People who wait for seasonal sales can hit the stores - most retailers have started marking down winter items.
And as you stand at the sale table pawing through piles of winter hats, you can be thankful that this year's trends have lent them a certain touch of fashion.
Fur (real and faux) found its way into hats from mass retailers like Gap to designers such as Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan. Velvet has given winter hats a luxe feel, while ultrasuede is very trendy.
Many hats, even the low-end varieties, have brims, which instantly give a hat a certain elan. You can find brimmed hats made of everything from felt to fur. And if you decide to buy one, spend a few minutes in front of the store's mirror to make sure it's the right size and shape to flatter your face. The right hat will make you smile; the wrong hat will make you mutter that you're just not a hat person.
Upscale winter hats in a recent issue of Vogue include a camel-colored cloche from Armani, a beret by Ralph Lauren, a fedora from Banana Republic, and fur hats in several shapes from a variety of designers.
Oh-so-classic (and often pricey) Coach also had a couple of winter hats in its collection this season. The leather designer had “crushers” (similar to a rain hat) in leather and fabric. Coach, along with Liz Claiborne, used a trendy hounds-tooth check pattern for one of its hats.
Another old standby also made a reappear-ance this year.
“The fedora is very in,” said Casey Bush of the Headwear Information Bureau in New York. “Many women steal their man's hat.”
But what of the humble winter hat, the one that spends its nights wadded up in a parka's pocket, the one that keeps your ears warm even as it turns your hair into a matted mess?
It remains a fixture in accessories departments.
“They're wearing the stocking hats now,” Ms. Bush said. “If you don't have a hairdo and you want to keep your ears warm, you pull on a stocking cap.”
Sue Stroud, accessories sales manager at Dillard's Franklin Park Mall store, said, “We had a chenille look, a poodle look, and close-fitting hats - guaranteed to smash your hairdo. Not just your ordinary ski cap, [although] those sold real well, too.”
Fleece hats have also proven to be very popular, Ms. Stroud added.
“Bright colors have done really well, especially in the polar fleece,” Ms. Stroud said. “Pink, yellow, turquoise - all those flew out the door.”
This year's biggest trend for others has been warmth, said Pauline LaMarche, a saleswoman in JCPenney's Franklin Park Mall store. “All our winter hats are completely gone,” she said yesterday. “Most people were just looking for hats that are warm, that cover their heads.”
Which brings us to that annoying winter phenomenon, hat hair.
Ski caps, fur hats, and other close-fitting chapeaux may look cool, but they cause hot heads - and that leads to the smash effect.
To avoid the telltale lines, matting, and/or static, wear a hat with a raised crown, such as a fedora. It's less likely to flatten your hair and you'll find it easier to fluff out of existence the thin line it leaves.
Other options to hats include earmuffs and a new product called Ear Mitts, which are ear muffs that have no band. On a recent 15-minute test walk in a face-numbing, breath-snatching wind, they kept the wearer's ears warmer than fleece gloves kept her hands, and they did not impair her hearing ability.