Pork Pie Hatters and JJ Hat Center are pleased to announce the newest addition to the family - Director of Millinery, Ryan Wilde! An established hat maker most known for handmade women's pieces, her custom headwear has appeared on celebrities like Janet Jackson, Rosario Dawson, Alec Baldwin and internationally in publications like Vogue magazine. No surprise for someone who counts Isabella Blow, the woman that launched legends like Alexander McQueen and Philip Treacy, as mentor and instigator towards pursuing millinery. Her first several collections were picked up by NY fashion icons Henri Bendels and Patricia Fields; an interesting juxtaposition of clientele. Between the ritzy Fifth Ave socialites of Bendels and the over the top club kid roots of Fields, Ryan found her following; and you'd be hard pressed to find a better example of what makes her pieces stand out. Her hats have a glamour that speaks to everyone.
I remember walking by Ryan Wilde's store in Williamsburg and doing an immediate double-take. Her pieces had the right touches of whimsy, and elegance. “I always want everything to be a little surreal when it comes to women's fashion,” she says as I sit with her at the brooklyn Pork Pie Hatters store, her new permanent location. And she succeeds, with pieces like her infamous bunny ear hat she turns the surreal into something very approachable and attractive. “I think the way a hat looks on a woman's head is the most important thing. You have to teach her how to wear it. You can make a bunny hat that looks completely stupid on everyone or you can make a bunny hat that actually looks kind of amazing. And you know, that's what I've always really focused on is making sure that my funny and avant-garde stuff is still flattering because in the end that's all a woman really wants. Something that makes her look pretty and interesting and cool and not just silly.”
It's this ability to straddle that line of tasteful and over the top that helps her bring out the best in her clients, “A lot of the times women will walk into my store and they'll be like 'oh my god, these hats are so ridiculous' and, 'I would never wear them'. And I put them on them and then they walk out with one. Because they don't imagine that they could ever look ok in that.” Bringing fantasy to life is all about making it relatable. “It's not like I'm making tie dye hats. Usually they're very simple colors and easy to wear.”
So what does this new voice mean for Pork Pie Hatters? “I think that combining our two efforts is the right way to have a hat store because the same person that might buy the craziest hats that I make are also going to want the fisherman's cap or a fedora, or a bowler and those people are going to want the bowler to look exactly how it looks in like Deadwood. […] I think it's good especially for people who are really into hats to have a store like this where you have the full spectrum. Besides like a department store you would never really get that. And department stores in America are actually getting rid of [avant-garde headwear designer] Phillip Treacy and everything like that because Americans have a tendency to not take as many fashion risks in headwear so I think it's going to be an awesome combination and a real destination for hat wearers.”
It turns out this collaboration won't be such a stretch for everyone. For a long time Pork Pie Hatters and Ryan Wilde's Ida location had an almost symbiotic relationship, “Everything [at previous location Ida] was custom and it was amazing. But so many people would come in and ask for the classic pork pie, the classic trilby, the classic everything and you know, for someone like me I make hats to create looks, make something new, so that's not something I really wanted to focus on... When Pork Pie moved in, I thought 'Oh perfect!' I sent everyone here and then I started noticing that Sean and Colin were sending women to me, like if a guy was getting a classic straw hat his wife would say, 'Oh I want something, I want a fascinator', so they would come directly with the Pork Pie box to my store and get a fancy lady hat. I felt like there was a good connection between our two stores instantly.”
While I was there Ryan was working on a summery straw hat that fit in perfectly amongst the panamas and fedoras in the shop, a nod to the classic men's styles surrounding her. “I'm a hat maker when it comes down to it, I'm not trying to be Karl Lagerfeld. I really love making hats and I think that I make great ones. I've always been good at making sure they look cool and are wearable and accessible even when they're insane.” This connection is already starting to create wonderful things.
The Kentucky Derby, sometimes called the “Greatest 2 minutes in sports” is all about spectacle. And let's be honest, the horses are only a small fraction of the Derby's appeal. When I think of the Kentucky Derby I think of three things: mint juleps, pastel, and hats. Big hats, colorful hats, hats bursting with feathers and flowers; generally it's the ladies that get to be the headwear show ponies (Horse jokes! Don't hate.) but let's not forget that the Derby is where menswear gets to be playful. Brightly colored suits, pastel prints, preppy bowties, the styles aim towards taking the usual formality of suit and tie and turning it into a springtime celebration. The key is to have fun but maintain a tasteful elegance throughout, and with some of the custom brightly colored Borsalinos and Phrenology hats Porkpie Hatters has been making, it's becoming easier to bring this style outside of the tracks.
But wait, you may say, that may do well for Kentucky, but seersucker in the city? Yes seersucker in the city! Yes to an impeccable cream panama. Here's the biggest key to making a Kentucky Derby, southernly smooth, dandy gentleman look relevant to the gritty streets of NYC: Have fun with it. Not comfortable with wearing a full pastel suit? Pick elements that will pop like matching your necktie to a brightly colored hatband on your straw boater. Want to add a little edge to your look? Add some graffiti style prints to your repertoire. It's not for everyone but designer Walter van Beirondonck's Fall 2012 collection is one of my absolute favorites for turning formal menswear on its head. Though the runway looks themselves definitely skirt the edge of weird, there are positive elements to take away from the collection. Take note of the bright color combinations and the mixture of old-school prints with graphic details. It's about playing, taking details that we consider very prim and outmoded and literally cutting new shapes into them. The cuts are well tailored and slim. The print combinations and color choices are eye-catching and complimentary. It's not just being weird for weird's sake, it's holding up a mirror to what we attribute to formal wear. Although this collection was meant for a more in your face audience and colder weather (a leather bowler might be a bit much in the sun for both stylistic and practical reasons) the color choices, combination of prints, and colorful headwear to match are definite style notes to incorporate into a reasonable wardrobe.
The Kentucky Derby happens only once a year, but if we're breaking the seal on that light grey suit, I say keep it in play. Keep pairing the classics with unexpected twists, and you've got a look that is continually fresh and relevant. I'm actually going to quote the Kentucky Derby's official website where they opine on what's the usual attire for their event: “...Men just need to be confident. No matter what you wear, it's how you wear it, gentlemen.” I think that is great advice. Feel confident. Have fun. Go on, tip that brim to a jauntier angle, it's spring!
For those that feel they need a little more inspiration, I threw together a quick pinterest board, including actual looks from street snaps and such. The industry can oft bend towards fashion for fashion's sake so it's refreshing to see looks pulled off in the wild. Check it out here.
Using a tape measure, measure the widest part of your head (just above the ears and eyebrows) to the nearest 1/8th of an inch.
If you have not purchased a new hat recently, please remeasure your head, as sizes may change depending on hair style, weight loss/gain, and age.
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If you are in between hat sizes, try this cotton sizing to make adjustments at home.