Review: Bailey’s Yates Fedora

And now for something completely different.

A few readers know of my secret obsession with hats. Prior to our great adventure, I probably had an unhealthy amount of cycling caps in my possession. During our trip, I fought the urge (and occasionally lost the fight) to purchase another hat. For me, there is something fun and transformative about a hat. A hat can range from the formal to whimsical and can set the entire mood of what you’re wearing.

Baily's Yates Hat

Now, I’ve stopped at many a store that sells hats during our travels and I can say that without a doubt that the best one has been Salmagundi (“For Ladies and Gents”) in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston. The store just exudes a certain amount of class but maintains a young and whimsical character to it. Every conceivable type of hat is in there from women’s flapper hats, pork pies, pub caps, fedoras, outback hats, etc., For me, it was the equivalent of dropping a heroin addict in the middle of a narcotics burn. So many hats but so little time.

And yet, I had a platonic image of the hat I wanted to purchase. Classy but subdued. Something that caught your attention but didn’t flail its arms in the sort of Truman Capote/Willy Wonka kind of way. I knew that I wanted a fedora, but didn’t want one that I necessary had to dress up to wear. What is a fella to do?

Apparently, all I had to do was go to Salamgundi. The people that work there are hat people. That means they are sensitive to the sort of existential anguish that goes on with making the decision to buy a hat even if you yourself are not aware of it. The gentleman who I was working with saw the different hats I was interested in, the bumbling feints and grasps at the ideal hat I saw sitting on my head. He saw my awkward yearnings and was able to deduce like some kind of hat psychoanalyst my true motivation. “Try this one,” he said, holding in his hand the hat I would ultimately buy – the Baily Yates hat.

The Bailey Yates hat was the hat that I was looking for. It’s a lush charcoal wool with a touch of warmth in the color. It avoids the standard black which gets lost in the crowd without resorting to garishness or feathers. The hatband is a subdued brown leather band that contrasts nicely against the grey wool. It is free of shiny ribbons and bows, it’s a serious thinkers hat (or a poet’s for that matter). That said, it also doesn’t take itself that seriously. It is perfectly at home with denim jeans and a tweed jacket. You can wear it in a pub without drawing too much attention. The crown is a tear drop shape and the sides around the point have a slight dimple that develop over time, giving it the well loved appearance. The brim is of the trilby style with a rakishly upturned rear brim that interjects some youth into what otherwise could be an old man’s hat.

Another nice feature of the hat is that it is collapsible. Since it is made of wool without any stiffeners, it is relatively pliable and will pop back into shape. I folded it in half (lengthwise) and stuffed it into my handlebar bag or in a pannier while we rode. When you get to your destination, you can pop it back into shape with few ill effects. Of course, there are limitations to this. I wouldn’t fold it into fourths and expect it to resemble a hat afterwards. Nor would I keep it collapsed for extended periods of time. However, it is an ideal travel hat for trains, planes and of course, bike touring where the hat has to be tucked away for a few hours a day.

The hat also fairs well in the rain. While I haven’t subjected it to a torrential downpour, it has done well in light to moderate rain, with the front brim providing adequate coverage.

Overall, I’ve thoroughly enjoy the Baily’s Yates hat. It provides a classy solution to the helmet head dilemma.

Hats, like I’ve hopefully conveyed, can be deeply personal decisions that speak to hidden parts of our psyche. The upside is that although hat buying can contain the same anguish of say buying a car (what does it say about me?), it is a considerably cheaper sport. The Yates is a great gateway fedora for those that want to tread those waters but are afraid of looking like Truman Capote. If you’re looking for a good place to buy a hat and are near the Boston area, go to Salamgundi. If you’re looking for a reputable producer of hats, check out Baileys. If you’re looking for me to help diagnose the perfect hat for you…..again, I’d direct you to Salamgundi. Cheers : )