Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mad About Hats

This is my Great-Grandfather, Glenn, looking very dapper in his
wool hat. Don't people look fabulous in hats? I adore hats. There is
something very dashing and romantic about a person wearing a hat.
I like to wear one when I'm in a festive mood or when it's just plain
cold, like it's been this week. I saw a lot of hats on both men and
women at the inaugural because of the freezing temps. There was a
classy guy in a bright red fedora. And didn't you just love Aretha's
fabulous bow? There was a time, however, when you didn't dare
leave the house without your hat. It is quite sad that we have
become so casual in our attire that we feel perfectly comfortable out
and about in public without our hats.

The Death of the Hat, Billy Collins

Once every man wore a hat.
In the ashen newsreels,
the avenues of cities
are broad rivers flowing with hats.

The ballparks swelled
with thousands of strawhats.
Brims and bands,
rows of men smoking
and cheering in shirtsleeves.

Hats were the law.
They went without saying.
You noticed a man without a hat in a crowd.

You bought them from Adams or Dobbs
who branded your initials in gold
on the inside band.

Trolleys crisscrossed the city.
Steamships sailed in and out of the harbor.
Men with hats gathered on the docks.

There was a person to block your hat
and a hatcheck girl to mind it
while you had a drink
or ate a steak with peas and a baked potato.
In your office stood a hat rack.

The day war was declared
everyone in the street was wearing a hat.
And they were wearing hats
when a ship loaded with men sank in the icy sea.

My father wore one to work every day
and returned home
carrying the evening paper,
the winter chill radiating from his overcoat.

But today we go bareheaded
into the winter streets,
stand hatless on frozen platforms.

Today the mailboxes on the roadside
and the spruce trees behind the house
wear cold white hats of snow.

Mice scurry from the stone walls at night
In their thin fur hats
to eat the birdseed that has spilled.

And now my father, after a life of work,
wears a hat of earth,
and on top of that,
a lighter one of cloud and sky – a hat of wind.


  1. The poem conveys a real sense of loss, Willow.

    I love the phrase 'the avenues of cities are broad rivers flowing with hats'.

    Your Great-Grandfather looks very dashing!

  2. I LOVE hats! In my Walter Mitty-like parallel universe, I'm sure I'm a hugely popular milliner named Millicent Fair. :-) It's so much fun to look at old photos and the hats they wore. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I adore the old photos of my dad in his hats. I miss that time.

  4. Having just brought a new hat, with me you're singing to the choir!

    Not that I can sing, mind you.

    But I can wear a hat.

  5. I love hats as well and wish men and women still wore them like the old days. When I do wear a hat for a long period of time (like at the kentucky Derby i do get a little dizzy or a headache. I think they need getting used to!

  6. Yes, and to prevent William Henry Harrison head, they must be left on for the duration of the day!

  7. Peggy, ta-pocketa ta-pocketa ta-pocketa. Walter Mitty is an icon at the Manor!

  8. I always wore hats and people told me I would go bald. I have. Even more reason to wear hats.

  9. I love hats and do look good in them if I do say so myself.

    Wintertime give me a knitted cap and I'm happy.

    Summertime I love large straw hats. They look so nice with summer wear.

    They are great when you are having a bad hair day.

    Bring back the hat.

  10. Willow, I love this post. Your great granddaddy was very handsome. I remember in the 50's when so many men in my hometown of Indianapolis would wear fadoras. I thought they looked so handsome. My daddy would get off the bus every night swinging his lunchpail and wearing his hat. How do we get hats back in style like they were? I guess just wear them as much as when can and feel good about it.

  11. I love hats, although I hate to say that I don't look good in them. I love the photo of your great grandfather...what a handsome man! ~Lori

  12. Hats off to the hats! Loved the show of hats- when I was in DC I noticed that women wore hats BIG colourful wild hats, the hat shoppes were abundant! Pricey as well! I so agree with you- Hats say so much!

  13. Glenn was a handsome fellow.

    My great grandmother was a huge hat fan...evidently quite a collection. Any spare $ went to a new hat!

    It was interesting seeing all those people at the inauguration, some hatless, some with heads or ears covered.

  14. You need to visit the town of Harrogate in N.England...everyone still wears a hat..usually of the tweed variety!!

  15. I love men with hats. Wish my husband wore one. Love the old movies with men wearing hats and removing them when they came in the house.

    My father's name was Glenn. Love that name.

  16. Billy Collins would write
    about hats
    and forks
    and shopping lists

    Everyday things would become

    Even hats.


  17. Hats were so wonderful. My mother wore hats all the time and my father always always wore a hat. I remember hat boxes too. I wear a hat in the summer and wool caps in the winter but it isn't the same.
    Billy Collins said it all about his memory of hats!

  18. I could wear a hat in bed. I love hats specially canotiers or straw hats. I bought one myself but I haven't had the opportunity to wear it. I always had the idea of hanging all different types of hats: Top hats, fedoras, cowboy, bowler's, panama, etc., in one of my walls. Beautiful poem, melancholic to say the least.

  19. I love hats and actually, I think more people are wearing hats again and I really loved your dead president's hair post - too funny!

  20. I used to think I looked silly in a hat, any hat. I guess it was just a reaction to something different. As I get older I care less what people think (actually I don't give a fig) and in the cold or the heat I stick on a flat cap, beanie or ball cap. Now I want one of those nice straw summer hats worn by the colonials in the tropics. I think it might suit.

  21. I am a hat fetishist. I love them although I hardly ever wear them anymore (as they are difficult to wear while driving a car except for the smaller ones like the cap I am wearing these days). That doesn't stop me from buying them still, though...

  22. Sometimes I wear a hat in the summer to shade my eyes, and a toque in the winter. I recall wearing hats with veils and feathers to church whilst growing up.

    Dashing relative you have there, Willow.

  23. I always seem to buy hats that I never wear! Butt.. I did find some gorgeous antique hat boxes to put them in... Sigh.. somehow I'm missing the point!

  24. I love Aretha's hat, I'm afraid it would look quite silly on me though. I always love the looks of hats, but never seem to like them on myself...

  25. When I was a little girl my mother and I always got a new hat for Easter. Every year I looked forward to going to town with my mother to pick out my new Easter hat along with new shoes, socks and gloves. (She always made my dress).

    I wish we still wore hats like that today.

  26. Hi Willow.

    In England, we'd call what Grandad is wearing a cloth cap.

    As you may already have gathered, my previous life was in law enforcement. One day, whilst perusing old 'wanted by the police' posters from the 1900s, I came across a particularly desperate individual. Now, these wanted posters would always list the person's peculiarities (eg birth mark, scar on face, etc.) About this chap it said, 'Sometimes wears no hat.'

  27. Yes, yes and a rotund yes to this post, willow! I have many hats. I think I started in Cuba in my mid-20s and continued after when I came to live in the UK. The hat the gentleman is sporting in the photo is the same type I took in my hand not so long ago when I was near Trafalgar Square in central London. It's the same model many British men from the old generation still wear and I have seen some young men starting to adopt the same pattern. I am still in two minds as to whether to get it or not as my hair is growing longer.

    The poem is a beautiful ode to the hat. It's melancholic and celebratory at the same time. Thanks a lot for posting it.

    Greetings from London.

  28. I adore hats.* I've not yet found a better match for me than a Fedora, however.

    I do like the poem. The passing of an age.

    *excepting baseball caps

  29. Ha, ha.....last hat I wore was the wool cap Michael Nesmith wore in the Monkees ; (

    I just can't bring myself to do it.

    Guess I need a better haircut ; (

  30. Very dapper indeed !

    you'll be pleased to know that my boyfriend and I adoooore hats...We wear hats even when we stay at home watching a movie.
    Right now, every day i wear my chapka, my boyfriend wears an Irish cap or what he calls his gangster hat..

    (so sweet to think of me when you saw the white gown :-)

  31. In my youth hates were de rigeur!
    I wonder what the corelation between the lack of hats and skin cancer is. I would not dream f going int the garden in the summer withut one or sunglasses.
    Hats lend that certain little somethng to an outfit.
    The angle at which you wear one shows what mood you are in.
    Willow, can you find Danny Kaye
    singing Anatol of Paris? I am sure you too would enjoy that.

  32. I love hats too!! They can change your personality for a day. :) A wonderful post.

  33. Hello Willow,

    Your great grandpa does cut a fine figure!

    My father's eldest brother always wore a hat. I think they look smart and have given it a try but the hat sizes always seem to be either a little too tight or too loose!

    On our last holiday in Egypt, I did succomb to wearing a baseball cap but only because no-one knew me!! I'm with leatherdykeuk on that one!

  34. i love the topic.

    my grandmother when she came to this country was a milinary model.
    { hat model }

    i love hats but i look stupid in them....i am too short.
    but in a head shot,
    well, that is another story.
    too bad i can't just walk around with a large (framing) mat just around my head.

    if i could do that ( and i could , if i wanted to be sent the funny hospital )
    i could direct peoples eye to go where they should . to my head.

    now 'directing' ........
    that's a whole post.

    xxx thank you for visiting

  35. Hi Willow,

    How wonderful your g.grandfather looks. My grandfather and g.grandfather wore similar hats and they too looked dashing, especially when worn with a white silk muffler.

    Thank you for the Billy Collins poem - my favourite poetic chronicler of American life.

  36. Great post. I wear hats all the time. I have my Dad's fedora on the bookshelf. Nice coordination with the poem. Or did you find the poem first and then make up the post about hats.?

  37. I, too, love hats. I have a bunch of them. Used to wear them more often, but as I age, I feel ostentatious wearing some of them.

    Hats will give you president head, though, you know?? That's their only downside.

  38. Hats in the summer to keep the long hair off my neck and hats in the winter for survival...hats Mother and I used to wear to church every Sunday...I love to see Afro-American women in their Sunday finest, a tradition they've kept alive...what happened to us?

  39. What a handsome man, your great grandfather. A hat, the frame for the picture of the face.
    Lovely post, and anytime Billy Collins comes to visit is worthwhile.
    Thank you.

  40. Don't you just love the old photos of our families and ancestors, looking so fancy in their suits and dresses? I have a photo of my Uncle Alfred in Brooklyn looking like a wiseguy that I just adore.

  41. What a handsome youngman he was Willow! My friend has a lot of vintage hats, she was costume designer for the theatre. I think they are elegant and romantic.

  42. I hate wearing hats! lol!... but love to see people wearing them.
    Very nice photo, Willow.

  43. What a poem!
    I too love hats.
    What memories of his father.
    Between us, I would have liked a Billy Collins poem at the Inauguration.
    Elizabeth Alexanders was........fine.
    But Billy Collins seems always to have 'lift-off'

  44. My young friend Melissa and I are sitting in deck chairs on the balcony in straw hats sipping tea and discussing Britten’s operas.

  45. Your great grandfather was a handsome man. I love hats too. I would love to wear one everyday but I look horrible in hats. Kim

  46. For christmas this year my husband received his grandfathers "sunday hat". It's a beautiful deep green with a black band. It won't fit Todd however I hope to find a photo of Grandpa in the hat and display them both together in our home.
    I also loved Aretha's bow had. I think we should all go back to wearing hats!

  47. Aretha's hat was quite something. Our paper called it a diamond-decorated aeroplane propeller! I thought it was absolutely fabulous for Aretha - nobody else could have got away with wearing it.

  48. I think men are most handsome in hats, don't you? Fortunately for me, my husband still wears one! Love that old photo of your great-grandfather! What a treasure.

  49. Willow,

    As always, you have found the perfect marriage of subject, photo and poem; it's why we all keep coming back.
    Now, where's my hat...

  50. I love Mr Collins way with words and imagery ... IMO hats are worn only when its just so cold my ears cry

  51. you have that wonderful, most enjoyable creative spirt...most people here think I am silly, I wear a different hat, almost everyday, to me it's like footwear..thanks again

  52. And who can forget Men Without Hats, "Safety Dance" can dance!

    Kidding aside, my closet houses a few hats and I can't resist a hat rack at a department store. I easily lose 20 minutes trying on my favorites.

  53. So many lovely connections here: from your grandfather to Aretha (LOVED that jaunty bow) to Billy Collins' poignant poem. My tall, dignified grandfather had a perfectly bald head -- and he always wore a hat. Usually a Stetson.

    Baseball caps (about the only kind of "hat" still regularly worn) lack romance and charm. Have you seen The Changeling? Angelina wore the most beautiful cloches in it.

  54. "Someone to block your hat" I remember going into the dry cleaners and seeing a wall of hats left to be cleaned and ready to be picked up. A tip of the hat to you for this post. : )

  55. Was thrilled when Aretha appeared in her stunning hat!

  56. Here! Here! You know I love this tribute to the hat... and that great photo of your Great-Grandfather. I love hats like his and have been on the lookout for a perfect one like that. Drape it with a cape round your shoulders and there you have it!..Lovely...

  57. People behave differently in hats. I wear them often - especially when the grey roots start to show. I saw on the news that there is a site to go on where you can make a picture of yourself in Aretha's hat. Has anyone seen it?

  58. Now that would be fun! I'd love to try on her hat! Gotta go see if I can find it...

  59. Hats are a good way to keep my hair from being blown into my face and sticking to my lipstick.
    Thanks for popping by my newbie blog.

  60. What a wonderful poem--and yes, hats are great. You really have needed one the last week or so, even here in NC.

  61. ..just visited the International Center of Photography and enjoyed looking at all the wonderful hats worn in the Edward Steichen fashion photos from the 20's and 30's...amazing...lots of people wearing hats in NYC this week but none as stunning

  62. I think OTHER people look great in hats. Me? I can't pull it off.

  63. Billy Collins. Who else would compose such a lovely word monument?

  64. Willow -

    What a wonderful post. People have become rather casual in their dress, speech, and familiarity. The picture is a nice reminder of where we were, and hopefully to where we are going.

  65. My 18yr old Annie has always been passionate about hats. From childhood Easter bonnets, American Girl hats, goofy (and I do mean goofy) winter hats, and her grand collection of baseball caps. She even wore a knot hat for a Senior picture. She started a few fashion must haves with hats at her schools.
    I am glad she loves them and she looks so cute in them!

  66. Willow,
    That Grandpa was a handsome man. And I agree about hats.... why did we let that tradition go. Who knows; it might return, let's hope!
    The Bach

  67. Your grandfather and mine could be related! He wore a hat much similar and in fact I kept it. The version I have now is a much newer one. The original wore out long ago but I found replicas to replace it and never left the house without a hat of some kind. I wear it from time to time:) Thanks for the memories!

  68. Well, i don't know. They look amazing on my daughter and my wife but me?No, my head is to round for a c-section birth and too many sticking out curls to make anything work.

    I just saw your site translator. you always have the most interesting side bar pieces. good stuff.

  69. I love hats too ...I feel it gives a lot of weight to one's personality...though we dont wear it as often over here.
    The phrase 'the avenues of cities are broad rivers flowing with hat's too. And eventually followed by the line about reminds me the story of the Pied-piper :).

  70. Visiting from Dave King's -- love the poem!

    My husband wears a hat everywhere and I've picked up the habit from him. It keeps the sun and the rain off my face and hair. Much better solution than an umbrella.


Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)