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My very first hat

2 November 2009
I’ve wanted a proper hat for quite a while. But two things held me back. First, it’s an unusual item for a young man to wear today and stands out. Wearing it well would require careful balancing with other clothes and some nerve while I got used to it. Second, I have a rather long head (dolecephalic) requiring any hat to be large and making it hard not to overwhelm my face and shoulders. Bike helmets just look silly.

If I was to wear a proper hat, most likely a trilby or a fedora (generally speaking, narrow or wide-brimmed respectively), it would have to be casual enough to wear with jeans and a shirt as well as a suit. So probably a soft, brown felt, with a narrow ribbon and minimal bow.

I’d looked around for a few years without much enthusiasm. But then a chance encounter in Madrid a couple of weeks ago turned my fortunes. Like many European cities, the best menswear shops in Madrid specialise in selling English style to the locals. This one had Hackett shirts, Drake’s ties and Penhaligon’s perfume, alongside the standard woven belts and driving shoes. But it also stocked Lock & Co hats, and the Voyager Sombrero in size 7 3/8 seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

I waited until I could go to Lock & Co in London, finally getting over to St James’s Street last week. Retail manager Andrew Baselgia was immediate and exact in his analysis: ‘you have a long head so you need a larger size, but the brim needs to be smaller to avoid it overbalancing you,’ he said. He went straight for the 7 3/8 Voyager (there’s no Sombrero suffix in the UK) when I said I wanted a soft, brown and casual hat. It looked (300) great and, to be honest, I felt a little ashamed that I had put off buying a hat like this for so long. Perhaps it had more to do with social norms than I would have liked to admit.

The Voyager also rolls up for travelling abroad, which is perfect for me when going away for business. You just have to push out the crown, fold down the brim all the way around, and gently fold the hat in half to form a concave curve. You then roll that curve up, making it much easier to carry and store.

Though to be honest, I’ll be taking quite a bit of pleasure in storing it at home in the distinctive Lock white hat box that came with it.

Notes on actually wearing the thing to come later in the week.