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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Write in the HISTORICAL genre (05/03/07)

TITLE: It's Old Hat
By Colin Swann


A letter from Jane Austen, to her sister Cassandra, dated May 12th, 1801 stated her reason for buying a “sprig” to decorate her sister’s hat. She wrote, “I cannot help thinking that it is more natural to have flowers grow out of the head than fruit.” The hats of ladies had become very largely a fashion item at that time.

Fancy headwear, during the Regency, consisted of hats decorated with ribbons, feathers, flowers and fruit. Bonnets were fashionable too – they came in all shapes and sizes and were made from materials ranging from straw to silk, ornately decorated and some even lined in velvet.

However, hats have been worn since time immemorial and it is likely that fur hoods were repelling cold some tens of thousands of years ago, with people of that time having no thought of fashion at all.

As time passed by, headgear changed as men and women discovered further reasons for wearing head coverings.

By the 1900s hats had taken on a more stylish mode, but since the 1960s their popularity has decreased. However, they still have their uses and people these days wear hats for protection and communication, as well as fashion.

It is amusing to watch the competition of the hat fashion parade that takes place between the bride and groom’s mums at their children’s wedding. Or, to observe the ridiculous decorative headwear ladies have on as they strut around at the English Derby horse race at Epsom.

Derby hats started out with drab men wearing them to attend the race but their partners soon threw their hats in the ring – went one better and flowered things up a bit!

Decorative Easter bonnets are still used as girlish head adornments to celebrate a festive occasion, as are party hats at Christmas and birthdays. Wearing them is a clear indication that people are entering into the spirit of things.

Hats can be fun things and comedians usually wear them as props. How funny the classic quick hat change whilst at the same time relating a fun-rhyme story of different characters. Clowns, also, have always worn ridiculous hats to express fun and comedy in their efforts to make people laugh.

There is also a sombre side to their use – that is, one of protection during armed combat and thousands have avoided serious injury by wearing their helmets during wars. Of necessity, during warfare, these head shields have been used as improvised eating and cooking utensils and even as chamber pots!

Today, many wear helmets with just safety in mind: horse riders wear them to avert serious injury when falling off the horse and motor cyclists have to wear them by law in case of an accident. Fire fighters, police and construction workers all use some type of head protection as part of their uniform or employment.

Headgear varies widely according to people’s requirements, customs and their country’s climate. Russians wear furry hats to keep out the intense cold of their winters. Conversely, Mexicans wear wide brimmed sombreros as sunshades. The French wear the beret maybe to make it do for a paint palette.

There are many hat adages that convey different meanings of one kind or another. To tilt one’s hat is to portray a pleasant hello. A sportsperson can notch up a hat trick in scores.
When we fall on hard times and ask for help, then we have to go with cap in hand; this is similar to sending round the hat when soliciting contributions. To steal from the kitty is bad hat and a boaster or a bluffer are those who talk through their hats.

As you can see, hats will always be needed for one reason or another, so lets us take our hats off to a hat full of old hat and say, “Long may they be enthroned on our crowns.”

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Member Comments
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Donna Powers 05/11/07
Wow! who knew that there are so many interesting facts about hats. This reads like an encyclopedia; very rich in detail. You've certainly done your research!
Dolores Stohler05/11/07
I enjoyed this piece about hats. Your title was a good one. I've always liked hats but, because I have a small head, have difficulty finding one to fit. Princess Diana wore some lovely hats and your queen does too.