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Mad hatters

Millinery is one of those skills that does not sound like it belongs in the modern world - like being an actuary, or a victualler, or an ombudsman.

There’s something rather medieval about it, as though it were a skill that died out with the industrial revolution. In reality, that’s not so far from the truth. The trade did seem to be in terminal decline for many years as men’s and women’s post-war fashions did away with a requirement to wear a hat and it looked like HM The Queen was going to be left as a lone standard-bearer for milliners across the land. Fortunately, for Lisa Tan (see page 14) and other milliners out there, two hat-covering traditions have flourished in modern times which together have saved the milliners art: weddings and a day at the races.

On neither occasion is a hat considered compulsory, of course, but perhaps due to the dearth of opportunities for headwear in our lives, people embrace these rare chances to make a statement above the brow. Ladies Day hats have become an integral part of any horse racing meeting, so much so that no Epsom, Ascot or Aintree weekend is complete without a Times frontpage showing a sea of wide-brimmed, colourful advertisements of the milliner’s art. And lately there’s even been an increase in the amount of bespoke male headwear on show. It seems, like the moustache, this accessory to a man’s formal attire is making a comeback - if somewhat of an ironic one. So, given that both weddings and horse racing are all-year-round affairs now, it’s clearly a good time to be in practicing such medieval trades.

A shame the same cannot be said of the humble scribe... Have a wonderful May.

Jon Watt is editor of the Clapham & Battersea and Fulham editions of Time & Leisure Magazine.