Who doesn’t love a wonderful hat? Hedda Hopper’s made a fashion statement; Queen Elizabeth II’s are an institution. Minnie Pearl wanted us all to know what a bargain hers were, so she accessorized them with a price tag!
Jackie Kennedy made the pillbox hat stylish and fashionable, and no respectable woman would be seen without her pork pie hat, often with matching veil from about the 40s to the mid-60s. Cozy mystery writer Monica Ferris collects them. Many unusual hats are now collectors’ items, but some double as very useful accessories to the chicest outfits on the planet.
One of the earliest portrayals of a hat in art appeared in a tomb painting from ancient Thebes. In cold climates, one can imagine that even prehistoric humans devised some head covering to protect their heads from cold and heat.
Head coverings and veils were worn in Ancient Greece and Rome, and also in ancient Celtic societies. Helmets, hats, and head coverings were worn during biblical times and in pre-Columbian America. Viking style helmets with horns define myth and legend for some, and Athena’s helmet inspired goddess-like behavior in more than one student of Greek Myth. In many cultures, hats and wigs are worn out of respect for certain religions, or in solidarity with certain traditions. In literature, the Sorting Hat in the Harry Potter novels determines a student’s academic fate. Paper hats topped the heads of heretics headed for the stake, but other paper hats had a more innocent function as children’s toys folded from newspapers.
Party hats for New Year’s Eve, birthdays, or other occasions are often colorful, pointed examples similar to those some clowns wear. Straw hats top the heads of barbershop quartet singers and avid gardeners.
Sombreros are part of the history of Mexico and cowboy ten-gallon hats define the American Wild West. No decent explorer would be left without a pith helmet to complete that safari look, as Dr. Livingston might presume.
Vintage helmets in Hogan’s Heroes make a political statement in the opening and closing credits; Hogan’s American air force colonel’s helmet sits atop Col. Klink’s Kaiser Helmet. Mary Tyler Moore became an American icon by throwing her hat up in the air and catching it again during the opening credits of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. In fact, there is a statute of Moore throwing her hat. Little Louise isn’t seen without her bunny ears in “Bob’s Burgers,” while Ma Ingalls never left home without her sun bonnet in Little House on the Prairie.
Princess Diana’s hats created a sensation and perfectly matched her pristine outfits. Later, Kate Middleton made the fascinator popular in places besides fancy dress balls. This part hat, part headband, part decoration contraption is now available for any occasion and every holiday. Witch’s pointed black hats make Halloween fun, and The Red Hat Society has inspired women everywhere.
Easter Bonnets have their own song, and are often festooned with silk flowers, chenille birds and faux fruit.
Men’s Hats include porkpies, fedoras, bowlers, derby hats, balaclavas, newsboy caps, top hats, stovepipe hats made famous by Abraham Lincoln, and many more. A gentleman used to remove his hat indoors or in the presence of a lady, and a well-dressed woman never went to church without her hat.
By the same token, no self-respecting athlete would be caught without the appropriate helmet or cap. So popular are baseball caps, that they have become collectibles in their own right advertising anything imaginable. Some law enforcement officials even wear them.
Haberdashers and milliners used to use chemicals that slowly drove them out of their minds, hence the famous “Mad Hatter” of Alice in Wonderland. It’s easy to be mad over hats. They are terrific collectibles and look great hanging on a wall. They are fun to make and to decorate, and if you don’t like real people head coverings, there are countless miniature examples in the form of milliners’ models and antique bonnet head dolls.
French and German antique bisque dolls often wear fancy bonnets and hats, and French fashion dolls have entire hat wardrobes. Barbie, Cissy, Betsy McCall and Ginny also wear hats with some of their ensembles. G.I. Joe, Big Jim, and Major Matt Mason sported the most amazing miniature helmets to go with their uniforms. Bob the Builder has his trusty hard hat.
This year on National Hat Day, January 15, 2016, don your favorite chapeau in honor of a collectible. Read Dr. Seuss, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. After all, it really is a holiday you can ‘hang your hat’ on.
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