To top it all off

There’s a hat to fit everyone on your holiday gift list

By Lucy Barber
Globe Correspondent / December 3, 2009

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Are hats about fashion or function? These days, you don’t have to choose. Dodge the chilly Northeastern blues this winter with an array of cute caps - bound to keep you warm and set you apart from the pack. And to all the naysayers, everyone on your holiday gift list is a hat person. Just ask Jessen Fitzpatrick, owner of Jamaica Plain hat emporium Salmagundi.

“People who say they can’t wear hats in most cases haven’t found a hat that is the right shape for their face,’’ explains Fitzpatrick, whose store specializes in modern-day millinery. “Or maybe they haven’t found one that has an attitude that reflects their personality.’’ Whatever the excuse, banish it (and the freezing temps) this year. Here, we present you with a primer on the season’s hot headwear and how best to wear it.

Lore has it that William Coke, nephew of the Earl of Leicester, commissioned the bowler to replace top hats on the heads of gamekeepers. The bowler, also known as a derby or a coke, needed to be fitted and durable enough to withstand horseback riding and low-hanging branches. And while its recreational use may have faded away, the bowler is still among the most resilient of hats. Its androgynous appeal transcends gender lines - and weather. Pair it with a fitted blazer this fall and seersucker dress next summer.

How to wear it: Wear it plain or with a small decorative feather but play off the masculinity with red lipstick or loose feminine curls.

New York Hat Company bowler, $46; Joli brooch, $68; Echo ruffle scarf, $48; Priorities blazer, $148.

While fedoras may conjure images of Humphrey Bogart in a linen suit or a swashbuckling Harrison Ford, the hat was first a women’s accessory at the turn of the century. By the 1920s, the gents were in on it, too. The hat then fell out of fashion in the 1960s, only to be rediscovered when the King of Pop made a black fedora his trademark - second only to a bejeweled glove. Fedoras have been a staple in young Hollywood, favored by the likes of Rachel Bilson, the Olsen twins, even Justin Timberlake, and an asymmetrical pinched fedora (pictured) is a great twist on a classic. Get one in a striking color to bring the trend to a whole new level. Here’s looking at you, kid.

How to wear it: The fedora, like the beret, can either be worn snug on your forehead or back on the crown of your head for a more edgy interpretation. Dress it up with a wool skirt and a fitted blouse or down with tousled just-so-perfectly-disheveled hair.

Bailey fur felt asymmetrical pinch fedora, $128; By Boe earrings, $58; Nick & Mo cape, $162.

The official hat of the French for many years, the beret was banned during the Nazi occupation because it was so closely tied to French nationalism. The beret has long been associated with edgy, chain-smoking artists (and, more recently, in most any teen movie, drama enthusiasts or poets must don a beret in scenes where a jock and cheerleader are present). But the beret is also a component of many military uniforms - thus its curious duality, freedom and structure. The simply constructed hats have been proliferating on runways and streets since last fall. Simple and versatile, they come in all colors, sizes, and materials - making them the perfect canvas for personal pizzazz. Worn alone, a beret can inspire Truffautian vogue in your basic wardrobe. Or embellish with a signature brooch worn to the side.

How to wear it: Looser knits can be worn further back on the head, and you can even tuck longer hair into the hat, letting bangs and shorter layers hang down. A felted beret looks best when situated right at the top of the forehead. Oui Oui!

Betmar Teal Fleur beret, $28, Nick & Mo Coat, $116.

The cloche goes beyond mere headwear; it’s the icon of an entire decade. While cloche hats came along at the start of the 20th century, they become synonymous with ’20s flapper glam. French for “bell,’’ the cloche was dreamed up by ambitious milliners inspired by the designs of Egyptian turbans. Like a turban, the cloche was desirable because it could add several inches of height to the wearer, creating the illusion of stature and elegance. Today, the trend is in step with relaxed silhouettes of the ’20s. Worn with an oversize top and skinny cigarette pants, the cloche adds an element of vintage drama. It is also the ideal hat for a dress and heels.

How to wear it: Meant to be worn almost to the brow, the cloche works with both long and short hair. It’s a dramatic hat and thus, can handle some dramatic makeup. Channel Louise Brooks’s smoky eyes and demure, downplayed lips.

Frank olive cloche, $98; RYU cream vest, $58; DENADA brown rope scarf, $68; mosaic earrings, $18.

Extra, extra - read all about it! The tweed cap has come a long way since its days as a newsie accessory. Sure, the caps were a must-have when the Fab Four made them hip in “Help!’’, but they’ve been around for eons; in 1571 England, an act of Parliament ordained that on Sundays and holidays, men over the age of 6 were required to wear a wool cap. And while there’s no such decree now, a sporty tweed cap is a must for the winter. A greatly appreciated departure from its lazy cousin, the beanie, a billed, fitted cap will keep the wearer warm, while plaids and touches of color will help fashionistas beat the winter doldrums.

How to wear it: This is a grab ’n’ go look. A low slung or side ponytail and a bright knitted scarf is all you need to kick up the volume on an errand-running outfit.

Grace Hats walnut tweed cap, $48; SOOS earrings, $46; Brixton coat, $110.