Norton of Morton

Read a new instalment of Norton of Morton every Saturday at 4 o'clock

Saturday 23 March 2013

Terrific titfers

In which G.M. Norton ponders one of the great mysteries of our age – the sad decline of hats.

The beginning of Spring is a tantalising time of the year, full of starts and stops and bitter retreats as it engages in a deadly duel with its arch enemy Winter. As we all know, eventually Spring will emerge victorious (of sorts) as light and warmth defeats darkness and cold.

However, as the brave and plucky daffodils poke their heads from the recently frozen ground, we do not have to follow suit and risk cold craniums. That’s when the humble hat becomes our saviour. Not only does a hat offer protection against the elements during inclement weather but it also transforms you from dowdy to dapper.

In the bygone age of yesteryear, hats were a key staple of the population’s wardrobe. Sadly, there was a sharp decline of people wearing hats with the finger of blame incorrectly pointed at poor President Kennedy. Although there has been a mini-resurgence of hats in modern times, the most popular is the dreaded baseball cap as sported by my more confused contemporaries.

As there is life after winter, there is also life after the atrocity of baseball caps. Let us take a moment to celebrate some of the finest headwear in the land. 

Bowler hat a bowler hat epitomises the very essence of Englishness. It was originally made on the orders of a country squire to stop his top hat wearing gamekeeper from hitting troublesome branches as he rode round the estate astride a horse. City bankers soon spotted the potential and tried to monopolise them. 

As worn by Mr. John Steed of The Avengers fame and Charlie Chaplin
A gent indeed, called John Steed
Putting the 'Chap' in Chaplin 

Fedora – widely associated with sharply-dressed mobsters during the Prohibition era, it was since popularised by a certain Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones film canon. Invented in 1891, it was originally a lady’s hat until fashion changed in the 1920s. Before long, almost every man owned at least one. 

As worn by the intrepid Indiana Jones and Humphrey Bogart

Indiana just spotted a snake in the corner of the room
Humphrey takes his hats very seriously
Homburg – the Homburg was introduced to the world by a certain King Edward VII, who we also have to thank for the tradition to leave your waistcoat’s bottom button unfastened. Extremely popular in the late Victorian period, it was later replaced in the public’s affections by the fedora. In my humble opinion, the Homburg comes a close second to the bowler. 

As worn by Sir Winston Churchill and Hercule Poirot

Dapper but slightly portly
Dapper but slightly portly
Top hatThe top hat is very rarely worn today, except on the most formal of occasions, but there was a time not too long ago, when it was worn by everybody on every day of the week. I had the pleasure of wearing one for a photo shoot a couple of years ago and it practically stopped traffic in Manchester city centre. Begrudgingly returning it after the hire period, I have coveted one ever since.  

As worn by Fred Astaire and Abraham Lincoln
Hats make Fred feel tip top

Abraham can't remember where he put his moustache
With so many wonderful hats to choose from, what’s your favourite? Men of the world, if you're not yet part of the hat-wearing revolution, now is the time for you to find your inner gentleman.

G.M. Norton
Protagonist of ‘Norton of Morton’



  1. I'm pretty sure you meant 'tifter' not 'titfer', but either way you got my attention!

    I bought a red beret today and am planning a whole look based on Michelle from 'Allo 'Allo...

    P x

    1. The headline worked a treat then! Although I am afraid I was indulging in some cockney rhyming slang - titfer is 'tit for tat', which rhymes with hat.

      It's been a while since I had the pleasure of watching 'Allo 'Allo - it was quite a favourite during my youth, largely due to the charms of Yvette.

      I look forward to seeing the finished look! I do like a good beret but to continue the comedy show theme, I fear I would resemble Frank Spencer. Especially in my raincoat.

  2. I absolutely adore hats - they can transform the plainest outfit into something quite marvellous indeed.

    I tend to get a lot of stares when I'm out and about (current hats de jour include my black fedora, a 1920s cloche and a ginormous faux fur Russian-style hat).

    Regardless of the looks, I'm going to continue to wear my hats with pride, who's with me?!

  3. I have all the hats cited on the article.


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