Melbourne Cup 2016: Punters go mad for hatters and headwear

For many racegoers this Spring Carnival there will be nary a nag in sight as they flock to the track to instead revel in the fashion.

Milliners and men's hatters are cashing in on the popularity of headwear and say the racing season is their busiest time of year.

"Without Melbourne Cup Carnival we wouldn't survive. That's the crux of it," milliner Kim Fletcher said.

I would make at least 80 per cent of my income at this time of year."

Ms Fletcher has lost count of the hats, fascinators and headbands she has made in her crowded workshop this year, but is confident of one thing: it is all a bit of fun.

"In my job you can't get too carried away with it because most people aren't wearing it for any reason other than decorative," she said.

"So why be boring when you can be interesting?"

The flurry for fashion is not confined to women, however, with Melbourne's iconic City Hatters store seeing a surge in men coming in search of the perfect hat.

Acting manager Tess Ebinger said the days around the Melbourne Cup were generally the biggest earners for the shop.

"We had people at the top of the stairs waiting for us to open up and we'll have people refusing to leave at six o'clock tonight, trying to get that last hat," she said.

"It's pretty hectic — this week is generally one of our busiest of the year."

A study into the economic impact of the 2014 Melbourne Cup Carnival — completed by research firm IER for Victoria Racing — found $31.4 million was spent in Victoria on fashion items specifically to wear to Flemington Racecourse.

This covered the purchase of more than 375,000 individual fashion items, including 75,000 hats and fascinators, according to the study.

Younger crowds are driving up sales

Ms Fletcher said a growing group of younger women were dipping their toe into the headwear pool before committing to larger hats.

"As they get a bit more comfortable in themselves as women that confidence grows and they find their own style and wear it with confidence," she said.

Ms Ebinger said she had also noticed a younger cohort of men willing to take the plunge into headwear and said celebrity culture could be part of the reason.

"For the races, between 25–60 is the main age bracket [buying hats]," Ms Ebinger said.

"Whereas 10 to 20 years ago it would have been starting at 40 to 70.

"We've had a lot more younger men coming in wanting to customise hats … we're getting quite a few of those for fashions on the field.

"With fashions changing and a lot more celebrities wearing hats now a lot more young guys are coming through, which is nice."

Ms Ebinger said it was a case of "safety in numbers" for many men.

"People who wouldn't necessarily dress up, who wouldn't necessarily wear hats, they know that they're going to somewhere where a lot of people are going to be dressed up, a lot of people are going to be going that step further."