Story Starter: Hats

Imagine the hatter making hats at his sewing machine

Hats. I passed this wonderful window in Amsterdam. Isn’t it amazing? We just don’t seem to have businesses like this in the UK any more. I do enjoy a European city break, and I’ve noticed that they’ll still have small individual shops dedicated to one product, like umbrellas, or household brushes, or rubber ducks. Seriously. There’s one of them in Amsterdam. Doesn’t take cash, which struck me as curious. It’s sad that we’ve gone the American way of the mall and giant chain store.

Anyway, I love the old-fashionedness of this shop. And yet it’s still in business, because, of course, European men still wear hats and smart overcoats.

Imagine the hatter at his sewing machine. Does it start to tell you a story, perhaps of the past? A more formal time? My dad’s first job when he left school was as a sales assistant in the “fifty-bob tailor”, and that love of a good suit never left him. He always dressed smart, collar and tie, and a hat. There’s something very gentlemanly and suave about a man doffing his hat to a lady.

Then Dad was in the RAF, and when he came out he became a cinema manager, and had to wear a dinner suit every evening. Going to the cinema was much more of an occasion back then and his dress set the tone. But in some of his old photos it looks like he’s the matinee idol rather than the stars of the films he was showing. He worked in a number of cinemas around England, and it was at one of them that he met my mum. She was an usherette. Love at first sight. Married six weeks later. How’s that for story inspiration?!

And that’s how these story starter images work, isn’t it? They just set your mind wandering. None of that struck me when I first saw that window and those hats; it’s only now, giving myself time to daydream. I hope it works for you, too.


Shirley Blair

Fiction Ed Shirley’s been with the “Friend” since 2007 and calls it her dream job because she gets to read fiction all day every day. Hobbies? Well, that would be reading! She also enjoys writing fiction when she has time, long walks, travel, and watching Scandi thrillers on TV.