This is one of 804 articles in my book Now and Then Again, The Way We Were and the Way We Are. The book is available from Amazon for $16.95 also as an ebook from itunes, Kobo, and Inktera for $9.99. Also from Tolino in Germany. It’s fixed format so it’s better with a tablet, laptop, or computer. There are more articles from the book on another blog here.
I live in New Jersey, so I don’t see a lot of cowboy hats. But through the magic of television, I am occasionally transported out west, to the land of cowboy hats.
Looks like a great hat to keep you in the shade in a sunny clime. They don’t look too waterproof, though, but I guess it doesn’t rain a lot there. But it can get windy. You never see anyone wearing a cowboy hat with a chin strap and you never see hats tumbling along with the tumbleweeds.
But what’s most striking about cowboy hats is that the wearers never seem to take them off when they come indoors. You see real people scenes of line dancing, beer drinking, and country singing with hats on. It seems to me that a real 19th century cowboy would doff his hat when he came inside. Audie Murphy did. After all, the sun only shines outside.
I’m not a hat person, although I wear a knit cap and earmuffs when I walk the dog in the very cold.
The list of hats is astounding. Bearskin, baseball (front, back, sideways), beret, bowler/derby, bonnet, boater, balaclava, breton, feed, homburg, mortarboard, yarmulke, trilby, pillbox, chitrali, hijab, wimple, tricorne, turban, railroad, pith helmet, night cap, dunce cap, miter, tarboush, top hat, cai non, deerstalker, ivy cap, porkpie, cloche, pickelhaube (the Prussian helmet with the spike on top), snood, tyrolean, toque, fez, fedora, coonskin, shako, sombrero, gaucho, tam o’shanter, digger, panama, and zucchetto (the Pope’s yarmulke) are just a few.
Most hats aren’t very functional. The bicorne (admiral’s hat — Napoleon wore his sideways), top hat, mortarboard, and fez come to mind.
The fedora (see Stetson ad below) was de rigeur from the 30’s through the 50’s. Old photos of baseball games show men in the stands wearing fedoras (and jackets and ties). My dad had one, though he didn’t wear it much. Hats seem to have tapered off in the 60’s, maybe because JFK didn’t wear them. Both he and Eisenhower wore top hats to JFK’s inauguration, but Kennedy rarely wore hats afterwards.
Then there’s the ultimate hat, your crown, Your Majesty.
And, of course, hats are important for keeping secrets. This ad for Stetson hats is from Life Magazine April 5, 1943.
I’m not sure what the significance of all these hats is, but people take hats seriously. Maybe it’s because the ego is located in the head.
The most notorious mad hatter was 15th century Prince Vlad Dracula of Wallachia (yes, that Dracula). He had the turbans of visiting Turkish ambassadors nailed to their heads because they wouldn’t remove them as a sign of respect.
A more recent mad hatter was Richard Nixon. In 1970, he got a bee in his bonnet about spiffing up the White House guards by dressing them in comic opera hats. It was laughed out in about 6 months.
Hats are very important in religion. If you want to start a new religion, you’ll need a prophet, a book, and a splendid hat. My vote for best sacerdotal headgear goes to Katherine Jefferts Schori, head of the Episcopal Church. She wears a new age red miter with purple swooshes and a white circle.
As I said, I’m not a hat person, but if I become one, I’ll wear an ivy cap. That’s the tweed flat cap with the front of the hat nailed down to the brim. My dad had one of those, too, and he wore it.
How to Rate an “A” on a Date Between Classes
That’s the caption on this ad for Stetson hats in Life Magazine October 6, 1947. “The two college men above are very well-dressed indeed—one in his Stetson Campus for stepping out with his best girl, the other in his Stetson Casual for shuttling between classes.”“But switch the hats—and you kill the effect of both. Just as one suit won’t do for all occasions. so one ‘Jack-of-all-trades’ hat won’t always fill the bill.” She wears a Stetson, too, the Mistral, $6.95. Did your classmates look like this?
Audie Murphy actually played the bad guy in the 1959 movie No Name on the Bullet. He wore a black hat, too. I don’t remember if he took it off indoors, though.
Copyright © 2015 Joseph Mirsky