If you look down at what you are wearing, I guess you see a top and a bottom, if yes, you could be missing an important detail. To step things up and make a statement with your attitude and your style, you’ll want to add another element – a hat! But, what kind of people wear hats, what hats do they wear, and why do they wear them? If you have asked yourself any of these questions, then read on, this article is an incomplete guide to the art of wearing hats.
Why Writers Wear Hats
“The most important reason to wear a hat is to keep ideas in. Ideas are abstract, fluffy things, prone to floating away, remaining just out of reach if you don’t contain them.”
– Luc, @HanburySt
This is an author’s blog, and I guess its no surprise that I’ll start with why authors should wear a lot of hats. Well, if you’ve ever noticed how people with hats seem to have an attitude, sometimes the right headwear can help to create that attitude. You or your main character feeling playful .. then try a baseball cap, feeling dashing .. maybe a fedora, feeling sexy .. well – how about some bunny ears.
As well as keeping your ideas in, the beauty of using a hat to change your attitude is, of course, that it’s the quickest costume change possible.
A hat could also be central to the plot of your book. In ‘A Life’s Morning,’ by the late Victorian author George Gissing an honest and gifted man meets with ruin and death because it is impossible to walk about a big town with no hat on – he ‘borrows‘ money he is carrying for his employer to buy a new one – which sets a series of disasters and the beginning of his downfall. George Orwell commented on Gissing’s book in the 1930s and the powerful but really rather pointless Victorian taboo on not wearing hats, but with some empathy noted ‘if you had somehow contrived to lose your trousers, you would probably embezzle money rather than walk around in your underpants.’
A Brief History of Wearing Hats
By Orwell’s time, hatlessness may no longer have been a taboo, but hats were certainly still the norm. If you look at an old photo of a crowd of people in hats – cloth caps or bowlers or top hats – you get a real sense of social unity, of the individual, subsumed into a group. As that social consensus has diversified, hats have become less of a social marker.
Supposedly, the move away from hats started in 1960 when John F. Kennedy broke with tradition and went bareheaded for his presidential inauguration. Until then, a well-dressed man didn’t go outside without some kind of hat, usually, a felt fedora. Kennedy had a fine head of hair and may not have thought a hat was necessary. I’ve never seen a photograph of Kennedy wearing a hat at any time in his life.
Other reasons for the change to hatless fashion have a lot to do with changes in transportation, hygiene, and hair:
- Transportation; A hat was primarily a protection against rain, dust, cold and the sun. With the popularity of the automobile, the hat became less necessary as people were no longer required to walk long distances.
“Girls,” their mother interjected, “you must both stop being strange – it is unattractive. And don’t forget your hats. It would be absolutely the end for me if you two came down with freckles at a time like this.”
― Anna Godbersen, The Luxe
- Hygiene; even in the 1960s, hair washes were weekly instead of the daily ones that a lot of people do today. Because hair washes were done infrequently, a hat was necessary to keep the dust and dirt away.
- Hair; Finally, hair fashions of the 1960s and ’70s meant that people cared more about their hair and how it looked. As hair fashions changed people started to care more for how their hair looked, the less reason there was to wear a hat that might crush or mess up their ‘do”.
Modern Day Hat Wearing
“Everybody wears shoes. Not everybody wears hats. You can wear a very unusual pair of shoes, but people don’t necessarily see those when you walk into a room, whereas even a simple hat is seen.”
I enjoy wearing hats, for the majority of the time, I wear them for practical reasons, to keep the sun out of my eyes or to keep my head warm in the winter, but sometimes just for fun or for style – or if I’m having a bad hair day.
The key to successful hat-wearing is to choose a hat that matches your proportions and matches with the rest of your outfit. And by matches, I mean baseball hat and sneakers, cowboy hat and cowboy boots, business suit and a fedora, casual hats for casual clothes and vice-versa, mix those up and you can expect people to audibly gasp.
Wearing Hats, My Favorite Types
So what are my favorite types of hat? My go-to hat styles are cowboy, casual and baseball caps.
Of all those hat styles, the one that is most likely to attract comments is the cowboy hat. Real, working cowboys of the 19th century – as opposed to their romanticized Hollywood counterparts – generally came from the lower end of the social spectrum – discharged soldiers, ethnic minorities, men avoiding legal trouble in other parts of the country, etc. and as such, they tended to do their cowboy work wearing whatever hat they happened to own.
My not-so-deep investigations into the cowboy hat have revealed that the Texas cowboy culture stereotype exists only in the minds of non-Texans and that there’s virtually no Texans that walk around wearing cowboy hats and boots. I’ve never been to Texas, let me know in the comments if this is true!
A Hat for Every Occasion
When you wear a hat, they are unmissable, but some styles are even more unmissable than others. As well as matching your outfit, Simon Hayes recommends these hat styles for the activities below:
- The balaclava for bank robberies and miscellaneous skulduggery.
- The deerstalker for eccentric (and implausibly brilliant) freelance detective work.
- The fedora for hipsters and maddeningly S-L-O-W driving
- The fez for the comically inept performance of magic tricks
- The top hat for weddings and general one-upmanship
- The bowler is still occasionally deployed as a kind of “double bluff” maneuver – principally by bankers hoping to be misidentified as harmless comedians.
- Finally, for the purpose of barging into other countries with the intention of imposing our bizarre customs upon the unfortunate locals, the pith helmet remains an ever-popular choice.
So next time you go out, go out in style with a healthy dose of fashion and confidence on top of your head.
Your Quest is to get a hat, get some attitude and just be fabulous!
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For more on this subject you can purchase my book ‘This is Your Quest’ online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble. The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Nobles (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Or check out her Amazon Author Page here.