As a lifelong lover of horse racing, I’ve spent a lot of time at the track surrounded by men in hats. In the 1970s and ’80s a traditional brown trilby was de rigueur for gentlemen racegoers and trainers, while stable lads sported flat tweed caps, and the more flamboyant fedoras, homburgs and pork pie hats were considered the preserve of the bookies. Today, however, hat wearing is happily less regimented – and plenty of punters opt for no hat at all. But I’m a fan of the hat, and these days I’m a regular customer of The Bath Hat Company, an independent, family-owned business that first opened its doors in the city’s artisan quarter over 27 years ago. The mother-and-daughter-run shop stocks a wide range of colourful and stylish, contemporary and vintage women’s hats, but also has one of the best collections of men’s titfers I’ve seen outside of Jermyn Street.
My first purchase was a wide-brimmed mole-brown fedora (£98), made by the Susquehana Hat Company, with a high crown and named the Marlowe after Raymond Chandler’s famous private eye, Philip Marlowe. Soft, waterproofed and made of fur felt, it’s my first choice for Cheltenham in March but also cuts a dash in the city. For summer days, I’m equipped with one of The Bath Hat Company’s handmade snap-brim Panama hats (£78-£110), made in Ecuador by Failsworth, for keeping the sun off in style whether racing at Glorious Goodwood in July or strolling along the boardwalk at Deauville.
I’ve recently added a grey-mix Donegal tweed flat cap (£48) to my hat repertoire. It keeps me dry at jump meetings in winter and is more evocative of Peaky Blinders than Toad of Toad Hall. As an Ascot regular I have my own cherished black silk top hat, but when it needs replacing, the company’s Olney Melasine black fur-felt topper (£375) is a real beauty.