Thursday, August 12, 2010

Men Wearing Hats

As the proud and loving daughter of a man who wore hats, I’ve been amused by the fedora craze now rampant among young hipsters.

Because it is just that -  a craze - I really don’t anticipate a return to days of yore, when everyone attending a baseball game was wearing a hat or non-baseball cap.  When there were hat check girls. When the pews at church had snaps to clip your hat onto. (They may still have them, for all I know.) And when Dad wore a hat to go out in the yard to rake leaves.

As a typical man of his era, my father wore a hat pretty much every day.  Wool (grey or brown) fedora between Labor Day and Memorial Day; natty straw version between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  When we went to the beach, or when he went to the golf course, the hat was replaced by a golf cap (which looked a lot like a baseball cap; it’s just that in those days, the only grownups who wore baseball caps were professional baseball players).

In those days, there were, of course,  hatmakers galore:

The number of manufacturers of fur-felt hats, wool-felt hats and hat forms in the U.S. totaled 185 in 1947, according to the Census Bureau. Now there are only three big hatmakers in the U.S. making fur-felt hats and wool-felt hats, says Jack Lambert, a former vice president of the Headwear Association. (Source: WSJ article linked below.)

So, it looks like the fedora craze is not going to save the economy. Damn!

I’m sure that part of the reason my father wore a hat was because he was bald. But, mostly, he was a man of his time – and men of his time wore hats from the time they hit adulthood until, well, the day they died. (I know that when my father died, there were still a couple of Stetson fedoras around the house. Wish I’d saved one….) I do believe that every child in my family has a favorite picture of himself or herself with my father, in which he is wearing a hat. (If I were the clever scanning type, I’d scan mine in and show you just what a hat-wearing cutie-pie my father was.)  We also used his old hats as cowboy hats, or general purpose, use-your-imagination, play props. (These recycled hats were called Boncho Crusses, for reasons that I can not begin to get into here.) The only time in his adult life my father went fedora-less was between 1942 and 1946, when he wore whatever the U.S. Navy gave him to put on his head.

Just as they do now, I also believe that hipsters of my father’s generation wore hats. But they probably weren’t grey, Stetson fedoras. They were probably porkpies, or thin-brimmed little hipster hats.

My father was decidedly not a hipster, but I like to think that he would have joined me in my amusement at the new fedora rage.

Most of the fedoras I’ve seen the young folk (M and F) sporting have not been the fedoras of my childhood.

No, the fedoras I’ve seen have been more colorful, more jaunty, less solid, less stolid – more jazz man than Mad Men.

Still, it’s fun to see them around.

But now that the WSJ has jumped in on things, I’m guessing that the craze has, if not died down, then at least crested. In any case, it’s probably moved beyond the hipster brigade, having trickled down to the general young population.

The Journal had an article the other day on the hat craze – and the etiquette questions it’s raising: Can one keep his hat indoors? Must one doff his chapeau upon greeting someone?  Is it okay to place one’s hat on the table or an extra chair while dining in a restaurant?

Personally, I could give a hatband about hat etiquette, other than to ask why it is considered impolite to wear a hat indoors. Much that has to do with etiquette makes aesthetic, if not practical, sense. But why the fatwa on wearing a hat inside? Other than that we’re accustomed to thinking that it looks ridiculous and/or off-putting, who cares?

(Obviously, many of the commenters in the WSJ do.  Lord knows I have pretty lax standards, but I really don’t associate indoor hat wearing with the decline of the west. There are sooooo many things standing in front of it.)

Anyway, now that I’m on a hat kick, I think I’ll count the number of fedoras I see over the next few days.

I’m seldom out after dark, or in places where hipsters lurk, but I may be able to spot a few. Something to do when I’m out strolling (hatless). In bad weather, I count blown out, discarded umbrellas. Counting fedoras will be a lot more fun, ‘cause I just adore a fedora.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really hate those hats. Target even had them for a while and now hey are al in the clearance aisle. Heehee. This is as bad as wearing a stocking cap all year long or a baseball cap backwards. Both of my grandfathers wore this type of hat. They could pull it off. These so-called "hipsterzzz" cannot.