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Hat chat

There was a story by Vanessa Friedman in The New York Times recently about the dress code in the Royal Enclosure at Royal Ascot, which included the startlingly specific fact that hats:

must include a base that is at least four inches in diameter. That means “fascinators,” those bizarre concoctions of net and sparkle that sit on the edge of a headband like a bird on a twig, are not allowed.

There are few things I’m less likely ever to need to know than this dress code, but it made me wonder quite how specific the requirements could possibly be. The answer is ‘very’.

Friedman quotes a milliner: ‘To err on the side of extravagance as opposed to modesty is a joy for everyone.’

I find within myself a surprising degree of sympathy for that perspective, but it seems a shame that it applies only to women. Men are prohibited any hint of extravagance: my choice is only of a grey or black top hat, about which colour ribbons, feathers or other embellishments are expressly prohibited. Even for ties—the definition of a useless embellishment—‘novelty patterns’ are disallowed. It’s just a sea of boring men in dull grey (or black or navy) suits.

It feels like such a strange choice in the modern world. It doesn’t even feel particularly traditional for a country with quite outlandish masculine fashion traditions—there will be working blokes there wearing scarlet jackets, gold buttons, winged epaulets with bloody great bear skins on their heads for goodness’ sake, with a far longer history than a Moss Bros top hat.

If it were me, I’d go full on ‘suits of armour’, ‘gold-threaded royal tabards’ and ’mandatory codpieces’. The current option just seems terribly boring… but then, it was never my thing to begin with.

The image at the top of this post was generated by DALL·E 3.

This post was filed under: Art, News and Comment, , , , .

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