A British social event isn’t complete without a hat for both men and women – whether one is attending a wedding in an explosion of feathers, Henley with a Panama, Cheltenham in a felt Fedora, or Ascot in a top hat, hat wearing is always the rule not the exception.
Some of London’s oldest hatters and most stylish milliners are to be found within St James’s, one of the oldest quarters of central London, situated just below Piccadilly, and traditionally the home of English menswear and hatmaking. These days though both men and women can find hats for any occasion. Here is my guide:
Look for a small gap between the buildings at the St James’s Palace end of Pall Mall, walk up a small, flagstoned alleyway that can’t have changed since Dickens walked these streets, and you will find a small Georgian doorway above which hangs an old-fashioned shop sign bearing Rachel Trevor-Morgan’s name.
Her by appointment-only salon and atelier creates hats for some of England’s best-dressed – and most discreet – women. (Suffice to say that Ms Trevor-Morgan holds the Royal Warrant as the Queen’s milliner.) A hat-trying on session in her tiny mirror-lined salon is enough to make any women believe that she is the embodiment of chic.
I’ve been lucky enough to be able to borrow Rachel’s beautiful hats over the years, thanks to an introduction from my dear friend, the designer Suzannah whose dresses I wear to Royal Ascot each year.
If you’re uncertain about what to wear to a wedding or to Royal Ascot, then Rachel’s kind charm will reassure you and guide you in the right direction. And, if you’re lucky, her adorable wire-haired Dachshund Daphne will be in residence too.
Address: Rachel Trevor-Morgan. 18 Crown Passage, St. James’s, London SW1Y 6PP
Lock & Co. Hatters
If one needed a wardrobe of hats for a couple, then there is no place better than Lock & Co. at No. 6 St James’s Street, where one could purchase a top hat, bowler, beanie, baseball cap, Panama, Ascot frippery and a straw boater all under one roof at Lock’s venerable St James’s Street store. Established in 1676, Lock & Co is the oldest hat shop in the world & one of the oldest family-owned businesses still in existence. (The 7th generation of the family now run the business.)
Lock’s hold the Royal Warrants of the Duke of Edinburgh and of the Prince of Wales; Admiral Lord Nelson wore their bicorne into the Battle of Trafalgar. Sir Winston Churchill adopted their Cambridge and Homburg hats as his trademarks, and the Duchess of Cambridge frequently wears couture Lock’s hats for her official engagements.
Address: Lock & Co. Hatters. 6 St James’s St, St. James’s, London SW1A 1EF
Founded in 1773, and the official helmet manufacturer of the UK Police Force for two centuries, Christy’s is also known for making the Homburg hat worn by Marlon Brando’s Don Corleone in The Godfather. One of my most treasured possessions is my grandfather’s Christy’s trilby, which must be some sixty years old now, somewhat battered by the elements, but still wearable.
Although they aren’t as well known for their ladies hats, owning a Christy’s felt fedora or trilby is a real fashion editor insider secret. They have also launched a capsule collection in association with Ascot Racecourse, based around their Panama hats – we particularly love the Amelia wide brim Panama hat with blue band & feather (£159).
It’s always worth visiting their small but perfectly formed store at 19 Princes Arcade, as they can offer hat personalisation and head sizing in person. One can also order a handmade hat, and pre-order new season hats. (A good idea as they can sell out quickly.)
Address: Christy’s. 12 Princes Arcade, 36-40 Jermyn St, London SW1Y 6DS
Fortnum & Mason
Possibly London’s most exquisite department store, Fortnums has a truly excellent millinery department, where it’s possible to run the gamut of hatmaking from a fake fur Russian hat by Helen Moore – perfect for Cheltenham, to a breathtaking floral confection for the summer season by Scottish superstar milliner William Chambers.
Address: Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, St. James’s, London W1A 1ER
Bates Gentlemen’s Hatters
In the heart of St James’s at 73 Jermyn Street, Bates has had a presence here since 1898. With ten types of Trilby on offer, from Soft Homburgs to Pork Pies, eight types of Fedora, top hats, tweed caps and Panamas, amongst others, there is every possible type of hat for the discerning gentleman. And, just in time for Royal Ascot, they have a selection of the finest reconditioned vintage and antique silk top hats, which come supplied with a velvet top hat ‘mouse’ for polishing. We love their straw Beachcomber hat for summer holidays.
Address: Bates. 73 Jermyn St, St. James’s, London SW1Y 6NP
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