Thursday, January 27, 2022

The Blowhard: Terrific Toppings



This isn’t about whipped cream and cherry toppings, it’s about hats. For years hats were almost a status symbol that defined those who wore them, from the simplest kerchief or bonnet to the most outlandish egret-trimmed confection, about to spring into the air from a lady’s head. Even in the last century, a lady or gentleman did not leave home without the compulsory hat and gloves, in all kinds of weather.

In Florida, hats are protection from the sun, for the most part, as there are not many special social events like high teas or Kentucky Derbies that require them on an everyday basis.

There are many things about hats, however,  that leave me puzzled. First of all, I have never understood the need to wear one backwards. You wouldn’t find most women wearing their wide-brimmed chapeaux backwards, except by accident, so why would fellows wear baseball caps backwards? To shade their necks from the sun? That doesn’t apply to all those little fellows who go buzzing around in Hondas, cutting from one lane of traffic to another with little thought for other drivers. Do their Mommies and Daddies, who likely paid their insurance, know where they are and what they are doing? When they get a little older, I fear, these are the same fellows who sit eating in decent restaurants, wearing the same darn hats or an uglier, dirtier version of them. Many eating establishments will not allow people to enter barefoot. Perhaps they could be encourage to enforce some rules about men removing hats.

Whatever happened to manners, where a fellow removed his hat when stepping indoors? Maybe hatted men just don’t know where to put them. I’m sure we all could help.

My parents were of the vintage that wore hats in every season. Coming from northern climes, they were happy to wear them in winter as protection as well as decoration, although I’m not too sure how warm my father’s fedora or Borsalino kept his ears while he shoveled snow or attempted to push his car out of a snow bank. I’m sure my mother would have preferred a woolly babushka to her perky little topper with its feather, while negotiating icy streets in sub-zero weather. Even then the fashionistas cringed at the thought of wearing some accessory that didn’t match the rest of their outfits.

Some of us welcomed the more relaxed fashionable years when ‘anything goes’ placed comfort over appearance and we could pull a toque down over our frozen ears or wrap our heads in a big fuzzy scarf. Then when we emerged with our coiffures plastered to our heads, we faced bad hair problems.

In addition to being a fashion accessory, a hat could always serve another purpose. My mother, whose hobby was to make some of the most beautiful hats she wore, also found the purchase of a new hat to be extremely stress-relieving. Perhaps it was not the hat itself, but the day spent downtown shopping away from the usual children, housework, and cooking: a time to spend on herself. Perhaps it was the excitement of sifting through imported feathers and ribbons, matching them with a new outfit and imagining how it would look. It always worked and she returned home cheerful and energized.

Let’s be honest: not a lot of women wear hats really well. Maybe they don’t know how to choose them. There was a little resurgence of hats, particularly red hats, in the past few years as the Red Hat Society was born and ladies in purple dresses and red shoes showed up wearing their red chapeaux at an assortment of events — always in herds – or perhaps flocks is a better word to describe them, chattering and befeathered. Short ladies, tall ladies, and some in the middle, but all wearing red hats of many sizes and shapes. Most of the hats were big. Be truthful: how does a little lady look in a huge hat? OK – how does a huge lady look in a huge hat, or a little hat – or a hat that simply doesn’t suit her? “Silly” is as good a word as any. But that was part of the red hat fad: wear a straight face and you can get away with almost anything – there is no such thing as bad or unbecoming fashion. Women of ‘that certain age’ have earned the right to dress as they wish.

The same applies to men. Not that they walk around in large red feathered hats and purple pants, but ladies, you KNOW how difficult it is to separate your honey from his old fishing/hunting/baseball/whatever hat. You know you are going to have wait to dispose of it when he leaves town without it, to have it ‘disappear’ never to be found again. Men’s ‘broken-in’ hats must be the rattiest things known to womankind, and a real puzzle as we watch fellows clutch them protectively, reading our minds and intentions as we picture the decrepit lids consigned to the nearest dumpster.

Heaven forbid that we wish those poor shiny ‘chrome domes’ to erupt with sunburn or worse, or that eyes be exposed to too much glare, but there are some pretty handsome ways to avoid it wearing decent head coverings with proper visors.

I hope you don’t think I’m anti-hat: some of my best friends wear them and I have a few myself, although I’m not too sure where they are at the moment.

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