The Hats of Barry Lyndon: A Style Supercut

We look under the brim to get inside the head of Stanley Kubrick's period masterpiece

When WORN held its redesign Indiegogo fundraiser last fall, the top perk for support was a style supercut of the bidder’s choosing. One of the supercuts was snapped up by Robert Everett-Green, writer at The Globe and Mail. His choice was a supercut of every hat from Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. Here, he explains why.

I was a bit disappointed with Barry Lyndon the first time I saw it. I couldn’t understand why Stanley Kubrick would busy himself with such a slow and stately period drama. But when I saw it again a few years later, I was amazed by its depth and beauty. Somehow I had overlooked every important thing about it the first time around.

Looking at the film on DVD, I kept playing and replaying scenes, trying to figure out what made them feel so saturated with life, sentiment, and meaning. Certain lines became magically evocative, haunting me later at odd moments. I would hear a voice in my mind saying, “Chevalier, though I cannot say how, I believe you have cheated me,” and the yellow light in the Chevalier’s sparse drawing room would come back to me, along with the sardonic tone of his royal victim, and the cheater’s puffed-up indignation. Or I would hear, “Mr. Lyndon, are you ready to receive Lord Bullingdon’s fire?”, and the brutal formality of the final dueling scene would return, and with it, the questioner’s flat civility, and the fluttering of birds under the roof of the out-building where the shooting took place.

I was also fascinated by long scenes in which faces engaged in silent dialogue at a gaming table, or troops waited in mute rows for the enemy to approach at walking pace. So much is said in this film without words, so much speaks that has no voice—which brings me to the costuming.

“Clothes called to clothes, cutting out words and greetings.” This wonderful line, from a memoir by the English historian Richard Cobb, could be an epigraph for Barry Lyndon. “Costume drama” is often a put-down, but in this film, the costumes do tell the story, and in an important sense are the drama. Barry Lyndon spends the entire film trying to push his way up through a society in which clothes transmitted everyone’s status at a glance. His story is that of a man struggling to assemble and maintain the right appearances. The aristocratic widow he manages to marry is so perfectly projected by her clothing that she hardly needs to do or say anything. What Lyndon doesn’t realize is that her inertia is proof she belongs, while his pushing creates an appearance that dooms all his efforts.

Daniel Reis’s supercut of the hats of Barry Lyndon charts the hero’s career through a single article of clothing, and for the most part, a single type: the tricorne, which was the dominant headgear for men for much of the eighteenth century. Lyndon’s rough country tricorne is succeeded by dashing military models (first English, then Prussian), then more aristocratic types with rich brocade. But the apex of his pretension is a baby’s bonnet, wide and flat and heaped with ribbons and plumes, worn by an infant son who is more aristocratic than he is. Barry’s round straw hat, worn at the boy’s lavish birthday party years later, shows that he has “made it” sufficiently to be able to play at dressing in rustic style. The women’s hats range from Mrs. Barry’s kerchief-like nightcap, to the almost crownless straws worn by the country women, to the plumed Gainsborough hats of Lady Lyndon, steeply perched on masses of curled hair.

Kubrick’s costume designers for Barry Lyndon were Milena Canonero and Ulla-Britt Söderlund, who won an Oscar for their work. (Amusingly, Canonero reused one of Lady Lyndon’s hats for Marie Antoinette (2006), for which she also won an Oscar.) But Kubrick told the French film critic Michel Ciment: “The costumes were all copied from paintings. None of the costumes were ‘designed.’” For him, apparently, churlishness in the defence of documentary realism was no vice. But the hats and costumes of Barry Lyndon are powerful not because they can be found in a museum, but because they’re in this film.

text // Robert Everett-Green
video // Daniel Reis

Silent Movie

Megan Wornette rocks a look a mime would love

What inspired this outfit?
Well, I’ve been looking for an excuse to wear this beret for a while now, and this is pretty much the perfect dress for it. It wasn’t a particularly cerebral decision.

Tell me about one of the items you are wearing.
This dress is the first thing I bought from Target last month! $25! And it breaks like all the fat lady rules – peplums, stripes, body con – so of course I love it. SUCK IT FAT LADY RULES.

What is the best book to read in this outfit?
The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern.

What style icon would wear this outfit?
If Marcel Marceau were a lady, he’d be all over it.

outfit credits // dress by Mossimo, beret vintage, sunglasses from Smart Set, shoes by Aetrex, earrings unknown but probably somewhere like Zellers cuz that’s how I roll.

Hat People

I have been looking for some sort of summer hat. In my daydreams, a floppy-brimmed sunhat does the trick nicely. I went as far as to visit a hat store a few weeks ago, plucking hat after hat off the racks and, inevitably, sighing and returning hat after hat back where it belonged – far away from my head. The last hat I tried on could have, I think, been perfect – but in the end I returned that one to the shelf, too. I wondered if it would be the sort of thing I bought while feeling hopeful and brave and then, once I was at home and faced with actually having to wear it out into the world, would chicken out.

I bought a hat this past winter. It was a little burgundy cloche and, at the time, it seemed like a nice way to ease myself into the hat world – it wasn’t too conspicuous, and it made me feel pretty classy. I wore it often and I felt stylish more than I ever felt uneasy. But, even then, every time I stepped out the door I was suddenly acutely aware of the fact that very few people wear hats anymore. My philosophy when it comes to fashion is, generally, not to care too much about what other people think – but where hats are concerned, maybe because hat wearing seems like some sort of lost art, I can’t help it. I care.

I think my obsession may have begun with my hat-wearing neighbour. I visited with her one night last fall, and watched in awe as she pulled hat after hat out of her closet, full of stories about where they came from and where she wore them and who she was with when it happened. I was amazed at how, decades and decades later (she is well into her seventies), every hat was still in excellent shape. I kept thinking, I wonder if I’ll ever be able to do this with my grandchildren (or grand-neighbours, as the case may be). I decided then and there that I was going to become a hat person. But it’s proving to be more of a challenge than I thought.

As far as my elusive summer hat goes, my most recent decision on the matter is this: I am going to ease myself into things all over again. I have started with the headscarf. So far, it’s working out rather well. Headscarves, too, are a form of headgear I’ve always admired from afar but been a bit wary of trying out on my own. But, depending on the day, a scarf makes me feel like a pirate or a biker or bohemian or some terrifyingly awesome combination of the three. I could get used to this.

And, if I can get used to this, I will get used to a sunhat, too.

It may take a while, but I’ll become a hat person yet. Just wait.

- Hailey Siracky


I made a special trip home for my small prairie town’s Blast from the Past Fashion Show. The event was put on by our local performing arts council, as a fundraiser for a festival they host every spring. When they sent out a call for both clothing and models, I was at once surprised and thrilled – the request was not only for clothing, but for the stories behind the clothing, too. They did not just want models, but models with some sort of connection to the clothes they would be wearing. The idea was that a granddaughter would walk down the runway in a blouse her great-grandmother made, or a niece would wear a dress from her aunt’s wedding in the seventies. The clothing was important, but equally important were the lives the clothes had led.

The weekend before the show, I had come from university to my tiny prairie hometown for a visit. That Sunday afternoon, my delightful seventy-something-year-old neighbour came over to deliver some food (as per always) and discuss the development of the show. She had donated some clothing and was excited about the prospect of it being worn again, so many years later.

“We’re supposed to wear hats,” she reported, “Come over next weekend and I’ll let you wear one of mine.” I may have let out a little squeal of excitement, and the prospect of vintage fashion in tiny St. Michael made my neighbour just as happy. As she left, after an hour of talking about pillbox hats and wedding shoes, she called from the doorway, “It’ll be more fun than a picnic!” I haven’t been to many picnics in my life, but now that the show is over I can tell you she was absolutely right.

When I arrived at the show on Sunday afternoon, hat firmly on my head, the place was abuzz with ladies and tea. Everyone was chatting or marveling over the displays of clothing, shoes and accessories that didn’t make it onto the runway.
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