Headgear and History
When the winter temperatures dip into the 20’s, I break out my Russian schapka -- a large furry hat that was a souvenirs from time spent in former Soviet Central Asia. Without question, it evokes compliments from total strangers who feel compelled to say, “I like your hat.”
Here’ my theory. Hats equal power. The larger, more elaborate the hat, the more power to influence the course of human events. Hats have the power to make the wearer to look regal, menacing or ridiculous.
Let’s start with military headgear. Who could argue that It lead the Germans to incite two world wars. The Kaiser’s spiked and polished pickelhauber is not a peaceful hat. Wearing such a helmet can only make the wearer think of only one thing--Launch the Zeppelins, it is war!
What if the German Wehrmacht had not worn their distinctive gray Stahlhelm helmets when they marched into the Sudetenland? What if instead they had worn sombreros with fringe balls? They would have been laughed out of Czechoslovakia to their embarrassment and WWII might never have happened.
Consider religion without the hat. The Pope, the head of the Catholic Church and God’s representative on earth, wears a tall and pointed Mitre stitched with gold thread. Imagine instead if the Pope had adopted a Moroccan Fez with a tassel as part of his vestments. Would St. Peter’s Cathedral ever have been built? Would the Catholic church every have made it out of the Tenth Century? (Ok, for casual, every-day-around the house business, he wears the Zucchette, a small skull cap but when the Pope means business, he breaks out the Mitre).
Among American presidents, no piece of clothing is more closely identified with a President than the stovepipe hat is with Lincoln. The hat emphasized his great stature and symbolized his authority. If Lincoln had worn an Indian Turban, we might think very differently of him today. Lincoln could doff his Stovepipe hat creating a dramatic pause before speaking. Could he have even doffed a Turban? Had he been a turban wearer, the Gettysburg address might have lost some of it luster.
Headgear was the tradition for presidents until John Kennedy broke with history and eschewed a top hat at his inaugural. Since that moment, men’s hats have been in decline and some would argue so has American prestige.
The list of historical influences is endless.
Would state troopers or drill sergeants seem as intimidating if they did not wear the stiff brimmed campaign style hats?
Could John Wayne personify the rugged western Cowboy if he’d been wearing a soft felt Trilby instead of a Stetson-made ten gallon hat?
|Size matters - In the kitchen you have the tall chefs hat vs. the foldable paper trainee hats. Without a moment’s hesitation, there is no mistaking who has the greater authority.|
Imagine how confused members of any royal court would be if their King had exchanged his bejewelled gold crown with the court jester’s tentacled hat of jangling bells.
You can’t be a Pilgrim without wearing a tall Captain with a buckle. A straw boater hat would never have worked.
Napoleon would never have made it all the way to Moscow and Waterloo if he’d worn a ball cap instead of an oversized bicorn with a cockade.
To this day, Sherlock Holmes Deerstalker conveys an insightful sleuth -- an image that could never could have endured if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had topped him off with a conical sun hat from Asia.
Iron workers on the skyscrapers of Manhattan could never be iron workers if they wore the round floppy Tudor Bonnets of Shakespeare’s day instead of hard hats.
Would Russian Cossacks charging out of the Steppe be quite as feared if they’d worn evenly creased Fedoras instead of their heavy black shapkas?
Victorian England created the towering Bearskin hats for the Buckingham Palace Guards to project an image of power and deterrence.
|Academic Hat Paradox. Dunce caps are larger than a graduate’s mortar board hat but neither make you look distinguished.|
The coonskin caps of Davey Crockett and Daniel Boone symbolized the rugged early American frontiersman in a way that an English Bowler hat never could.
Whether you wear the Crown of England or a cardboard box from your empty 12-pack of Bud Light, respect the hat. It has more power than you know.