From City to County

James Matthews

James Matthews - Credit: Archant

If you want to get ahead with our columnist James Matthews - get a hat!

I have a confession to make - I’m a flat cap wearer. And with autumn upon us and the nights drawing in I thought it was important to get it off my chest now before I’m spotted parading my fashion statement around the county.

It all started a couple of years ago when I purchased a cheap - or as I now refer to it, “beginner’s” - flat cap from a high street clothes chain. My intention was to wear it on a weekend trip to Dorset with friends - a somewhat comedic purchase made by a Londoner intent on dressing “for the country”.

Kitted out for our Sunday afternoon group walk across the Dorset Downs, I bravely donned my new headgear and braced myself for the inevitable mocking to commence. My friends laughed. I laughed. A reluctantly posed photo even got a few likes on Facebook.

A few weeks later my wife and I headed to an autumnal Richmond for the afternoon. For central Londoners a saunter across the wilderness of Richmond Park, navigating around the tame, roaming deer as you go, is about as rural as it gets within half an hour’s train ride. “Shall I stick the cap on?” I asked my wife with a smirk. As her answer suggested she wouldn’t necessarily feel the need to walk two or three metres behind me in embarrassment, I stuck it on - and I was actually beginning to like it.

Then the move to Norfolk came. My cheap beginner’s cap would no longer cut the mustard now that we really lived in the countryside. As winter set in, I decided it was time to invest in a serious flat cap – the kind of cap that would receive a respectable nod from fellow cap enthusiasts.

And by the end of last winter that cap had become a wardrobe staple. I actually looked forward to wearing it on weekend rambles – and no longer ironically. I even found myself telling friends how practical it was and how warm it kept my head on a leisurely jaunt around a frosty Whitlingham Broad or a bracing stride along Winterton beach.

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I heard recently there are hat shops in Norfolk that will hand-make a cap to your exact head measurements. I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that level of commitment to a headpiece, but I may just sneak it on to my Christmas list anyway. In the meantime, if you spot me on a stroll and you’re fashioning a similar lid upon your head perhaps we can exchange a knowing tip of our hats as we pass.