Suits you, sir ... milliner Robert Carroll from Strand Hatters with some of the hats men are buying. Photo: Anthony Johnson
Blame it on the races, MasterChef, Australian Idol or So You Think You Can Dance: men's hats are back. And that's good news for a Sydney business that never thought they went away.
"I've worked here for 20 years, and men are wearing hats now more than ever," said Robert Carroll, milliner and manager of Strand Hatters. "Young guys come in to be fitted for the races, and they want hats, braces, cufflinks, ties - they're just into accessories more.''
During the racing season women spend up big on elaborate headwear, but, increasingly, so are men, too. Gangster-style straw, tweed or felt trilbies are the most popular, and broader-brimmed fedoras, as worn by Indiana Jones, are staging a comeback.
Hand-woven Panama hats and flat caps in tweed are also flying off the shelves as a new breed of race-goers bends tradition to their own style.
"Men spend more money than women [on hats], and more quickly," Mr Carroll said.
"They buy fewer hats but better quality. Women buy more but cheaper hats, they're more trend-oriented."
After some deliberation in Strand Hatters yesterday, customer Matt Wise selected a sharp trilby made by Akubra, with a "stingy" (extra-narrow) brim, in a brown that matches his suit. He needed it to wear to Randwick Races with his daughter today.
"It's a nice dress hat, to highlight the suit. It gives you a little bit of an edge, you feel a bit smarter," he said.
Mr Wise, a jeweller, said hats are staging a comeback as Australian men get more confident in their sense of style.
"They see guys on TV wearing them, and … a fair few cool cats wearing hats around the street, and that makes it more accessible for everyone," he said.
The iconic Australian brand Akubra is "bigger than ever" since branching out into fashion hats, Mr Carroll said. Hats from its Club Collection, including the "Jive Master" - a straw pork pie hat trimmed with a retro-inspired band - have been spotted on the heads of singers Kanye West and Robbie Williams, gifts from their Australian record company.
Sarah Song of Hat World, a retail and wholesale business in the CBD, also said men are buying more hats for the races, with trilbies and fedoras the most popular styles.
The fashion for hats might have returned but the etiquette has been forgotten, Mr Carroll lamented. Gentlemen must never leave their hat on indoors, and should always dip their hat to greet a lady.