it always starts with the hat


Awhile ago, Tziporah Salamon told me that “it always starts with the hat.” I’m not sure she meant always always or most of the time always, but I took it to heart. Tziporah said, that when she got dressed, it was the hat that she chose first, then she built the rest of her look. I took it to mean: start with something. You have to admit, that as a style strategy, that’s brilliant. 

Even the most indecisive of us can usually pick one thing from the closet to inspire us.

There’s something philosophically clean and minimalist about this approach to dressing, and indeed, life in general. Instead of trying to conjure up some ideal kind of “put together” look, why not take one beautiful thing you love, and let it tell you what it wants to be with? The result will be more organic.

I think when you try to assemble “outfits,” you’re at risk of getting matchy matchy, and the tyranny of matchy matchy does not lead to great style.   

If you have to ask yourself what goes with this, maybe you’re going about it the wrong way. Shouldn’t the question be “what flows with this?” It’s a subtle but ultimately significant difference. For example, certain color combinations do go together but if you leave it at that, you’ll be bored and probably look boring.

Camel with grey will only take you so far because it’s expected, but style happens in the places between what’s expected. Camel with grey, and red shoes, might be a place like that. Armloads of bracelets, especially on the arms of us “olders,” (See This Chair Rocks for an explanation of that term.) are expected.

As a matter of fact, armloads of mismatched bracelets have become so expected that they’ve become matchy matchy!

I have a friend who’s a textiles artist and interior designer. At the end of her initial meeting with an interior design client, she asks them to go out and get one new object for the space they want to decorate. The object can be a lamp, a chair, a piece of art, or a chunk of rock or driftwood. Whatever it is though, it must inspire.

I’ve taken to this philosophy lately, it forces one to pay attention to each next chosen article of clothing or accessory, instead of relying on various possible “recipes” of things to make a look. Tried and true combinations are not always true, they can look as unreal as a picture in a catalog. When you start with one thing and build on it, style flows. 

As far as the thing goes, I think it can be almost anything and that’s what’s so cool about this approach.

Start at the top and it’s a hat, start at the bottom and it’s your shoes or boots. If that bracelet, on your dresser is the first thing to catch your eye in the morning, that’s it. (Just maybe don’t add twenty more.)

I’ve seen people who seem to treat their tattoos as their one thing, and I find that really compelling. Different tattoos are exposed at different times, and they become like jewelry. I have a friend whose jackets and coats are usually her one thing.

However, your one thing probably should not be from the same category everyday or that will look expected. We are not all Tziporah. Don’t become overly rigid with your choice!

Now don’t ask what goes with, just go for it, don’t think so much about the final outcome. If you have a personal style, trust it.  

It’s unlikely that you’re going to end up looking foolish if you allow yourself to be yourself. You may however look foolish if you try to pull off an outfit, as matter of fact, let’s ban the word. Trust that if you give yourself the permission to express yourself, interesting things will happen. 




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *