As the years have passed and my skin has become more delicate, I’ve become hyper-vigilant about my suncare regimen. What started with slathering on antioxidant-packed, anti-ageing SPF 50+ sunscreens has evolved into full-on UV-protection courtesy of rash guard cover-ups. I’ve also come to accept that hats are a daily staple, wherever I may be. In short, I have become obsessed with finding a chic-yet-utilitarian hat that works everywhere from the white sand beaches of Mauritius to the streets of midtown Manhattan.
It’s no fun constantly ducking under cover on holidays, as I discovered last year when I was in the Tropics and found myself without a suitable, stylish chapeau. It turned out to be a blessing, as my flimsy Panama – which I lost somewhere between home and hotel – didn’t provide adequate brim coverage, nor did it have any protective factor worth speaking of.
It was the all-too-familiar story: the local island shops had lots of sporty hats on offer – baseball caps, bucket hats and those broad-brimmed cricket versions that just don’t play well on a middle-aged American woman of style. In need of immediate cover, I started looking online. I was already a fan of the Soleil Toujours sun-protection skincare products, and was pleased to discover they have hats too: real, hand-blocked, glamorous straw creations, inspired by fashion icons of the 1960s. I placed my order on the spot.
I opted for the Bardot ($395), a flattering, Milan-braided straw cloche in a neutral tone that works well with my fair colouring, and which has a sizeable 5” brim for maximum shade. Ever since I plucked it from its elegant box, we’ve been inseparable.
The hats have a built-in 50+ ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) – they undergo rigorous spectroradiometric testing to ensure sun blockage – but not at the expense of style.
Each piece is handmade in New York, so there is the option of custom sizing, but I went with the standard 23” version that can be adjusted with an interior ribbon. It also has a well-placed elastic band that can be secured under a ponytail – my preferred hairstyle – so it stays firmly in place in windy conditions.
I now consider my Bardot an invaluable accessory in the fight against sun damage and so happy with it I have been that I’m quite tempted to add the Charlotte ($410) – wide-brimmed, in a mix of synthetic and cotton straw – or the Hollywood-esque “Venice braid” fedora-style Sophia ($425), available in blonde or noire, to my repertoire. Then I just need to find another glamorous beach-y escape to match…