With temperatures below freezing in most parts of Europe and the US, I think it is time for an article about hats.
Of course, I am not talking about acrylic knit hats or baseball caps, but much rather classic men’s hats. Why not face the cold in style? In the past, we’ve covered Optimo Hats in Chicago and an interesting hat book, but today I will focus on vintage hats and why you should wear one when it is cold outside.
Heat Loss Through The Head – A Myth?
For years, I have heard people say that a considerable amount of body heat is lost through the head. In fact, a 1970s US army survival manual strongly suggested to cover one’s head when it is cold outside , since “40 to 45 percent of body heat” is lost from the head! Apparently, these numbers were derived from a vaguely scientific US military experiment in the 1950s, in which soldiers were exposed – we hope voluntarily – to an extremely cold environment while wearing Arctic survival suits. The only body part exposed was the head, and unsurprisingly a lot of the heat was actually lost through their heads. In addition, one’s face and chest seemed more sensitive to temperature changes than other body parts.
However, a fairly recent scientific article claims that if the volunteers had worn just swimming trunks, they would have lost about 10% of their body heat through their heads. Furthermore, the authors say that if it were true that humans lose 40% of their body heat, they would be just as cold if they went without a hat as if they went without trousers. Since “patently, this is just not the case,” they dismiss this theory as a myth.
Nevertheless, there seems to be other evidence claiming that there is an important influence of facial cooling in air on systemic cardiovascular reflex responses and that body temperature can
be influenced considerably by cooling of the head and the facial area.
Hats Do Make Me Feel Warmer
Personally, I can definitely feel a difference in warmth if I wear a Fedora or Homburg hat when it is 5°F (-15°C) outside. Even my ears seem to be warmer with a hat on although they are just as exposed as without a hat.
What is your experience with wearing hats when it is cold outside – do they keep you warm?
Classic Style Hats
I personally own about 20 vintage hats (which my wife feels is 17 too many) and while their beaver fur or hare felt is superior to what you can get today, they also come in a variety of styles. However, this small collection is nothing compared to the collection of Steve Heck. Just last year, I had a chance to see his collection of 300+ hats and it was absolutely fascinating. Most of these hats come from Germany, Austria or the Czech Republic and some of them are more than 80 years old. Since every man wore a hat back then, there was a much greater selection of hats available. The variety of felt finishes was simply amazing to witness.
Unfortunately, the average man had a smaller head than the average man today, and so it is difficult to find vintage hats that fit.
However, if you do find one, the colors and the felt style are probably very unique. Even the insides were beautifully decorated, whereas today, many hats do not even come with a lining.
Felt Hat Finishes
Interestingly, Neiman Marcus, other department stores and hat sellers in the US imported German and Austrian Trachten and velour hats! They even imported what was called a Seal Velour hat. Of course, it was not made of seal velour, but the look of the surface was very similar to the original material.
One of the most stunning felts I have ever seen was this silver-grey Hückel Superior hat from Steve Heck – it’s simply amazing. The felt is incredibly soft, delicate and fine – but it’s most important feature is the changing color of the felt as light reflects with varying angles and intensities.
Also, I really like the hats with a longer nap. It makes them more casual looking, visually interesting, and they pair well with flannel cloth in my opinion.
What are your favorite finishes? What kind of hats do you wear – any at all?
Make sure to check the gallery below and for even more inspiration, you should visit Steve Heck’s hat forum.