I love a good hat.
As to what a “good hat” is, that’s a matter of debate, aesthetics, and occasion. Frederick the Great said a crown was merely a hat that let the rain in. Frank Sinatra advised us to cock our hats, because “angles are attitudes.” Jay-Z said he could make a Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee could.
Tip your hat. Hat’s off. Hat in hand. Throw your hat in the ring. Mad as a hatter. The Cat in the Hat.
I’m writing a Regency Era short story about a marquess who falls in love with a milliner. She’s a step up from the village blacksmith’s daughter, but it’s still the kind of mésalliance that turns polite society on its ear. Marquesses can fall in love with a pretty bonnet, but never the woman who made it. Still, there’s something inexpressibly romantic about such a match. What captured his heart? Was it the way her cornflower eyes lifted to him from under the straw brim of her chapeau Virginie? The soft shadow cast on her cheek by the ribbon bow in her toque de velour?
Wrenching away from the Regency to more recent times, I can say the hat was still widely compelling in my youth, though it had less of delight and more of duty than in Jane Austen’s day. “A lady,” my French teacher said once, “does not leave the house without gloves on her hands and a hat on her head.”
Hmnf. All through my youth I wore hats to Mass on Sunday. There were special hats for special days: Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter. There were hats for portrait photos and hats for weddings and hats for weekends at the lake.
I couldn’t have been happier when Flower Power rolled in and we all shed our hats, let our hair grow down to there, and vowed never to trap our heads in the sorts of gear that marked us as well-mannered members of the middle class.
I suppose it’s no coincidence that when I put all those politics aside, I started collecting vintage hats. They have a lure for me that verges on addiction. Keep your drugs and alcohol and gambling. Give me a 1940s persimmon straw tilt hat with a veil, and I’m happy to my core.
I love a good hat.