Monday, May 17, 2004

"God, I Miss HATS!"


Just "when" did men stop wearing hats? Not those round-topped derbys that make you look like a refugee from a Charlie Chaplin flick or a 3 Stooges short, but nice, mid-brimmed fedoras?

I think it must have been in the latter 1960's that I noticed people had stopped dressing nicely, because in the 1950's/early 60's, men wore slacks and decent-looking shoes. NOT tennis shoes. Tennis shoes, or, "sneekers" as we called them back then, wore worn only in gym class, or by atheletes, or basketball players: Red Ball Jets or Keds. But every man, even a poor man, wore a hat.

There was this department store in the town where I grew up, a nice clothing store with suits and fabric goods. It was divided into two different rooms, one for men's apparel and one for ladies'. In the men's section there were these tall, enclosed cabinets with glass fronted doors and inside were revolving displays of hats; all types, all sizes and sorts. Yes, there WAS a derby or two, and even a couple of straw ones that reminded one of barbershop quartets, but mostly they were fedoras. They were wide, mid-range and narrow of brims, in tones of tans, brown, brown or black, with perhaps one white one thrown in for good measure. They had bands around them for accent of a lighter or darker shade and a little feather stuck in the band on the left side. They were pretty neat.

And women wore hats as well. Not bonnets, but pretty little things decorated usually with flowers that sat delicately upon their heads. Women ALWAYS had more than one hat. Men as well; one for everyday use and one worn only on Sunday. If a man got his hat dirty or bent out of shape, the local dry clearner would always clean it and re-block and press it. Then on Easter Sunday you had, not just that "special" best hat you wore, but also a special suit of clothes. It was the very best outfit you owned. Little boys had white sportscoats and bowties and men would even wear a small flower (usually a rose) in their lapel. Women wore white gloves and heels and they would always wear a slip. It was a different time, a time of innocence I grant you, but people dressed nicely.

When I was in Grade School, you'd never wear a just a t-shirt or blue jeans or a flannel shirt to school. If you did, that usually meant your family was poor, or people thought you were a "greaser" or a J.V.. "Normal" people didn't wear caps, either. Caps were worn by baseball players, gas station mechanics and people in the military. Even most farmers worn a hat.

So...what happened? When did we start dressing differently? As much as I love The Beatles, they're at least partially to blame. It began The British Invasion of Music into this country. Different ideas and different styles were beginning to be introduced into this culture. Along came bell-bottomed pants and fringy,leather jackets. Flannel shirts even became a style, and fake turtle necks (called "dickies")we wore under a dress shirt.There were even frilly, lacy shirts for men! The color for clothes went crazy! Pastels and flourescents and neons; bright and flashy colors abound! Gender styles mixed and matched! We wore naval p-jackets and nehru coats, and...striped pants.

Can you imagine? Striped pants.

And the fedora was gone. Vanished in the way of drive-in movies, the 5 & Dime Store and the Fountain Coke. Lost today to the memories of old black and white detective flicks, self-portraits of Robert Crumb and thoughts of Indiana Jones. Gone with those hats was the courtesy of tipping it in the presence of a lady, removing it when you shook hands with a friend or came indoors, or placing it over ones' heart during The Pledge of Allegiance to The Flag.

A lot of politeness and respect people had for one another, especially words like, "Sir", and "Madam" went along with them.

God. I miss hats.

2 Comments:

At 8:49 PM , Blogger Shane Bailey said...

But I'm told I look like, J.R., the announcer for WWE RAW, in a hat. I can't be seen wearing a hat after someone tells me something like that now can I?

 
At 9:12 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, the death knell for hats came when JFK delivered his inaugural speech without one.

 

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