarian beast with its fashion roots in masculine millinery.
The hat received its ultimate style elevation at Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel show in Cuba this month, where just about every look was topped off with one. This development will certainly amuse anyone who has Panamas culturally fixed as the throwback headwear associated with cricket umpires and lady bowling teams.
But trust me, Panama hats and their neat straw variants are flattering for almost every woman. And rather than being a mere look, they’re also an ally in our battle against the sun. I say this as someone who has never been a hat-wearer — other than when forced into a straw boater at convent school.
Formal millinery always throws me into agonies of despair and rebellion. I can never make a feather construction sit on my head and look as if it belongs to the rest of my body. Try as I might, every shape and concoction has made me feel like a middle-aged, middle-class figure of fun. So the arrival of a hat I like is a revelation.
As you will have gathered, I’m not one to get hung up on a technical description, fashion being all about the crossover and the hybrid, but for those of you who feel the need to distinguish your Panamas from your fedoras and your trilbies, here goes. A Panama is rounder and slightly taller at the crown than its near relation the fedora.
A trilby, meanwhile, is distinguished by a brim that is angled down at the front. Style-wise, the Panama and fedora go with all the daywear around at the moment, from oversized shirts and cropped trousers to floral tea dresses. Its shape is casual and unobtrusive — the kind of thing you can wear in the street secure in the knowledge you’ll not get stared at, while still being clocked as stylish.
The only place I won’t be wearing my Panama is in the vicinity of my mother, because I am not quite ready to meet the expression on her face. She’s been on at me for years about the vital importance of wearing a hat in the sun, and I have to admit: she’s right. In her 80s, her skin is unlined, while it only takes a few blasts of sunshine to bring out a rash of sun-spots on my forehead.
Besides, as anyone who has their hair coloured knows, the sun plays havoc with it after only a few hours on a sun-lounger or in the pool. So now we have the solution in our hands: a physical block with a brim and a crown, small and flexible enough to stand up to being crushed into hand baggage or a beach tote.
Off-handedly chic, useful and together, it’s how fashion feels best to me.