Blog,  Hats

Leave Your Hat On

If I had a pound for every time someone told me that they’re “not a hat person” or “I don’t suit hats”, it’s highly likely that I’d be typing this article from a beach in the Bahamas. As I don’t, I’m not. But as a milliner it got me thinking.

The French-born, American milliner Lilly Dache observed: “A hat is an expression of a woman’s soul. It is something that she wears on her head, but it belongs to her heart. It is the keynote of her personality, the finishing touch that makes her look beautiful, smart and sure of herself.”

Now whilst she wrote this of women, it is evidently true of men as well. My calling as a milliner has given me a unique window into the insecurities and self-doubts that so many people face when presented with the idea of wearing a simple hat. You’re not a hat person? Or you think they don’t suit you? I beg to differ. You simply haven’t found the right hat. Yet.

“A hat is an expression of a woman’s soul. It is something that she wears on her head, but it belongs to her heart.”

So, what is it about hats that seems to provoke such strong reactions in us? Essentially, it’s a matter of confidence. Being truly comfortable in the skin you’re in, stepping out and being able to say convincingly “this is me”. Or it could be, as in my case, a distraction from other insecurities about my personal appearance that led me to wearing hats in the first place. I actively chose to wear a hat to be noticed specifically for wearing it and not for anything else.

What interesting concepts and confusions have arisen from a simple headpiece. A pair of jeans don’t appear to cause as much internal conflict. Maybe finding your hat physically and metaphorically, you can feel that little bit more amazing than you did before.

A hat does make us stand a little taller, a little prouder. We come across as more confident from our posture and demeanor as well as from the simple act of putting the hat on. It truly is a proclamation of who you are (at any given time depending on the choice of hat) and is significantly more than simply a style statement. Maybe it’s because of this fact so many people have told me that they love hats, they just can’t wear them. Can’t? Why ever not?

A perfect example of this is my best friend. Good-looking, intelligent, seemingly so sure of herself and yet she was faced with such a crisis of confidence when it came to be leaving the house in a hat and after everyone I’ve spoken to recently, I know she is certainly not alone in this mindset. She explained that one day she tried two hats on but went out without either because she wasn’t sure. She went on; “I thought they looked good and that should be enough but somehow it isn’t. How do I get over the worry about how others will judge? Or maybe it’s just me? I’m not critical of others, far from it. I salute their confidence, but I feel self-conscious wearing a hat.”

So, the next time we met up, we went out in hats together. The world did not end. Cars did not get run off the road by distracted drivers. Instead, my friend began to find a confidence within herself that she had forgotten was there. Safety in numbers perhaps, take a “wing-man” until you can find the internal self-belief and strength to go it alone.

“Maybe finding your hat physically and metaphorically, you can feel that little bit more amazing than you did before.”

Like walking into a new exercise class or starting a new job, the first time for anything can always be inherently daunting. People may look. People do look and will look, but we generally have no idea what they are thinking, about our hats or anything else! It could remind them of great Aunt Edna’s cloche she always wore at weddings or the hat they saw that celebrity wear in a magazine. We can’t read their minds or even know if they are giving us, or our hat, a second thought at all! But we think they are.

If we could change our mind-set as easily as we change our metaphorical hats, maybe we would all feel a little bit more amazing than before. A week after the joint hat-wearing outing with my friend, she sent me a photograph of her out and about wearing her bespoke Mad Hat Co. fedora and I was bursting with pride! Not only did she look beautiful, but her radiance emanated from the inside of her and it shone through in her eyes and her smile. Confidence creates a unique beauty that is inherently
more than superficial looks.

The simple act of wearing a good hat can signify so much more. I wear hats. I love hats. So much so that now people comment when I’m not wearing one!

But it does, and it did, take a certain strength within me to do something that isn’t widely classed as “the norm” anymore. Strength to stand up and say, “this is me”. People will stare, we may as well give them something amazing to look at!

Susie O'Neill is the Founder of Dorset based Mad Hat Co. Bespoke Milliners & Hatters based in Bournemouth. Follow Susie on social media @madhatcompany

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