The new I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here jungle camp leader Nick Knowles is known, of course, for his DIY skill , his enthusiasm for the fairer sex , and his musical gifts .
But there’s another secret side of the I’m A Celeb star that is more often overlooked. His mania for top hats.
He first started collecting the eccentric headwear in his late twenties, and now has over a dozen top hats in his collection.
He’s even had some custom-made in order to achieve his ambition of owning his dream design – a Mad Hatter-style topper with a ‘belled’ top; a top hat where the crown is wider than the hatband.
If you want to get ahead, wear a hat…
(Image: Rupert Hartley/David Hartley/REX)
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In an interview from 2011 Nick predicted that toppers would make a comeback ‘in the next five years.’
The DIY enthusiast told the Daily Express: “I’ve even had a go at making top hats myself and one year I made one for my girlfriend, again that was to wear to Ascot. It was a lot of effort but I’m glad I gave it a go as it was really interesting to find out exactly what the process involves.”
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Many of his hats, though, are made for him by specialists: "The hats I’ve ordered from Patey’s are beautifully made but they are not cheap. They cost about £400 or £500 each but they are the real deal, not just for fancy dress. I am getting one made for Ascot, it is black with a belled top."
Nick, wearing one of his beloved toppers, with wife Jessica attending Ladies Day at Royal Ascot
One of Nick’s custom-made hats, dark brown belled-top John Bull-style topper that cost him £560 is, he says, his absolute favourite and the one that he’d save if his house was on fire.
Nick’s great dream, though, is to own a vintage American model: “The top hat I would most like to get hold of is a George V-style one that is particularly tall, cream and US-made.
Nick favours a bell-shaped hat
"It is very belled-top and about half the size of a standard top hat. That would cost thousands and they don’t come up for sale very often unfortunately.”
The topper was – at least apocryphally – devised by a London milliner named John Hetherington who caused such dismay when he first wore it in public that he precipitated a minor riot and was arrested.
Nick jokingly says he deserves the same fate: “My girlfriend pretty much thinks I should be arrested when I go out wearing mine but she puts up with it because she knows I am eccentric.”