Office Sundays:

Paul’s Hat Collection

This month our Office Sundays series continues as we take a peek at Paul’s entirely impractical hat collection, and learn more about the stories behind each specimen.

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Paul would be the first to admit there’s not necessarily a rhyme or reason behind the endless objects he’s collected in his office – aside from his good luck rabbits, of course. Take his hat collection, which serves as the topic for this month’s Office Sundays, as an example. Paul has never been a hat wearer – and doesn’t consider them flattering on himself, but he keeps them around for a few reasons, not least because they can serve as a design reference. But, really, they’re also simply quite fun. And, like everything that you’ll find in the recesses of Paul’s office, these examples we’ve picked out all have their very own stories to tell – read on to find out more.

The Peace Hotel Hat

Of all the places Paul has acquired the keepsakes in his office, this jaunty porter’s hat has perhaps the most dubious origins. “I found it in the street, actually,” he says. “I imagine it came from the Peace Hotel in Shanghai. But I don't know. I literally found it in the street in Knightsbridge on the floor, along with some other stuff somebody cleared out and left all the rubbish on the floor. And I thought, well, I'll have that because it's fabulous.”

The Cardboard Cap

Paul has always said that he gets some of his greatest joys out of the gifts people send him from all over the world – even more so when they have taken the time to handmake something. This cap, which bears more than a passing resemblance to a Paul Smith cycling cap, is actually made entirely from a Paul Smith packaging box and was posted to Paul by a Japanese fan.

The Sailor’s Hat

Proof that if you ask nicely enough, you’ll likely get what you want, this well-loved sailor’s cap was picked up by Paul on one of his summer holidays to picturesque Sardinia. He got chatting to a fisherman while taking a stroll and complimented him on his hat. As Paul tells it, the story goes a little like this: “I said, ‘oh, I like your hat. And he says, ‘oh, you can have it.’” It now occupies a permanent position in Paul’s collection.

The Hippie Hat

Even if you’re not a regular visitor to San Francisco, you still might be familiar with the Haight-Ashbury area in the city. Named for the intersection between Haight and Ashbury streets, the neighbourhood has played a hugely important role throughout the city’s history – but particularly during the countercultural movements of the 1960s where it served as a haven for art, music, and meeting places. That hippie spirit lives on, and it’s where Paul picked up this floppy hat made from a patchwork of – what else? – stripes.

The Grandmaster’s Hat

You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a standard piece of military kit – a navy officer’s hat perhaps? But it actually hails from a more unexpected place: jazz funerals (or, to use the preferred term ‘funeral with music’) in New Orleans, Louisiana – a custom blending European and African traditions where a funeral procession is accompanied by a brass band. Gifted to Paul by a clarinettist friend who lived in the city, this black and white cap once belonged to a grandmaster of the ceremony, who led the procession.

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Published: 08.23

Words: Molly Isabella Smith

Photos: Helen Gibson