My visit to Bates was the highlight of a recent visit to Jermyn Street in London. For those not in the know, Bates is a division of Hilditch & Key, and is located within the main H&K shop on Jermyn Street.
Hilditch & Key, traditional shirt makers since 1899, specialise in bespoke shirts, though they also stock ready-made shirts. In 2010 H&K acquired Bates Hatters and have added Bates to their flagship H&K store.
H&K shirts are exquisite. They are finely tailored with a level of attention to detail that escape most shirt makers. For example, the best shirt makers match patterns across the breast pocket and placket. H&K go even further; they also make sure that patterns match across the shoulders and from shoulders to sleeves. This is really quite tricky to achieve.
Nonetheless, I was not primarily interested in H&K’s shirts on this visit. I was here for the hats. So I spent some time with one of their excellent salesmen learning more about hats and trying some on.
According to Bates determining the kind of hat one should wear is based on a number of factors including height, facial shape, weight, self confidence, and, of course, budget.
Having explored a number of options, including a bowler, various fedoras, a homburg and of course the famous Indi, the hat that really appealed was the Burlington.
The Indi apparently didn’t really suit my facial shape; it needs a square jaw as per Harrison Ford to pull it off.
The bowler hat looked fabulous on the shelf, and looked even more fabulous on the salesman, but despite his protestations I didn’t think it was a good match for for my face.
The Burlington, in sharp contrast, was just spot on. It is made from the finest soft felt, has a wonderfully shaped brim, and available in a range of colours including black, brown, navy and olive.
However, by far my favourite was the Burlington in ash grey. Grey is not only a wonderfully versatile colour, it also simply rocks.
Even better, as I discovered later, for some reason this particular hat is one of Bates’ less expensive items, at £145. In contrast the bowler is £265, the Indi £195, and the Homburg £235.
So not only is the Burlington the best match for my particular needs, it is also one of the best value hats in the Bates range. Having said that, it is a pretty big leap from my current hats which are M&S items.
The next time you are in London, visit Jermyn Street and check out Bates. Until then you can console yourself with a visit to their website: bates-hats.com