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Buying a Hat

Kamau Hosten

Despite a trend towards mixing high and low articles of clothing, there is something to be said about harmony and consistency in place of trendy. This is especially true as we properly usher in Autumn 2014. Soon enough, it will be cool enough for topcoats and hats. While the importance of keeping one's head covered is not debatable, the choices are. Flatcaps, knit hats, driving hats and fedoras are all options utilized by the savvy and just plain freezing. Fashion magazines, who must introduce something new to the readers, dictate that knit hats, for instance, dress down a more formal overcoat. If it comes down to formality versus casual, put me on the formal side, every time. No knit hat, no flatcap, no baseball cap with your overcoat. A proper gentleman's hat to top off the look is in order to achieve adequate harmony.

Hat by Selentino, glasses by Tom Ford

My own hunt truly began years before I'd have to brave frosty elements. Growing up watching the screen stars of the 1950s, the elegance of the fedora atop an immaculately attired Spencer Tracy in Adam's Rib stayed with me. Although hats are not the dominant accessory they were 60 years ago, they're just as dashing today, even more so due to the countless inappropriate and just plain tacky head coverings seen on men with otherwise appropriate outerwear.

I had read about JJ Hat Center, a New York institution for over a century, years before I moved here. As I'd recently decided on purchasing a hat, I headed to their Fifth Avenue shop.

Chatting with staff at JJ Hat Center with a hat that ended up back on the wall. Shirt by Kamakura, tie by Brioni, pocket square by Ikire Jones. Photo by Bevin Elias

The staff, all enormously knowledgable and passionate, educated me about finding the right brim (sides of the hat)  width for my face, the correct crown (the top of the hat) for the shape of my head and the best shade for a first purchase.

My new hat being steamed

Blue, brown and grey were the suggestions, which are in line with the rest of menswear articles of clothing, as the most versatile. After trying on several in shades ranging from camel to charcoal, I settled on a deep brown fedora by Selentino. This will top off both my blueish/grey double breasted overcoat and my grey herringbone topcoat for the upcoming winter very nicely.

Hat by Selentino, Jacket by Loro Piana, scarf by Etro, trousers by Brioni, monk strap shoes by Howard Yount, canvas bag by Want Les Essentiels de la Vie, socks by Paul Stuart

- As per the staff, before buying one, consider your own wardrobe. What will you likely be wearing this with? Does your wardrobe lean towards a casual or formal?

- Although there are a plethora of hatsellers online, it's best to visit a shop to try them on if you're a first time buyer or new to a manufacturer.

- While shades of deep, bottle green or burgundy may be eye catching, they're also less versatile. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement. Stay (somewhat) grounded.

All Photos by Stephen Obisanya unless otherwise noted