Thursday, March 11, 2010


You already know I adore hats. I love furry winter hats the most,
but, I have been known to wear all kinds; straw, floppy, pointy.
(No, Pete, this is not my hair, it's a hat.) I just put my Zhivago hat
away for the winter, and felt a twinge of sadness. I'm afraid woolly
sock season will soon be ending, as well. Sigh.

Looking very dapper in his wool cap below, is my great grandfather,
Glenn. I don't remember him ever going out in public without a hat.
It just wasn't proper in his day. (I must have been born in the wrong
time frame, as far as hats are concerned.) So, in his honor, I can't let
this week's Theme Thursday go by without posting my favorite piece
of hat poetry by Billy Collins. I wish I had written it.

The Death of the Hat

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. Hi, willow. I had never seen this poem. Loved it. The last stanza "And now my father..." brings all the nostalgia built up in the poem home so strikingly.

  2. Agreeing with Lorenzo here, Willow. WOW. And I still like that photo of yours ;)

    Great imagery and powerful work, here.

  3. When I saw the theme, I wondered if you'd do your GGPa pic and poem...very nice. I didn't inherit that hat gene, but I did pass it down to my boys! :)

  4. Oh i just loved the last part.

  5. A hat of wind -- how beautiful.

    My grandfather wore a hat everyday -- I still have some of the hatboxes -- black with yellow coaches on the side. And my great grandmother was a milliner -- now there's a profession once so common but now all but vanished. I had hats from a local milliner named Revere McCloud -- whose hatboxes were of pink and silver.

    All gone now -- and the men in my family wear tractor caps ever day.

  6. I have heard that JFK's lack of a hat at his inaguration was the essential end of men wearing hats. But says this is clearly false, and has photos to prove JFK wore a hat most of the day.

    It's still a nice story, though. And a lovely poem.

  7. Dear Willow, This is so heartening and reassuring as I thought until now that I was the last woman in the world to wear a hat on and for every occasion. This is clearly not the case. I am the last but one.

    Your grandfather looks very young and striking in his hat. I certainly can remember in London, as a child, everyone working in the City wore a bowler hat. Not so any more. I have not seen one for years.

    I much enjoyed reading the poem which was, in fact new to me.

  8. J.G., interesting theory about JFK's influence on men's hats. He and Jackie were quite the trend setters in the day.

  9. I enjoy wearing hats.. in fact I wear a baseball hat almost every day. Much easier than actually fixing my hair for the day.

    I too wear a furry hat during the cold winter months. Very silly for people not to wear a hat when it's cold outdoors since our head is where we lose most of our body heat.

    My father ALWAYS wore a hat to church in the 50's and 60's. Then it become unfashionable. Too bad because it always made him look so dapper.

    Love a dapper looking man!

    The Blue Ridge Gal

  10. this is a new one on me as well...i really like it. you have the coolest hats as well...

  11. It's funny; in my grandparents' generation men wore hats, but my parents' generation abandoned them. Somebody or other opined that it was the more widespread ownership of automobiles and their low ceilings in the post-WWII world that drove hats away. But my generation picked them up again; I'm always seeing men in hats (not counting the hip-hop nation's propensity for caps) - besides me - out walking down the street.

    I'm sad that it's come to be time to retire the Dr. Zhivago hat, but looking forward to donning my own Panama soon enough. Love the Billy Collins poem!

  12. The handling of hats. As fashion goes they will have their time again, off of the stage, too. -J

  13. In the 50's we always wore a hat and gloves to go to town. It would not have been seemly without.
    I have quite a collection of hats as well but mostly these days I wear them to protect me from the sun.

  14. I've never been a hat person except for on the river. Or a ball cap when I'm working outside. But hats as a fashion accessory? Nope. Never.

  15. You could have written this for my Mother ,She once owned a Hat store

    I am still crying, you got into my soul,,

  16. I love the poem. And I still wear hats.

  17. I believe it was Jack Kennedy's influence that led to the demise of the hat in the U S.
    True, he wore a hat on inauguration day -- he had to -- but it was his day-to-day lack of a hat, and the loose, unconfined, spontaneous lifestyle that it represented that appealed to men of that day.

  18. gosh, it must be much milder where you are then that you can put your Zhivago hat away - it's still ever so cold here.

  19. I tip my hat to you, Willow. Wow and WOW. You are a REAL poet.

    Yes your grandfather looked dapper. They really knew how to wear hats back then.

    But - you know how to wear them now.

    Yes, woolly sock season is ending. I'm a winter person so it's kind of sad for me, too, though spring here is so incredible.

  20. love your post as always....I always wondered about men and hats - I know women hate the way they mess and smash their hair but that's not the case w/ men - and they look so good in hats !?! Go figure.

    I always loved my dad's black Persian lamb Russian hat.....sigh

  21. That hat poem is so wonderful, especially the ending.
    Yes, spring is approaching and Zhivago hats must be put away, but I am very ready for sun and blue skies after a very rainy CA winter.

  22. Enjoyed the poem. Long live the hat! My personal fav is my Aussie cattleman's breezer...keeps my head cool in summer, the sun out of my eyes and always looks great.

  23. A classic Billy Collins poem with a heart tugging ending! My father was so handsome and always wore a hat. Thanks for revisiting a fond memory.

  24. Oh such a delightful poem !
    I love your Dr. Zhivago hat, it suits you well....
    My grandma wore hats, as most English people do, she had hats in hatboxes, labeled and ready to go, for any occcasion.

  25. A lot went with the wearing of the hat, my grandfather always wore one. He was such a gentleman and would tip his hat to the ladies. I thought it sweet. And I'd love it if a man tipped his hat to me.
    Ahhh...the good old days!
    Glenn is quite handsome...and I love his style choice. Thanks for another great post. Always a pleasure stopping in.
    Happy spring!

  26. Like so many of the folks leaving comments today ... many memories of grandfathers and great-grandfathers in their hats. Grandmothers and great-grandmothers as well!

  27. That's right, hat racks everywhere. I am old enough to remember men and women wearing hats. Heck, when I was pre-teen I wore gloves and hats.

  28. Willow: The Dr. Z hat which crowns your head adds such a refined accent of the beautiful and lovely ever so demure Queen of the Willow Manor. Lucky with have a picture to hold close to our hearts during summer months of no Dr. Z hat.

    Miss men's hat, that uniformity of Madmen definition. I love the fedora! And the porkpie! People just look like they have so much more character; like stepping out of a film noir classic. Dad's hat always had the little green feather in the brim, with a very small yellow and darker green ribbon. They were lucky hats, and men would NEVER think of not taking them off when entering a church or other building. Always a special place at the top of the closet for "the hat".

    Think I said enough about hats for today. I am on a self-imposed word limit since my last spew was cruely long! "Sorry"!

  29. Mr O is a hat person and has always been so...he still owns the hats he has had since college days in the 60' this poem of Billy Collins has been one of our favorites too...I wish I wrote it too:)

    ...and I do remember my father wearing his fedora to work every day...

  30. It's sad we have lost hats, however, a dear friend just wore a vibrant pink hat to meet the queen.
    I do hope woolly sock season is over---but not here.

  31. Mary, did you say black Persian lamb Russian hat? I could just kick myself for passing up one I found a few years ago antiquing. When I had second thoughts and went back to purchase it, I was too late. Some other magpie had snatched it up!

  32. A hat of wind is so much better than the ubiquitous statement in ugly that is the "ball cap" -"trucker cap" whatever-Damn- those a blight! A fright of a blight!

  33. Reya, although I wish I had written this piece, I must give credit to Billy Collins!

  34. so much to love about this poem :)

  35. I guess the sadness now of putting the warm ones away is the comfort of bringing out the old; and the cycle continues...

    Great poem!

  36. Beautiful poem...makes me sad no one wears hats more.

  37. Willow, I cried a bit at your poem. Lovely.

  38. oh, a poem to hats - how divine! and only you, ladywillow, only you could present one so lavishly! for me, though, while i LOVE the look of hats on women and on men - absolutely love the look of it all - for me, i can have nothing standing between my hair and the sun and the wind and even the rain - just something about "feeling" that is not possible with a hat, of course - anyway, love your post - it's always an enchanting time coming by the manor!

  39. Oh, times gone by, and with them fashions, delicacies and proprieties.
    This poem says it all.

  40. I have always loved that poem. My dad and my grandfather and both of my grandmothers always wore hats, too. My dad used to look so distinguished and dressed to the nines every day going off to work. My grandfather used to take us for walks in the neighborhood and always had on a 3 piece suit! So strange how casual we've all become, isn't it!

  41. my 18 year old likes to wear a nice brimmed hat occasionally, especially when dressing up for his band and jazz concerts. He's got some fashion sense, but not always well coordinated.

  42. yeah I have a wool hat like your ancestor... I wear it backwards though.. kind of the Samuel L Jackson style... since I have been wearing the wool cap in the winters, my colds have been less frequent, but alas, not altogether.... home sick today.....

  43. There are not words for this poem. It is a treasure. Thank you for introducing it to me.

  44. You are sooooo ..Russian, in that fur hat, cutie!.. Nice tribute to Glen; he was a dandy dapper of a guy!
    I wish hats would come back into style.. :) The Bach

  45. Bach, let's just be trend setters, you and I?

  46. You gotta love Billy Collins.

    Willow, you wear many hats , but this one is adorable!
    Pretty soon I will have to store away my collection of personal favorite in hats.
    I so enjoyed this!

  47. I just love your Zhivago hat. Where did you find it? It's very revolutionary : )

  48. I have learned some helpful things from Billy C's work, though several of my more serious poet-friends would find that statement anathema! Because he is "popular" he is reviled in some poetic quarters. He's a good man and an always entertaining, so often poignant, poet.
    I saved a couple of my dad's hats after he died. He always wore a hat when he went out of the house.

  49. Willow..thanks for stopping by....

    you're a dear kind of you

    sending love,

  50. I keep finding hats (mostly wooly ski types) stashed all over this house.

    Today, when I was at Jane Austen House, one of the other docents asked me if Texans really DO wear cowboy hats. Well, my grandfather did. I never saw him go out of the house without a hat . . . although sometimes it was just a baseball cap. (He was as bald as a billiard ball. Do people still say that?)

    I do love that poem.

  51. Brilliant poem!

    I have to say that when I saw the theme was "HATS" this week I immediately thought of THIS photo of you Willow!! I just love it! You've such a look of mystery!

  52. We share a love of hats and I share your admiration for that poem. I remember the first hat I bought - from Dunn's in Covent Garden some thirty-five years ago - and the morning-suited assistant asking me whether "sir would like it steaming!"

  53. well, this was wonderful as usual.
    nostalgia....gone are the days of style and grace.

    as 'la petite stated', my grandma was a millinery model, before she owned her own hat shop.

    don't we all have interesting history's ?
    and it's YOUR own historical investigation that has made the rest of us think of their own.

    love xx

  54. Fashion changes everything.

    The stereotype London businessman all dressed the same. A uniform: black jacket, tailored pinstripe trousers, a black bowler hat and a tightly rolled umbrella.

    Not any more! Good thing too!!

  55. A hat of earth and a hat of wind. beautiful. You great grandfather was a handsome fellow.

  56. Wonderful poem! Perfect for this week's theme. (And you look divine in your hat!)

  57. willow--felt the chill of the winter as I read the last stanza of the poem--we lost something when we stopped wearing hats, hence the harsh world is perhaps more apparent...there was a certain civility in a man or lady wearing a hat not matter their station or class in life. Finally, I love your Dr Z hat as much as I love Georgia's hat --it is you and only you--look forward to seeing it next winter-c

  58. Congratulations, won the giveaway on my blog!! Be sure to send me an email with your mailing address so I can send you your goodies when they're all gathered up.

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  59. Susan, wow, thank you!! I'm a lucky duck! I'll email you my snail mail. :)

  60. Australia has become a hat wearing country once again because of the deterioration in the ozone layer and the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world.I don't like
    wearing hats..but I do.In Asia they have painted umbrellas which offer more protection than a hat.

  61. Nice nostalgic poem.
    I love hats and wear them often. I have a whole collection, there is something exhilarating about buying - and wearing - a new one...

  62. I haven't read ALL the comments; too many. So maybe someone's already mentioned this.

    In England there was a common expression 'if you want to get ahead, get a hat'. Says it all!

    Bisou, Cro.

  63. I'm a bit of a hat fan myself though I'm more likely to wear something ridiculous rather than stylish. I bave been known to participate in a fashion parade of "men who love to wear tea cosies". Perhaps I should dom a post of silly hats.
    The last line of the poem is beautiful.

  64. Pappy likes hats. Great poem. Pappy

  65. It was a sad day, on so many levels, when wearing hats went out of style!

  66. Hello Willow,

    Although it's true that hat wearing has declined, there are still some stylish souls who keep the side up. And younger folks at least wear beenies, baseball caps, knitted hats with ear flaps. Smaller trilby styles have also been trying to make a comeback. So there's hope yet. If everyone who mourns their passing began wearing hats again, they'd be back on top!

  67. Derrick, absolutely! Let's dust off those hats and put them ON!

  68. Willow,

    Great poem.

    I've got a friend, a milliener, who wants to bring back the days when ladies never left home without hat and gloves. Sounds lovely to me, but ... good luck! There goes the hair industry.

    Thanks for joining my book blog.

  69. Great poem, and the pics, too.

  70. A hat a day keeps the blues away.
    I love hats and have many kinds. The ones on my post were created by me as costume acessories.


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