Celebrating National Hat Day: Exploring the History of Hats and Uncovering Chelsea’s Finest milliners

From bowlers and bonnets to top hats and trilbies, as a nation, the British have always loved hats.

Our hotel location, in the very heart of Kensington and Chelsea, means we’re situated just a stone’s throw from some of the world’s most famous milliners. And with both National Hat Day and London Fashion Week just around the corner we want to explore how this simple yet elegant fashion accessory has stood the test of time before sharing the best places in Chelsea to find and get fitted for your perfect hat.

Medieval England is a surprising source of inspiration for the popular flat cap but, believe it or not, plenty of people wore them in the 1400s. Remaining a popular choice for many years, they later became a staple of the working class wardrobe all the way through to the reign of Queen Victoria.


It was during her reign that the epitome of British hat fashion came to the fore: the bowler. Originally designed to keep gamekeeper’s heads from being battered by tree branches as they rode around their country estates, businessmen in London quickly took a shine to them and by the late 19th century no day at the office was complete without one. The Victorians were a fashionable bunch, scoring a hat-trick when it came to head wear, and the third Victorian head piece to take the city by storm, the deerstalker, rose to fame as the hat of choice for Arthur Conan Doyle’s very own Sherlock Holmes.


With the death of Victoria came the Edwardian era, which brought with it the most elaborate of hats. Birds, lace, ribbons, flowers and even artificial fruit adorned the heads of the elite across the capital city and beyond – hats were so important even the suffragettes held onto them during their struggles.


Of course, the hat has been a staple throughout British military history too, with soldiers wearing hats and helmets and land girls and factory workers adopting the headscarf to keep their locks away from their faces while they were hard at work. Following the end of World War II, hats were no longer seen as etiquette or a symbol of class and from around the 1960s the hat was adopted in all shapes and sizes by people of all social standing. From the pork pie hat to snap backs, beanies and truckers, hats became a symbol of which sub culture you were a part of, with very few people wearing formal hats.


With influences from members of the Royal Family, including Princess Beatrice and the Duchess of Cambridge who are often seen sporting formal hats to royal weddings and public appearances, it is no surprise that traditional pieces are frequenting the pages of Tatler and Harper’s Bazaar as well as heads across the capital once again.


Although plenty of hat makers have closed their doors over the years, a small number of good quality milliners still remain near The Draycott Hotel in Chelsea.

Some of our favourites include:

Philip Treacy

With amazing creations adorning the heads of icons such as Joan Collins, Sarah Jessica Parker and Elizabeth Hurley, Treacey is our go to designer for opulent head wear that really makes a statement.

John Boyd

Milliner to royalty and high society for over 75 years, John Boyd is the biggest name in hat fashion and is conveniently on the doorstep of our hotel in Chelsea. From classic designs to more opulent pieces, Boyd is one of the only notable hat designers left in Knightsbridge.

Jane Taylor

From casual hats to bridal pieces and occasion headwear, Jane Taylor has it all. With clients including The Duchess of Cambridge, Zara Tindall, The Countess of Wessex and Princess Eugenie, you can rest assured that you will not be disappointed with a Jane Taylor creation.

Peter Jones

From winter beanies and berets to formal hats and fascinators, Peter Jones, on the corner of our hotel near Sloane Square, has the widest range of hats in the local area. Reasonably priced and of the highest quality, choose Peter Jones for a comfortable and reliable choice.

Tip your hat to National Hat Day 2017 and treat yourself to a wardrobe update and luxury stay at our hotel in Chelsea.



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