A perfect summer day involves three things: a good novel, a cool drink, and a stylish hat. Until recently, I lacked the final ingredient. To find a great summer hat I traveled to Jamaica Plain’s Salmagundi, an independent hat and accessories shop “for ladies and gents.”
Salmagundi’s prestige spreads beyond our fair city. The shop has the largest and most diverse selection of hats in the Northeast, and The Headwear Association (which, marvelously, exists) just named it National Hat Retailer of the Year. Credentials aside, Salmagundi won my heart with its charm, casual elegance, and excellent customer service.
Husband and wife team Jessen Fitzpatrick and Andria Rapagnola opened shop in 2007 with 700 moderately priced hats. Now the collection numbers 9,000: from towering Mad Hatters to debonair Derbys. They range from $18 to $450, but the average hat costs around $55. Jessen and Andria, who design almost half their stock, source quality hats from the US and around the world, as well as various accessories.
Bogart-inspired or otherwise, hats are topping a lot more heads these days, but don’t call it a comeback.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily hats that are coming back. I think that people are just starting to care about what theylook like again,” Jessen remarks. He notices “a growing portion of America” putting more thought into dressing. Perhaps this is due in part to TV shows like Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire showing how it’s done. With the kids these days opting for cheap and popular toppers, Jessen encourages choosing timeless over trendy:
“I think it’s important that it’s part of you, not just part of a trend.”
Jessen enjoys watching people try on different hats as though they’re trying on different versions of themselves. As he puts it, “hats bring out a specific part of your personality that you might not even have noticed.” As I inspect hat after hat in the mirror, flipping a brim here and adjusting a jaunty angle there, I can see what he’s saying. A flapper-style cloche evokes winsome femininity, a gray felt fedora emulates a polished Don Draper. With every hat so full of possibility, there’s no better way to instantly transform a look.
I put the elaborate fascinators aside to focus on a staple summer hat. Lightweight materials like straw, cotton, bamboo, seersucker, and linen are best for high temperatures—
no one wants to be wearing rabbit in the blazing sun.
In summer, cloth caps and straw fedoras are popular, but the Panama hat reigns. A true Panama is made from toquilla straw grown and woven by hand in Ecuador. You can’t go wrong with its classic style and color, and the wide brim blocks the sun well. To avoid a perpetually pink nose (my curse), opt for a brim of at least two inches. Or, go all the way with a giant floppy hat. It pairs well with a margarita.
For a summer hat, you’ll get the most mileage out of a neutral tone that works with your whole wardrobe. “Fall” colors in lightweight materials lengthen a hat’s wear into cooler weather. A braid (referring to the weaving style) is the best hat for transitioning into fall. Primarily found in fedoras, the style works across seasons. Certain cloth caps for men and women are flexible as well. Or, you can go for a ’50s-era design in light-colored felt all year round.
After plenty of deliberation I buy a cream colored Panama sporting a black ribbon and handpicked feather, and tuck it into a red Salmagundi hatbox. I am enamored with my new purchase. Jessen also waxes romantic, likening hat selection to dating:
“You have to loosen up and let intuition guide you to find the perfect match.”
765 CENTRE ST.