Can’t Top the Topper

     I try not to dwell too fiercely on the fashions of previous generations.  I recall too well the exchange between a teacher in my high school who was pointing out to a classmate of mine who was snickering at the crewcuts shown in an old yearbook that within twenty years, what the kids were wearing would look just as bizarre and bygone.

     “Oh, I don’t think people will laugh so much at long hair,” she assured him.

     “That’s what we thought about short hair,” he replied.

   Having since passed through eras of wearing underwear as outerwear, men wearing their belts just slightly above their knees, and rampant legwarmers, I think I have achieved a certain perspective.  (It helps that, in spite of all efforts, I never did dress like anyone else. I think my maroon bell bottoms are still in storage, waiting for a time when they MIGHT pass for a fashionable garment.)

     But I admit I am still puzzled by what our female ancestors wore on their heads.  It isn’t that I laugh or snort in derision.  It’s more a matter of getting a fix on the logistics of the whole thing.  Take the fashionable lady at the top of this column.  How did she navigate the sidewalks of the city?  And if she raised her head enough to see out from under that brim, the first high wind would surely take her hat away.

     Yes, I understand the basic principle of the hat pin, which fixed the hat to the hair (and also served as a weapon in case of emergency.)

     But this was already the age of skyscrapers, which altered the wind currents and amplified them.  (I recently saw a film clip from 1900 or thereabouts of people walking along the notoriously windy 23rd Street in New York.  The only person who does NOT have one hand on a hat while walking gets his blown away.)  By the way,. I don’t think we covered the old joke in our columns on those.  You know the one: the lady is hanging onto her hat with both hands as she walks along, even though the wind is blowing her skirts high enough to attract bystanders checking out her knees and anything else the breeze would reveal.  When warned about this, she snapped “What they’re looking at is twenty years old, and this hat is brand new!”  Where were we?

     Not all huge hats relied on broad wind-catching brims, of course.  It would be wrong to think that a single style ever completely took over the market.

     The great thing about the next hat is that it isn’t even the focus of the joke.  It’s just the sort of hat which might be worn by someone who would also wear the new and shocking skirts in fashion.

     And just in case you think these are just the exaggerations of cartoonists, who might draw anything, there are the rppcs, the real photo postcards of ladies showing off their new hats.  This young lady apparently has a box of chocolates balanced on her head.

     The lady on the right here has clearly won the contest.

     Another thing puzzling me about these hats is what they did to the whole picture.  Is this woman really this teeny, or is her hat simply that big?

     The sad thing, of course, is that even the children had to get involved.  Little girls had to start wearing strange overwhelming hats from the outset, so they could build up their hat muscles.

     Of course, we are dealing simply with women’s hats here.  Men’s hats were always an example of simple utility, and were never mocked.

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