Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Hats, Then and Now

In any discussion of hats in our personal history there are only a few women who will be remembered synonymously with the word hat. At one time I would have said that person was Jackie Kennedy. However, I think Princess Diana took the hat by storm in a way no one had done before or has since.

Certainly her son's wife is giving her a run for the money as a hat wearer but Princess Diana holds the hat crown. If you want to see just about every important hat worn in the twentieth century, just do a Google search of: Princess Diana hats. She wore just about every hat that had been seen in the entire century, designed anew just for her by the top milliners of her day. And she looked incredible in them. She does not look dated in a single picture.

In doing searches online for hats, I immediately saw a sharp delineation between hats worn to fit within our culture and its rites and rituals and hats worn to keep the elements at bay from jeopardizing our health. These two different purposes make for two different classes of hat. The hat worn for the cultural rites and rituals can be made of any material, can be in any style and can be completely without functional utility as far as protecting your body. The hat used to protect you from the elements is made of wool, fur, straw or a synthetic developed for its protective ability. Its style always sits snug to the head and the ears and covers as much of those two as possible.  This is so the ice, snow, cold or the heat and sun cannot break through that barrier.  In the United States we have gradually lost the hat for its cultural rites and rituals purposes but its use in protective situations is the same as ever.

There is a third class of person and that is one who wears a hat as a work of wearable and performance art. Lady Gaga has made the hat her own in that world and no one can even come close to her in it. She is unconcerned about fitting in with society's rites and rituals and she is also unconcerned with keeping warm or cool with her hat.

Cher was the person who was linked with wearable and performance art clothing prior to Gaga. Very few other people will ever be able to wear these styles of hats.

For the first part of our existence as baby boomers, hats were worn to many functions. We came into the mid to late 40s and our parents were well used to wearing hats everywhere.

We all went to a church or temple and there were head covering requirements for doing so. Also, most business places, downtown areas and many social events also mandated hat wearing. This certainly was true for all of the 1940s through the 1960s.

Because the 1950s and the immediate years leading in and out of it were such great couture years, hats also seemed to hit their zenith then.

It was in the 1970s and onwards where the hat for societal functionality began to disappear. At the recent wedding I attended in New Orleans not a single person wore a hat of any sort. The bride wore a short veil and she was the only person with something on her head. This was unthinkable back when we were coming of age. Nowadays a hat for societal use is considered completely optional.  If you want to make it part of your fashion statement, fine. But you will be making a very individual fashion statement.

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