The UK may not be quite the nation of hat wearers it once was, but whether it's couture class for the royal wedding or the races, or caps for casual wear, London is still the place to, er, head...
Specialist Millineries and Couture
Stephen Jones is probably Britain's most famous milliner. His hats have featured on every major fashion runway, some are in the V&A permanent collection and his client list has featured everyone from (one time flatmate) Boy George to the late Princess Diana. The Stephen Jones Millinery boutique in Covent Garden is the home of his unique creations, with his design studio and workroom all in the same building.
Responsible for many of the hats Princess Diana was photographed in during the 80s, John Boyd is one of the most respected milliners in the UK. For nearly 65 years his studio in Knightsbridge has crafted handmade-to-order, headwear for high society. However, if you want something regal but are in a rush, over 200 ready-to-wear items are also stocked.
Philip Treacy is another artist with strong links to many of the world’s greatest designers and his handiwork is sure to be found on more than a few of the heads attending this year's royal wedding. Selected creations are available at Harrods and other high-end department stores, but for a real view of his art head to the boutique in Belgravia's Elizabeth Street.
The latest boutique on the block is Gina Foster Millinery, which opened on the classy Kensington Church Walk in 2010. Foster trained under and worked closely with Stephen Jones before setting up her own business, which specialises in both bespoke couture and (customisable) ready-to-wear hats, fascinators and accessories for any occasion.
If it's a special event you're preparing for and money is an object Hectic Hat Hire in Fulham should be the stylish ladies' first stop. While their wares regularly turn up at Ascot, there's also plenty of choice for weddings and more sober occasions. For a match made in hat heaven, don't forget to bring your outfit with you.
Something for Sir
Bates of Jermyn Street (near Piccadilly Circus) has been a London institution since around the turn of the twentieth century. Whether it's formal, felt, tweed or straw, head here for gentlemanly elegance delivered with good old-fashioned service.
In business since 1676, Lock & Co may well be the world's leading experts in men's headwear. From fedoras to flat caps, panamas to bowlers (the first of which was created there in 1850), you'll find the finest examples here at this legendary St James's shop. Classic and casual ladies' hats are also available alongside couture millinery by Sylvia Fletcher.
The Cool Kids
If it's a more casual, youthful and fashion-friendly style of headgear you're after, go east…
Laird, whose original Shoreditch shop can be found on Columbia Road, has a modern classic aesthetic, bringing traditional styles up to date with contemporary materials and subtle design twists. Their affordable hats and caps are in the gentlemanly vein, but all are intended for unisex use (Keira Knightley has been a customer). The second Laird shop is in Covent Garden, and they have a luxury emporium in the city too.
Situated on Pitfield Street, Ca4la (pronounced Ka-shi-ra, meaning head or top) is the only international outlet of premier Japanese hatmakers Weave Toshi. The store itself is an experience, with its eccentric mix of antique décor and unique modern hats, including items made in conjunction with other designers. From beanies to trilbies and everything in-between, this is the home of forward-thinking urban 'head apparel' and there are hundreds of designs to choose from.
Vibrant, trendy Brick Lane is home to Bernstock Speirs, who keep their eyes firmly fixed on clubbing and youth fashion. Their colourful, witty and exquisitely detailed takes on timeless templates have attracted celebrity customers ranging from Will Young and Victoria Beckham to Ralph Fiennes. You can peak into their workspace at the back of the shop too.
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About the author: andrewAndrew Bowman
Andrew is an occasional contributor to the Virgin Atlantic blog. He lived in the Japanese countryside for two years until he could no longer resist the pull of London's galleries, pubs and clubs. He likes to pretend he can speak Japanese and also sometimes writes about music.