We just 'hat' to do this!

Published Apr 16, 2017, 3:56 am IST
Updated Apr 16, 2017, 3:56 am IST
The quintessential hat has travelled through time with an exhaustive repertoire.
The quintessential hat has travelled through time with such an exhaustive repertoire, it’s only right we tip ours to its universality... and in  some cases, it’s uncanny wit!
 The quintessential hat has travelled through time with such an exhaustive repertoire, it’s only right we tip ours to its universality... and in some cases, it’s uncanny wit!

“The hats of a man may be many
In the course of a varied career,
And some have been worth not a penny
And some have been devilish dear…”

“The Bowler and the wide-awake,
The Topper and the Straw,
The Homburg and the Helmet
May be hats without a flaw...”


— William Henry Ogilvie

These are excerpts from two poems written in the late 1800s by the same poet on a subject, that one can only assume, consumed a fair bit of his mind space — the quintessential hat! The earliest known origins of donning headgear, dates as far back as 15,000 years ago. Seen in the rock drawings from a cave at Lussac-les-Châteaux in central France. We’ve been tipping our hats ever since! While “the hat” has been inspiring poets and rock musicians for centuries, it has gone through its own evolution. Here are a bunch of crazy “hat facts” that you may not have known:


Conversations with a ‘Mad hatter’

While we’re inclined to follow Lewis Carroll down a rabbit hole, this phrase has got little or nothing to do with Alice in Wonderland. The term dates back to the 18th century, when factories used mercury in the production of felt, a common material for making all types of hats. Factory workers exposed too frequently to the metal developed mercury poisoning, which induced a type of dementia, or “mad hatter.” This certainly puts a spin on Lewis Carroll’s inspiration in defining his famous character. Authors usually find inspiration from reality as they see it. Could this have been the real occupation of the “mad hatter” in the real world?


What’s an Englishman without his hat?

The London taxi or the black cab or the “hack” as it’s lovingly referred to, stands taller than most other automobiles so as to accommodate a gentleman’s hat… No kidding!

Right away chef!

You slave your way through the smokey confines of a kitchen, chopping, dicing, prepping, serving under the almighty chef. Like in any hierarchy, you’ve gotta earn your stripes. In the kitchen, you’ve gotta earn you chef’s hat. The tall chef’s hat or “toque blanche” has exactly 100 pleats to connote the 100 ways to make an egg! These hats were invented by cuisine inventors Marie-Antoine Careme and Auguste Escoffier as a method of establishing hierarchy in the kitchen. Fried, poached, boiled, scrambled, omlette… I’m far away from earning my stripes!


Tailor of Panama — not quite!

The Panama Hat was actually made in Equador not Panama. Made famous by the workers while building the Panama Canal, these hats were to protect the workers from the sun. Hand-woven from a plant called “Toquilla,” it had very practical uses within the worker classes before it became the fashion symbol equated with the Caribbean lifestyle.

Not the sharpest tool in the shed!

The “dunce hat” is a sign of stupidity! One can always picture a class room with a matronly “madam” using her regimental style of disciplining the children to aspire to higher standards of knowledge. Her choicest punishment is to make an erring child sit in the corner sporting a dunce hat! The origin you ask? “Students of the medieval theologian John Duns Scotus (1265-1308) were the first to wear dunce’s caps. The idea was the cap would funnel God’s wisdom into the head. Unfortunately the followers of Duns Scotus aka ‘the subtle doctor’ gained a reputation for pointlessly abstract arguments about the existence of God and the “thingliness” of things and by the late 16th century, their headgear had become associated with foolishness.” Who would have thunk it, right? Considered to be one of the three most important philosopher-theologians of the High middle-ages is now and forever a symbol of stupidity. The hat quite literally named after him!


The Fedora

Sported by the “dedicated followers of fashion,” the up market classy metrosexual; the Fedora is a kind of hat that’s timeless. Made famous by the likes of Sinatra and the golden ages of the 50s to being overused in recent times, the Fedora has a history of is own. The Fedora originated in 1887 in a popular play where actress Sarah Bernhardt played the Russian princess Fedora Romanoff. Initially, the Fedora was made by the milliners, for women only. The hatters followed soon and the men were all dapper sporting their Fedoras! With all this hatting of hats, I’ve got the tune from Joe Cocker stuck in my head. Till next time, keep it sharp!


— A fashion aficionado, film maker, stylist, the writer indulges in the latest fashion, and is the founder of Brinkworks, a multi-disciplinary production house focusing on interactive content and innovations in media.