A hundred years ago, etiquette demanded that a hat be worn whenever you left the house. Nearly every adult, at all levels of society, wore a hat in public. Some well-to-do women changed their hats several times a day depending on the activity. But the twentieth century brought the demise of the once de riguer headpiece. Coco Chanel and JFK are credited with sparking the hatless mode in women’s and men’s fashions respectively, but the truth is that millinery began to decline in popularity as a result of the social upheavals around World War I and World War II.
Nowadays, almost every hat seems like an affectation rather than a necessary part of looking pulled together. (Baseball caps are a notable exception.) But it’s that air of affectation that emphasizes just how stylish the hat wearer is. Since hats are no longer required for the sake of politeness, choosing to add one to your look means your style game is on another level.
The Dubliner in Palo Alto
The power of the hat is real, y’all. Enter Bandbox Helmets. Started by Dr. Cheryl Allen-Munley and powered by her obsessive desire to fight helmets that are “too dorky to wear.”
I had a chance to meet the entrepreneurial dynamo when we both visited Palo Alto’s super-fancy bike shop A Street Bike Named Desire. My lovely mother and I got to try out a few of the styles Dr. Cheryl brought with her from New England.
The Daytona brings out my mom’s beautiful eyes.
We got to hear all about how she designed her own helmet base to US CPSC standards, but with a lower profile than traditional styrofoam styles. The compact size meant these helmets could be covered with actual hats. Not just helmet covers sewn to resemble caps. But actual hats that are designed to look fabulous.
A clever modification added to the brim of each cap keeps them securely in place, but makes swapping them out simple. My mom and I had a lot of fun trying out the different styles and posing for pictures.
More styles equals more smiles.
Here’s the concept:
Choose a base helmet with straps that match your hair color. For example, I would choose Gold and my mom would go with Brown. It creates an effect where the webbing blends in a bit with your own coloring and is less noticeable (and less fugly).
This is known as The Ascot. I’m referring to my hat, not my riding position.
The base helmet is vented, lightweight, and very comfortable. It’s padded with soft foam and lined in quick-dry fabric. It feels very luxurious, especially compared to the standard foam pads in most helmets.
Why am I touching a stranger’s saddle?
The next step is to pick out a hat that you would like to wear. I loved the Dubliner in Charcoal Gray (third photo from the top). It had all the milliner’s details that you would expect. And I think my mom looks beautiful in the wide-brimmed Charleston and equally striking in the straw Daytona.
Check out the many, many hat styles over at Bandbox Helmets. (By the way, a bandbox is the distinctive round box that hats are stored in. Clever, no?) Don’t be put off by the site. It takes a bit of digging to find the styles. Clearly Dr. Cheryl is most concerned with making her helmets aesthetically pleasing. There are options for men and women. And quite a range of flavors, from the Jamaican to the Irish.
And for all you equestriennes, there’s a small selection of horsey-helmet covers too.