Bees: Bonnets and Belgrade

I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I have a big head. It rarely bothers me except when I get the urge to buy a hat. The average head size for a woman is 56 – and I’m a 60. Couple that to having to wear glasses and it’s rare indeed that I find a hat that a) suits me and b) I like.

In Belgrade this week, walking down Balkan street, I passed a hat shop. Actually, I passed four shops with hats in their windows, two of which were devoted exclusively to hats. I went into one. And it turned out the be the oldest hat shop in the city. It’s been in the Andelković family for three generations and has been operating since the early 1950s.

Most of the hats are made these days by Veljko Andelković and it’s obvious that the millinery skill has been passed down from father to son. The summer collection is cute, light, and colourful. And he caters for big heads like mine.

I spent a lovely half-hour with Ivana trying on various styles, shapes, and colours and came away with not one, but two. I’m already looking forward to the Fall collection and as for winter…

With so much of what’s on our shelves today originating in China, it’s a pleasure to walk into a shop that has been in operation for 60 years, is being handed down through generations, and doesn’t have the need to advertise: there’s no name on the door. It’s simply the hat shop. And I’d edit that last sentence to add emphasis… it’s the hat shop in Belgrade. And if you’re curious, šešir is the Serbian for hat.

Address: 36 Balkan street. Open Monday to Friday 8-8, Saturday till 4 and closed Sunday.

Now, once you’ve bought a red car, every car you see is red. Same goes for hat shops. Since I went in to the first one, I’ve been tripping over them. MVK took me to another one today to buy a hat for the Derby… this one has been in business for 20 years and yes, their hats are all handmade, too. Mine is  one-of-a-kind – an experiment of sorts. Mam, dad and daughter run the show and dad suggested I needed a more glamourous dress for the hat I eventually bought. The cheek! Am impressed, though, with the hive of activity in Belgrade and the sheer choice of locally made products.Who’d have thought it eh?

Vesna – the fancy hat shop, Kraljvica Marka 13, Belgrade

3 replies
  1. Bernard Adams
    Bernard Adams says:

    Well, should I need a hat I know where to go . . . though it’s quite a long way. This word šešir intrigues me, however . . . It doesn’t seem Slavonic, three consonants makes one think Semitic . . . and it isn’t Turkish, as far as I know. Greek, perhaps? Maybe one of your followers can enlighten. But in any case, those faces are marvellous!

  2. Bernard Adams
    Bernard Adams says:

    Research reveals that my Larousse dictionary lists chéchia as ‘sorte de calotte en drap rouge’ worn by various North Africans e.g. Zouave and Spahi – so in origin it’s a fez-type flat-topped conical hat. Presumably the word comes to Serbian through Ottoman Empire influence. An interesting shift in meaning!

  3. Bernard Adams
    Bernard Adams says:

    . . . and what is more, the Shorter OED also lists chechia (no stress indicated, but presumably on the -i-), meaning the same, and derives it from Arabic (so my first guess was right) šašiyya, which in turn is from Šaš, the Arabic name for Tashkent. Evidently traditional tastes in Uzbekistan and Morocco have something in common!


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