Summer Hats

The old saw goes that we lose 40 percent (or 50 or 75 or 80 percent, depending on who you listen to) of our body heat through our heads. But why then do we need hats in the summer, when the objective is to expel heat? Well, ironically covering your head can serve that purpose, too. No, not in the way that a Thermos bottle can keep hot beverages hot and cold drinks cold. Lightweight hats-typically made of straw-shade your head from the sun, while letting cool breezes blow through and protecting your scalp and face from sunburn.

This summer's headwear anomaly is that keeping abreast of fashion means giving up the that last bit-shading factor-in favor of tops that look cool even while they may not keep you as cool. Marc Williamson, manager of New York City's J.J. Hat Center, reports that porkpies (Borsalino Baku, third from top, and Dorfman Pacific Scala Classico, fourth from top) and other hipster hats with stingy brims are steady sellers this season. Then again, the retailer observes, men who wear hats aren't so much looking to protect their heads as to project their sense of style.

The Panama hat is displaying an iconoclastic development of its own with Panador's black version (second from bottom), which has all the hallmarks of the classic-toquilla straw and painstaking Ecuadorian craftsmanship-but one. It isn't white or even beige, but jet-black. Again not the practical consideration as it absorbs, rather than reflects heat, but as you can see it rules.

It just isn't summer without a baseball cap, except we chose one that is technically made for the golf course. Nevertheless, Fila's take (second from top) is a pied twist on the typically monochrome standard, and we think it rocks. The driving cap comes out when the car top comes down, and Optimo, which provides high-end headwear year round, makes this linen number (top) for that wind-in-your-hair feel even when your scalp is covered up.

What says summer social better than the straw boater? (Dorfman Pacific Scala, bottom.) Originally meant for punting on the Thames, it became the unofficial uniform of FBI agents and Pinkertons. Now it just says fun. And if you lose your punt pole, you can always use your hat as an oar.

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