I personally hate them. I am too short to wear one elegantly. I have worn hats, true, but never felt comfortable in them, despite the fact that if you have a bad hair day, they will cover a multitude of sins. I had a wide brimmed hat once for a wedding, that was so wide people seemed to gather round me to keep the sun off and had to twist sideways under it to kiss my cheek, and others have had bizarre feathers or netting stuff to look through.
Sometimes I wore a protective hat - a motorbike helmet – which was for obvious safety reasons, but like all hats, they totally ruined my hair underneath. If I wear a hat in public, I daren’t take it off as I will have a squashed band of hair circling my head, like a marker for a pudding-basin haircut, and a sweaty brow from continually pushing it back into place. Even my one sensible sunhat worn here recently because I couldn’t find my sunglasses, makes me look odd – a friend commented I looked like Shirley Valentine, and eventually my ears stick out as they are the only thing holding it on.
History of Hats
The history of hats extends back millennia, with many head coverings throughout history and around the world carrying religious or ceremonial significance. Hats can be associated with something recognisable, much like a British bobbies’ helmet (officially called a Custodian’s Helmet), or Abraham Lincoln’s Stovepipe hat. Some hats are traditionally decorated with beads, or tasseled liked a Moroccan Fez (as worn by the late comedian, Tommy Cooper), or ribbons and flowers (Morris Dancers spring to mind), or simply made from woolly stuff for warmth.
Why was wearing a hat important?
Modern-day hats are very often the baseball cap, or ‘beanies’, designed to protect head, face and ears from heat or cold, or with wide brims to shield the sun from burning noses and faces. One of the first pictorial depictions of a hat appears in a tomb painting from Thebes, Egypt, which shows a man wearing a conical straw hat, dated to around 3200 BC. The first hats were probably used as protection from nature and weather, but it probably wasn't long, though, before hats became both a fashion statement and a status symbol.
Artisans of classical Athens and Rome usually wore conical caps with egg-shaped crowns made of felt - and now the interesting bit - material that protruded under the band evolved into the brim, as we know it today. In Rome this cap was a badge of the lower classes, and a slave being freed would be given such a cap - but men of the upper classes usually went hatless except in bad weather or when hunting or traveling. The emperor Augustus Caesar, in his old age, set a new fashion trend by never going out without a hat.
Why was removing your hat sometimes important?
Apparently, this can be traced back to medieval times when knights would remove their helmets to identify themselves, as well as a gesture of respect. Hat etiquette also has roots in Christianity, as it's long been considered customary for men to remove their hats upon entering a church – yet strangely, a priest would keep his on. However, some Muslim mosques it is customary to keep hats available at the door for worshippers to wear inside.
One of the biggest reasons for the decline in hat-wearing is likely that we now have a better control over our indoor climate and often wear fewer than two layers of clothing - with gloves and scarves going the same way.
There are plenty of old sayings or phrases, all with different meanings - talking through your hat, eating your hat, hat trick, pass the hat, at the drop of a hat, mad as a hatter, and one I haven’t heard before, tight as Dick’s hatband (apparently meaning miserly, or tight with money).
Philip Treacy is a famous haute couture milliner, or hat designer, and is perhaps the greatest living milliner. Perhaps he could design me something that won’t make me look silly.
Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man.