“At the Drop of a Hat”

Harper’s Bazaar September 2021 Icon Issue
Beyonce posed in a Stetson cowboy hat and fringed leather gloves styled with a sheer Valentino bodysuit and sequined cape.

Everyone is wearing hats these days. In addition to those essential masks, we are all donning some sort of headgear to stay warm and protected from the elements. There are hoods, bucket hats, fur trapper hats, baseball caps, balaclavas, knitted caps, and pompom beanie hats. As we head into the New Year, I see hats becoming more important as a fashion statement.

Many accessories can complement an ensemble, but only one can top it off literally and figuratively. There is no question that hats, whether pragmatic or fanciful, add that finishing touch. They can infuse a look with mystery, drama, and a hefty dose of attitude more efficiently than anything else. I am reminded of this as I reflect on the past year in fashion and look ahead. In some cases, hats stole the show. I’m convinced they will continue to do so.

Christopher John Rogers Pre-Fall 2022
Photo Credit: Cesar Buitrago

Christopher John Rogers’ oversized, sculptural hats beautifully offset the voluminous evening wear in his Pre-Fall 2022 Collection dubbed “Collection 009”. Rogers makes bold use of his signature palette, mixing emerald green, chrome yellow, turquoise, and hot pink. In addition to solids, there are stripes, dots, and abstract patterns. It’s colorful, upbeat, and ultra-feminine.

Balenciaga Fall 2021 Couture
Photo credit: Balenciaga

Philip Treacy’s futuristic oval headpieces succinctly counterbalance the voluminous silhouettes at the Balenciaga Fall 2021 Couture show. Treacy’s jellyfish-like ostrich feather hats add drama and mystery to the outfits shown at the Valentino Fall 2021 Couture show in Venice.

Christian Dior Fall 2021 Couture
Photo Credit: Gorunway

But hats needn’t be fantastical and geared for grand occasions to be impactful. The Christian Dior 2021 Couture show in Paris emphasizes day wear. Maria Grazia Chiuri effectively uses her luxurious hand-loomed gray tweeds from head to toe. The brimmed tweed caps are the perfect finishing touch.

Courreges Spring 2022 Ready-to-Wear
Photo Credit: Courreges

Nicolas Di Felice’s vision for Courreges Spring 2022 Ready-to-Wear is minimal, sporty, and monotone: a study in optic white, navy, and black, with hints of chrome yellow, royal blue, and silver. Tall jockey-like baseball caps accessorize almost everything from the label’s distinctive outerwear to bra tops worn with abbreviated skirts or long, lean leggings that puddle over the shoes. It looks hip, cool, and modern, futuristic yet very today.

Ralph Lauren Fall 2021 Ready-to-Wear
Photo Credit: Ralph Lauren

The Ralph Lauren Fall 2021 Ready-to-Wear collection is a study in contrasts: a mix of city and country, elegance and ruggedness, high and low. Played out in hefty tweeds and fair isle sweaters, its signature Ralph capped off by the natty newsboy caps. Thom Browne accessorizes every outfit for Resort 2022 with a Hector Browne bag or a kite envelope clutch, a pair of Browne’s signature four-stripe socks, and a bucket hat.

Adidas for Prada Re-Nylon Collection
Photo credit: wwd.com

Miuccia Prada has made the bucket hat a must-have for men and women. Again, this unisex item figures prominently in the Adidas for Prada Re-Nylon collection that launches on January 13th. Prada and Adidas have joined forces to introduce the latest chapter of their collaboration, this time with a focus on sustainability and the introduction of new categories.

The relaunch marks the shift of the entire Prada production from virgin nylon to Re-Nylon, achieved by the close of 2021. The collection will include ready-to-wear accessories and bags for the first time. These categories are in addition to new takes on the Adidas Forum High and Low sneaker silhouettes.

Gucci Pre-Fall 2022
Photo credit: vogue.com

Alessandro Michele presented his Gucci Pre-Fall 2022 collection entitled “Gucci Love Parade” in a parade held on the iconic Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles this past November. It’s the typical eclectic mashup one would expect, with gender-bending designs shown on both guys and gals. Michele loves to accessorize. One recurring theme was wool felt cowboy hats with a slightly upturned brim.

It’s hard not to notice that cowboy hats are enjoying somewhat of a revival these days. Like jeans and cowboy boots, cowboy hats are synonymous with American fashion. This coincides with the current focus on American design thanks to the Met’s exhibition, “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.” Part 2, “An Anthology of Fashion,” opens on May 5th and runs through September 5th, 2022.

Classic Stetson Cowboy Hats
Photo credit: stetson.com

You can’t get more iconic or authentically American than Stetson, that gave birth to the world’s first “cowboy hat.” Founded in 1865 by John B. Stetson, Stetson has created quality products built to last, get better with age, and have deep roots in American tradition. The company continues to craft its products using much of the same techniques as John B. did many years ago.

On their website, you can find an assortment of cowboy hats, club hats, explorer hats, and fedoras. While prices can get up into the 4 figures for their premium styles, the bulk of the line is in the mid $200- $500 range.

Janessa Leon’s Willa Hat in burnt orange wool
Photo credit: janessaleone.com

Janessa Leon’s, are made specifically for women. Of course, that doesn’t stop men from swooping up the California-based designer’s chic and timeless western hats, fedoras, caps, and bestselling pack-able Panamanian straw hats priced from about $130 – $350. Most are in the $200 range. Each one is entirely handmade. www.janessaleone.com.

Janessa Leone Michon Packable Straw Hat
Photo credit: janessaleone.com

Since the label’s launch in 2012, the focus has been on craftsmanship. The designer ignores trends; she is more inspired by silhouettes from eras past. Her appreciation of sharp menswear, bespoke accents, and exquisite tailoring informs Janessa’s aesthetic. Leone embodies that effortless California spirit. It looks great.

Janessa sells her hats, leather belts, and handbags on her website and Culver City store. Bergdorf Goodman and other high-end stores and online shops also stock her wares. She has plans to open a store in Manhattan in the future. On January 13th, Janessa is launching a line of sweaters, priced at $300, made of 100% recycled wool.

Marilyn Kirschner
Photo: Ernest Schmatolla

While I have never thought of myself as a dedicated hat wearer, last year, I bought a fabulous KOKIN black lacquered straw hat with oversized white circles. I wore it to the Central Park Conservancy Hat Luncheon and on several other occasions.

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.


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