Hot Hats to Keep Your Cool

If you want to keep cool on these sunny summer days consider investing in some stylish hats. You'll find a lovely selection for every event.
Woman sunbathing in a pool with a stylish sun hat

Women’s hats are having a moment. Not the sort of hat one might wear to church or the feathered fascinator you wore to the last royal wedding, but just pop it on and go-for-a-stroll hats.

Sipping coffee at a café at Eastern Market this past Saturday, I watched a parade. The hub of Washington DC’s Capitol Hill neighborhood is a festival on weekends. In addition to the historic market, there are booths in the street selling clothes and jewelry, farmers selling lettuce and corn. A lady sings the blues beautifully.

It seems the entire neighborhood turns out to shop and get an eye load of each other, and resident celebrities like Pete Buttigieg and Ben Bernanke squeeze the tomatoes and gather exotic mushrooms.  

With the insane heat sweltering the city, as well as the entire nation, everyone was dressed – or, more aptly, undressed – for the weather. There were pretty sun dresses sprigged with flowers, Lululemonish yoga ensembles, long drifty skirts, short skirts, and shorts. It was a rare head that was missing a covering.

Here comes an older woman, in overalls and Birkenstocks, with a New Yorker tote over one shoulder, a cane in the opposite hand, and a fedora.  Skipping past her, a svelte young thing in a teeny white tennis dress,  also topped with a fedora – they both looked dashing.

Woman shopping in a fedora

There goes Little Mary Sunshine in a drifty dress to her ankles and a flowered bonnet with a big bow in the back.  There’s also a 6-foot-tall guy that looks to weigh maybe 130, give or take a pound, teetering by in a long shift with a high slit and platform heels, in case you haven’t noticed him. His platinum blond curls peek cunningly from beneath the brim of his shocking pink cartwheel sun hat.  Oops, he’s tripping on his skirt. A nice lady in a booth selling Indian cotton clothing pins him up. He saunters on.

Young women tend to wear the short and tight, and a handful of daring elders join them.  There’s a yoga studio nearby and an Orange Theory gym across the street, so the garb might have a purpose beyond showing off. The toppers included cowboy hats, a camo-patterned cloche, floppy crochet numbers ala Janice Joplin, boaters, bucket hats, and Panamas with wide bands, some decorated with sea shells and ribbons. There’s nary a baseball cap in sight, which thrills me no end. If you’re not skinny and very young, they don’t do many favors.   

Ah, Panamas. I used to work with a handsome guy from Argentina, a sales rep who wore white linen suits no matter the season, with a Panama hat and sunglasses. He seemed to spend most of the working day at sidewalk cafes, smoking a cigar and drinking wine. It worked for him.  He was hot.

Panamas are fine toppers, tilt one just so, and you automatically gain points for cool.

A coolie hat walks by. I’m not so sure of that.  That Japanese paper umbrella might not be a hat, but it’s lovely.

You don’t have to be a great beauty to look great; the right hat can even stand in for makeup. Consider a big-brimmed pink or red sun hat. It’s like walking around with a rosy lightbulb bathing the skin in a romantic glow.  A white one, with white palazzo pants or a swishy shirt dress, can go from elegant to ethereal.  Think Amal Clooney at a garden party.  Black, and you’re having Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Audrey Hepburn

Stay away from pill boxes; only Jackie Kennedy looked good in them. Also, Mamie Eisenhower turbans… or was that Bess Truman? Not a beach look, anyway, by any stretch.

The times call for a bit of chic to go with your casually tousled hair that set you back $175 at Monsieur Marcels.

Need inspiration? Here’s a clutch of Hollywood-inspired stunners for keeping your cool.

It wasn’t quite a fedora or a cloche, but Ingrid Bergman made a hat famous in the tender goodbye scene with Bogie at the airport in Casablanca. While not precisely Bergman’s, this slouch from Regine Chevallier captures the essence. Make sure it’s tilted just so.  Here’s looking at you kid. $159.

Regine Chevallier Black Buckle White Panama Sun Hat, $159

Shout hallelujah, come on, get happy! These fedoras are so ridiculously cheap you can have one in every color: pink, red, tan, black, grey, camel, and yellow, for under ten bucks at Walmart. 

Archer Vintage Felt Wide Brim Fedora, $9.20

They call it a yurt; who knows why… I thought a yurt was a tent. I say this black wool number swirled with netting is totally Audrey – even though they call it the Ingrid. Either way. Wow.  From Janice Winner at Etsy. $65.

Yurt Hat, $65

Audrey again – the woman was made for hats – how many times have we seen her in something like this big beautiful wide-brimmed and bowed straw bucket?  Add HUGE shades for the ultimate in glam – full dress, yes, but also a head-turner at the farmer’s market. $355 at Castaway Nantucket.

Large Brim Straw Bucket Hat, $355

Julia Roberts donned a boater when she trotted off to the Kentucky Derby in Pretty Woman; the hat band was brown with white polka dots to match her sun dress. This straw number, available on Amazon, catches that insouciance for $26. Paint on your own dots.

Straw Beach Sun Hat, $25.99

Prefer having the dots painted on for you? This polka-dotty silk/straw sun hat at Bergdorf Goodman is garden party perfect, with a blooming beautiful bow perched on the wide brim. $595.

Polka Dot Sun Hat

Dot Com Polka-Dot Sun Hat, $595

Ah, the cloche. So Downton Abbey, so roaring twenties with bobbed hair. If you don’t mind a bit of burn on the tip of your nose, this cloche comes in eight colors, including luscious raspberry and teal, from Bon Clic Bon Genre. $44

Cloche, $44

Liza Minelli’s Sally Bowls plopped a bowler on her head and danced with a chair in Cabaret.  Show off your feminine curves in this most masculine chapeau; it’s all in the contrast. The Village Hat shop has a fine one in straw to help you beat the heat, even if you’re just sitting down.

More cowgirl than flapper? Jane Fonda, Jane Russell, Salma Hayak, and Marilyn Monroe all made the classic western hat steam up the silver screen. The Sawmill Palm Leaf Straw Western Hat from Stetson at the Village Hat shop was made for the shade – on horseback or city streets. $79.95

Sawmill Palm Leaf Straw Western Hat, $79.95

A newsboy cap is not a baseball cap, though they look somewhat similar. The difference is style – and flattery. Think the gorgeous Hannah Waddingham on Ted Lasso – who alternates the newsboy with a fedora in the soccer stands with equal élan. The Weavers of Ireland offer this tweed number, perfect in steamy weather, for $49.95.

newsboy hat

Ladies Tweed Newsboy Hat, $49.95

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