In 2016, I spotted David Beckham in the crowd at Wimbledon’s No 1 Court with son Brooklyn, the picture of the stylish, modern father. But for one thing. The recently appointed British Fashion Council ambassador was wearing a bakerboy hat in herringbone tweed in the hot July sun. Stetson’s latest eight-piece newsboy cap, which is identical in shape but fashioned in light, breathable, woven Japanese toyostraw would have been a more appropriate choice – best in wheat/gold (£59) or mottled stone. And it’s just one of this summer’s cool hats that are stealing it in the style stakes.
For those looking for a relaxed, modern summer hat with attitude, Lock & Co has some strong contenders, including the new Santorini flat cap (£115), newsboy (£115) and baseball style (£95) in either blue/white or cream/white seersucker. At Stetson, the aforementioned newsboy (£59) and the Madison flat cap (£69) also come in a multitude of linens in muted summer colours, from dusty pink and olive to denim. And at Drake’s, there are simple cotton bucket hats in navy (£75), cream or olive. For something really head-turning, try Loewe’s pith helmet-inspired woven straw hat in black (£225) or white.
For the more traditional dresser, Panamas are invariably the go-to, and Jeremy Hackett’s Panama (£195) in superfine toquilla palm is smart and light, while the chalky medium-brim version (£120) has a jolly striped band. But the Panama-scape is shifting. Hackett is a man who knows his hats: “I would wear a Panama hat to Glorious Goodwood or to polo with a pale lightweight suit and corresponding shoes,” he says, “but earlier this year at the Prince of Wales’ 70th birthday party I noticed a number of guests in morning dress paired with Panamas instead of silk top hats and complemented by buff waistcoats. I thought they looked rather good – and given the soaring temperature, they were sensible too.” Hackett also told me about a straw bowler he is devising – but hasn’t quite perfected. Others hatmakers are also experimenting across genres, although it can be a challenge.
Back at Lock, meanwhile, the clientele of the nearly 400-year-old establishment now have the option of semi-bespoke, customised Panamas (£6,500) in an exceptionally fine straw weave, with the client’s preferred shape and width of crown and brim. The more modestly priced Classic Panama (£250) comes with a choice of ribbon, while other fresh summer hat styles include a deep‑brimmed Cordoba (£495) in a semi-bleached tobacco hue, the Bali Panama (£295) with deep brim – though it would require David Bowie’s poise to pull it off – the treacle-coloured Tuscany fedora (£175) and the robust updated Riviera boater (£135), both of which are chain-woven in a spiral.
When it comes to fit, “put a finger on each ear, sit the hat above them and keep it horizontal so it makes a lovely line across the eyes,” says Audie Charles, store manager at Anderson & Sheppard. Best from the brand this season are the narrow-brimmed Panamas with navy ribbon (£175) and the versions (£165) in café au lait sisal with chocolate band, which Charles says should be worn with the peak down, so they sweep back, “like Concord”.
I love these darker, tobacco-y and semi-bleached hues for Panamas, but for those who gravitate towards crisp whites, the Brazilian swimwear and lifestyle brand Frescobol Carioca has some striking wide-brimmed Panamas (£160) with colourful bands, while Giorgio Armani has simple white woven ones (£320) with narrow brims.
Prada’s narrow-brimmed hats have Rat Pack rakishness – its woven trilbies with sleek profiles are two-tone, either in cream with a black brim (£410) or pale metallic grey with graphite. Sinatra, who often chose a trilby with a fancy or patterned band, wore his to the back and side.
The current crop of hats from Matchesfashion.com is also likely to have turned the heads of that roguish crew. I’m keen on the two-tone, olive-green Panama (£225) with rich khaki ribbon from classic Italian marque Borsalino, which would look dapper teamed with similarly toned tailoring, as well as the brand’s white Panama (£225) with navy brim. Matches also stocks Japanese brand Yosuzi, which has elaborate and colourful banded Panamas (£215) – including those (£225) with repeated Greco motifs and bold woven stripes. Vibrant colour can also, unsurprisingly, be found at Paul Smith, where woven skinny-brim trilbys or pork-pie hats in cream, cobalt and orange (£150) are brimming with attitude. Dark navy or chocolate Panamas (£200) with a doodled bird, sun or dog motif are also cool, as are textured, braided styles (£95) with different-colour panels, while a black straw (£100) hat with navy grosgrain ribbon and signature Smith multicolour trim is for the sophisticated crowd. There are also hats (£100) with ultra-skinny stripe brims, which feel more Caribbean beach than Henley Regatta – and while they won’t keep much sun out of the eyes, they’d certainly turn a few heads.