Saturday, March 23, 2013

Head Gear

I had an Aunt who opened up her own hat shop.  Ladies’ hats – it was properly called a millinery store.  But I also remember stores that sold nothing but men’s hats. 
Every man and boy appeared in public with his head covered.  Just look at those pictures of hobo jungles in the 1930s.  Those men may have had nothing, but they all had hats.

It may have been Jack Kennedy, bare-headed at his inauguration, who finished  off men’s hats.  It’s a pity they have pretty much disappeared, except for the actual utility ones – ski hats and the like, and the baseball caps that protect elderly scalps from sunburn.
           The Man’s Hat used to have all sorts of etiquette associated with it.  It came off, of course, as soon as one entered a home.  Wearing one indoors was considered rude if not challenging.  In old black-and-while movies, the Dead-End kid who forgets to uncover gets a quick whack to remind him.  In those days the act of removing the hat could be erotically charged--no gentleman would kiss a lady without taking off his hat first.  On the other hand, a girl who snatched a man’s hat and put it on her own head was sending a signal that she wouldn’t object to a kiss.   And when a funeral procession went down the street, men would stop on the sidewalk and hold their hats over their hearts till it passed.  Same during the national anthem. 
       All sorts of fashion rules applied back then.  One house mother at my college dorm said you didn’t put your gloves on while you were going down the front stairs – you had them on before you stepped outside.  You didn’t wear white after Labor Day, we heard that rich women didn’t wear diamonds until evening, and every year on Memorial Day—
                         Daddy changed to his straw hat.


  1. I think it about time for the hat to make a comeback.

  2. I still have my grandfather's fedora and my children relished playing dress up with it. Hats transform. I remember wearing white crocheted gloves on special occasions when I was a little girl in the early 1960s. The contrast between my gloved hands and the grime and smells of the subway left a strong impression. I really enjoy your writing here. Thank you. Edie