Brimming with style
Hats are properly back on the fashion agenda this autumn for the first time since the 1980s. Back then, it was all about Princess Diana and the gorgeous, big-brimmed numbers by Graham Smith, John Boyd, Frederick Fox, Philip Somerville, et al, while for autumn it is all about wearable hats that also tick the season's huge retro trend.
That is not to say we haven't all put on a hat from time to time in the last 20 years, but mainly for occasions: bar- and batmitzvahs, weddings and ritzy events like Ascot, and, of course, for shul-goers for Shabbat and yomtov.
In addition, of course, we are all prepared to jam a furry or woolly hat on our head when the temperatures plummet or when we are heading for the ski-slopes.
But this season, the hat's ubiquity on the catwalks and in the ads sprinkled throughout the pages of the glossy mags - Louis Vuitton, Alexander McQueen, Tommy Hilfiger, Sportmax, High, Comptoir des Cotonniers and many others showed models in hats - demonstrates that the top echelon of stylists are using hats in a quotidian, non-occasion way.
Which for all of us means that electing to wear a hat to go shopping (and I mean to Sloane Street or Deansgate, by the way, not to your local Waitrose) is actually possible this season with hardly any risk of being written off as an eccentric.
If you need further proof, it is the fact that autumn's big hat shapes - trilbys, fedoras, 60s peaked caps and 70s floppy brimmed hats - are all widely available well beyond the millinery departments and hat shops.
The millinery revival is largely attributable to the retro trend that has put the spotlight on the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s, with the 50s - an era when women routinely wore hats- given a particular boost by Mad Men and, more recently, BBC2's The Hour.
Kate Middleton - aka the Duchess of Cambridge - has not done any harm to the millinery trade, either; a pretty, fairly on-trend young royal, regularly photographed wearing a hat has doubtless been the incentive for many women to buy a hat, or a substantial fascinator, for an occasion where she may otherwise have gone bare-headed, or sported a bit of veiling on a band.
There is also more temptation to wear a hat thanks to a slew of fabulous millinery designers and a flurry of new hat shops. Along with established names like the hugely gifted Gabriela Ligenza, and the prodigiously talented Gina Foster, there are brilliant young designers, too. New to millinery is the precociously gifted north-west London-based Eliane Sarah (elianesarah.com), who creates the kind of ultra-chic, directional hats that look stunning with a sharp little 40s-inspired suit or cinched waist 50s dress. Another young milliner crafting exquisite occasion hats is Nerida Fraiman (neridafraiman.com). Her designs sell from her website and at The Hat Gallery in Conduit Street, where hat lovers can find a ravishing collection from an international stable of milliners that, as well as Fraiman, includes Philip Treacy, Celine Robert, Karin Henrikson, Patricia Underwood and Laurence Leleux.
For the faint-hearted who find the hats on these pages too dramatic for shul, here are the best of the trilbys, fedoras, and berets: leopard print trilby by Walter Wright, £175, John Lewis; mushroom felt fedora, £49, Reiss; dark red fedora, £40, Aldo; dark brown fedora with lilac band and feather, £20, River Island; grey tweed trilby, £25, Marisota; purple fluffy peak cap, Marzi £139, Fenwick, W1; black fedora, £19.50 M&S; teal fedora, £26, Accessorize; jewel-studded and crocheted berets from £30, the Hat Gallery, W1.