Hats off to Pitti Uomo street style

There were a lot of hats at the most recent Pitti Uomo. That’s not unusual. The bi-annual menswear trade show inspires outfits that run the gamut from understated to cosplay. As traditional accessories, it’s no surprise that hats are on show. The surprise, for me, is that this time around a number of them were classic and elegant instead of attention getters. As a result, they helped prove that hats are a functional item, not just an element of style. (Since I did not attend, I cannot attest to the quality of the hats themselves, as I did not see them first-hand).

Seoungsu Kim’s hat caught my attention on a number of Instagram and Tumblr posts. I like the height and tapering of the crown and the width of the brim. Even though I think a slightly wider brim might better suit his face, this hat looks great from a number of angles. The colour is also excellent: understated and with a nicely contrasting ribbon. However, I am less taken by the one-piece overalls: they evoke a 1940s mechanic look which makes the hat look more retro than contemporary.

I have recently started dreaming about adding a blue dress hat to my wardrobe so I was quite taken by the example above. Like with Mr. Kim, this hat is well-proportioned to this man’s face with a nice taper in the crown. The brim has a good width but I’m just not sure about the ribbon: I think he could have achieved a better contrast with dark blue as black tends to just absorb light and look flat. And while I have no objection to individual items in his ensemble, the tie, gloves and pants are perhaps a bit too matchy-matchy with the hat.

Wide brims are quite fashionable right now as a reaction, I think, to the stingy brims of the last decade or so. And while I like Demetri Nicolaou’s overall ensemble – a sort of updated old-timey look – this brim is perhaps a bit too wide in contrast to the height of the hat’s crown. That, and the fact that the back of the brim is not snapped up, makes the hat look a bit droopy and flat.

Not all the hats worn at Pitti were dress hats, of course, and it was nice to see an underused alternative: the beret. Ethan Newton of Bryceland’s haberdashery really knows how to wear one: with a touch of “I don’t care what you think” bravado. More than anything, he wears the beret as if to say “it’s cold so I needed something on my head” instead of “Look everyone! I’m wearing a beret!” And that comes down to the shape and how the colour harmonises with his overcoat.

This is obviously a more dandy-ish use of a beret but I quite like how Iñigo Olaizola has combined all his elements without looking like a costume. Yes, the purple of the hat and his Portuguese shepherd’s cape (which I dream of) would stand out in most cities, but it is all combined in a harmonious way. Amidst the peacocks of Pitti, I dare say this outfit would be a tad understated.

Shuhei Nishiguchi’s outfit is all about swagger. And that’s why his hat’s wide brim works for me: it is in line with the pinned collar and the drapey, tied overcoat. This outfit also speaks to the challenge of wearing a dress hat in the 21st century: no matter what you combine it with, no matter how understated you are, a hat stands out in most cities around the world (except, thankfully, Milan.)

It is hard to break with the associations hats have in the past – of detectives and gangsters – because there was a lapse of about forty years when dress hats had all but disappeared from men’s heads. Now that they are making a bit of a return, I think it’s great that men are wearing them with a variety of outfits, in a variety of ways, to create new associations which, in the end, is what will allow hats to make an actual comeback. And I think they should, for two basic reasons: they keep you protected from the elements and, if they are well-made and well-fitting, are another useful tool in building a more elegant wardrobe.