From Berets To Fedoras: Hats Off To Laird Hatters



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Meghna Mukerjee steps into Laird Hatters in search of the elusive, perfect hat.

I’ve always liked hats. I suspect my closest friend was born wearing one. Growing up, she walked dogs wearing hats, went for tuition wearing hats (she did), played chor-police wearing caps (which is fair enough) and you could seldom find her without some paraphernalia atop her head.

In a city where the notorious “monkey-cap” made its annual appearance (whether you liked it or not), my friend carried off fancy hats all-year-round with aplomb. On entering her house, a wooden hat rack would greet me. I loved that hat rack and occasionally trying on the hats. I would imagine strutting to work in high heels, a long coat and a hat (beret specifically for some odd reason). The high heels and long coat eventually came together, but the beret remained elusive. You either have a hat-head or you don’t. I know from bitter experience that no matter how much you like a particular type of hat and take to it, you cannot change the way it takes to you.

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Every winter, without doubt, I try to get on with the humble beret. Every winter, I decide otherwise. That doesn’t stop me from admiring berets or hats in general, especially in London – the home of Sherlock Holmes, who would be incomplete without his natty Deerstalker. Be it flat caps or fascinators, the British love headgear, and Laird Hatters & Co. celebrates the best of British hats and caps.

Laird Hatters’ Covent Garden store combines two shop units. It has a ’50s feel even though it was set up in 2009. They don’t do fascinators – that’s a different ballgame. I had been past this shop a few times without going inside, but one summer afternoon I convinced myself I needed a hat, so there was one place to head to – Laird Hatters.

“Feel free to try them on,” said a friendly voice in the store. On expressing my shy past with hats, the gentleman said with complete confidence, “There’s a hat for everyone!” Right. I wasn’t as convinced.

Laird Hatters isn’t a big store, but their collection of hats and caps certainly is. All their products are made in Hertfordshire, and quality is of paramount importance. British textiles and materials are sourced diligently to craft traditional pieces with modern nuances. The quality of the Carludovica Palmate or palm leaves from Ecuador determines the prices of their hand-woven Panama hats. The Top Hats range from approximately £60 to £400. The fedoras cost an average of £95, the wool ones being cheaper.

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There are feathered and colourful hats adding a touch of fun. The Baker Boy, Duck Bill, Bowler, Homburg – you can find a variety here in tweed, felt, fur and more. Laird Hatters has also collaborated with several British designers. Reportedly, Keira Knightley and Yoko Ono, among other celebrities, regularly wear Laird Hatters. Also their hat boxes – bold and black with gold details – are most alluring.

I was drawn to the cloche and fedoras, and I tried on many. On a sweltering day in London, trying rich winter hats instead of going for straw hats felt a tad silly. But it was an invigorating experience, going from femme-fatale to feminine in a matter of seconds with just a change of hat. It ultimately felt right.

Did I buy a hat from Laird Hatters that afternoon? No. Will I give my beret another go this winter? Yes. But the impulse trip was not a complete waste of time, as I did scope out a potential hat to buy when the autumn arrives. It’s a camel-coloured fedora, and the more I think about it, the more it feels right. The beret may not be my thing, but at Laird Hatters they say there is a hat for everyone. And I like the sound of that.

Laird Hatters also has stores at The Strand and Soho.

Laird Hatters, 23 New Row, London WC2N 4LA. Phone: 020 7240 4240

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