I’m not talking about magic tricks. I’m talking about hats. Although, there is something magical about a fine-looking hat. Just think about all those stylish ones that show up at Churchill Downs the first Saturday in May for the Kentucky Derby.
Today being National Hat Day, I thought I’d share a few little-known facts about hats and hat accessories.
• In the early1900s women liked their hats big. To keep those big hats anchored to their heads they needed big hatpins, some up to a foot long. As women became more emancipated they were seen around town unchaperoned. The result was wolf whistles and outright harassment. The hatpin used as more than a means to keep a hat securely on the head began in 1903 when a young woman was sitting in a New York City stagecoach and a fellow passenger got fast and loose with his hands. When she could not stop him, she did the only thing she could. She reached for her hatpin and jabbed it into the lecher’s arm. Soon after, women began putting their hatpins to similar good use. This led to lawmakers in some cities passing laws limiting the length of hatpins. I’m just guessing, but do you think all those lawmakers were men? I can’t help but wonder if some of them bore the scars of injurious hatpin pricks. Anyway, by World War I women were sporting shorter hairstyles like the jazz-age bob, and the lowly hatpin fell out of fashion.
• Fairy princesses weren’t the only ones to wear the hennin, that tall pointy party hat. The hennins of Mongolian warrior queens of the 13th century were often seven feet tall. The better to be seen from a distance by the hordes of Genghis Khan, I guess.
• The ominous black hat worn by the Wicked Witch of the West may have dated back to the Salem Witch Trials when witnesses claimed to have seen the devil wearing a high, crowned hat. Or even further back than that to 15th century Hungary when people convicted of sorcery were forced to wear them, as were heretics during the Inquisition. You might want to think about this before choosing that witch’s costume next Halloween.
Now, let’s put some myths to rest.
• Myth: Daniel Boone wore a coonskin cap.
According to his son, he hated raccoon fur caps and didn’t wear one himself.
•Myth: Vikings donned horned helmets.
The Teutonic knights, Celtic warriors, samurai, late Roman armies, even Conan the Barbarian did. But Vikings? No.
•Myth: All cowboys wore cowboy hats.
Uh, no on that one, too. The classic Stetson came into being around 1865, but it looked more like a flattened sombrero than the stylish Stetson we know and love on our cowboy heroes. And even in its pancake version it wasn’t the most popular hat on the range. Back in the day, most cowboys wore sailor’s caps, top hats, and bowler hats. But it’s okay to imagine the cowboy hero from your favorite romance novel wearing the sexy Stetson. No matter how good-looking a cowboy hero is, I don’t want to see him coming to the aid of heroine in a top hat.
When I was a kid, my mother used to take me and my sister to buy new outfits for Easter, and we’d always get new hats. I wasn’t crazy about the hats I wore then. They made no sense to me. These days I do wear hats to shield me from the unscrupulous South Florida sun. I have floppy-brim hats and hats with turned-up brims, fedoras and the always-reliable baseball caps. What about you? Do you wear hats?