Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Ever wondered why ‘hat’ rhymes with ‘prat’? But what’s a little pink between friends? Can’t we settle for ‘light red’? Please?

I don’t think anyone of my family, relatives, friends or acquaintances would describe me as a stylish man, and I must admit I have very little interest in fashion. In fact, I regard those who chase the latest fashions to be seen in it at all cost as on the verge of neurosis. But I do have a thing about flat caps. I started wearing one - though only in cold weather, so I am most certainly off the fashionista hook - many years ago. First, it was one of my father’s, the usual sort of nondescript rural look which, a bit green, a bit brown, a sort of hint at a pattern but not much. And although they kept my head warm, I didn’t much like them as they pretty much screamed middle-aged and getting on so loudly - or at least I felt they did - that only ever wore them when I was alone.

All that changed when it occurred to me that you don’t have to wear one of those awful old-git flat caps and that there is a variety of rather better looking ones. My first, I think, was a dark green tartan cap with a red woollen bobble on top. But that one I left in a pub between London and Brighton, although to this day I can’t remember why I was visiting Brighton and, more to the point, where I had bought the bloody thing. And I wanted to know that so I could get another like it. But I didn’t. Then a few months, maybe a year later, I came across another tartan hat, one which fitted snugly and kept my head lovely and warm. I had it for about two years before it, too, got lost. Looking for a replacement, I came across a very useful online hat store called Village Hats which carries a variety of different kinds of hats and, more to the point, a wide range of flat caps, or better, flat cap style caps. The first one I bought there was a grey ‘newsboy’ cap. Like it a lot, but one night walking from where I had parked the car near my brother’s flat in Earls Court, London, to his flat I somehow - somehow - lost it. I wasn’t wearing it at the time.

I spent some time retracing my footsteps, but it was gone. So I bought another or the same style, another grey ‘newsboy’ hat (pictured). But by now I had got the bug. Just as some folk - and a great many women - have different shoes for different occasions and not just for different weather, I have decided that there’s no reason why I shouldn’t do the same with caps. So over the months and recent years I have bought several more hats - an oilskin cap (which my wife says makes me look like a pimp - yippee!), a black corduroy cap (which, come to think of it, I haven’t seen for a while), a blue serge hat, and then my pride and joy, another read tartan hat. But there’s the rub. I bought it on the same Village Hats website and when it arrived it wasn’t quite as red as I thought it would be, but that didn’t bother me. Unkind colleagues decided it wasn’t red at all, but pink, but
then who doesn’t have unkind colleagues (who, come to think of it, figure quite prominently on newspaper staff). But it was most certainly tartan. It also had a shape and brim which I had seen the former Arsenal footballer Ian Wright wearing and which shape I liked, and if you still can’t imagine what it looks like, take a look that Andy Capp cartoon here - it was pretty much like that. Then I lost it. Or I thought I had lost it.

I looked everywhere. I had once worn it to La Pappardella around the corner from my brother’s where I have taken to having a meal of a Sunday when I work only one shift. I persuaded myself I had left it there. But I hadn’t. No one had found one there. I then decided I had worn it in the outside smoking area of The Brewer’s Arms, in South Petherton, Somerset, where I usually stop of on a Wednesday for a drink and a cigar and to watch whatever football is showing on Sky (and now BT Sports). I rang them, but was told no one had handed one in. So I decided to buy another, and this is where my story really starts.

I have already reported just how unkind some of my colleagues were be describing my red tartan cap as ‘pink’. It’s not ‘pink’, I told them, it’s red, although I was bound to concede - I’m the honest sort - that it was a very light red and that anyone who might think it ‘pink’ might, at a push, have a point. But I have to say that didn’t bother me. Not one jot. Anyway, I looked on the Village Hats website where I had bought the cap a few months ago, but I couldn’t find it. Nor could I find a facility detailing past orders so that I could track down another. I rang up Village Hats, explained what I was about and could the woman at the other end of the phone look up that order and tell me
the name of the style of hat and the manufacturer. Yes, she said, give her a minute, and she was back not long after: ‘It is a ‘Jodie’ and was made by Jane Anne Designs,’ she told me. It is on the left. Do you have any more in stock? I asked. No, she said. Well, the obvious thing was to look up Jane Anne Designs on the web and I find the firm within minutes.

But what struck me as a little odd was that - er, all the hats on it is website were for women. And it proclaimed itself on its web blurb thus:

Jane Anne Designs are located in Manchester and are a leading wholesale supplier of Ladies Formal Hats, Fascinators, Ladies Casual Hats, Cloche Hats, Wax Cotton Hats, Fur Hats and Trappers. Our Wedding Hats, Fascinators and matching Bags are really popular; reasonably priced and they are all exclusively designed in the UK by Jane Anne Designs. Our Ladies Casual range includes Knitted Cloche Hats and Classic Wool Felt Cloche Hats in different colours. Our Ladies Wax Hats are ideal for the wet outdoors, whilst our ladies Fur Hats and Trappers will always keep you warm.

It might strike you as it struck me that there was no mention at all of hats for red-blooded males such as me. What was going on? I rang to find out. Yes, the woman there told me, we do sell the ‘Jodie’, and, yes, we do still have it in stock. And, no, she told me when I asked, we don’t sell men’s hats. So the Jodie is a woman’s hat? I asked. Yes, the woman told me, didn’t you notice the floral lining? Well, yes, I had noticed the floral lining but honestly didn’t think too much about it. I didn’t there and then buy myself another - bugger the colour and bugger the floral lining: I liked and like that cap. Google a bit more and found some firm or other in Yorkshire sold it for a couple of quid less than Jane Anne Designs. But I still didn’t buy one, because I planned to drop in at the Brewer’s Arms that night and try my luck again. Who knew, perhaps it had been found and handed in, but the woman I spoke to on the phone didn’t know. Actually, it hadn’t as Duncan, the landlord, assured me.

That’s was it really and there and then I decided I would get another. But thank God I didn’t because what should turn up, tucked away in an Asda bag for life in my stepmother’s kitchen? So there you have it. But to demonstrate that that hat has a perfectly respectable pedigree and that all kind of men liked and like wearing it, I have gone to some trouble to find photos of them on the web wearing the ‘Jodie’. Stuff you, unkind colleagues.

1 comment:

  1. Even the Guardian's Film Critic, Catherine Shoad, passed comment recently:

    Brimming with confidence

    Looking smart has always defeated me. Even with effort, I still look like an explosion in a charity shop. Until now, that is. For I have bought a firm-brimmed hat. Berets were a lost cause, requiring dexterity and calm weather; beanies made comparisons to Benny on Crossroads irresistible. Yet a dark-blue, vaguely felt number with a bit of a band has instantly tarted me up. Such hats aren’t handy only for those worried about thinning; they are also a godsend for anyone with too much hair, thick and thatchy, never tamed and best contained. You’re welcome.