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The All-Purpose Hat

Freda Isaksen

The calendar informs us that it’s spring although we can sense that there’s a change in the atmosphere that indicates that it’s time to dress up in our finery and celebrate the new season, when spring flowers will be prolific after the recent rainfalls.

There is gaiety visible amongst the populace so how can they express it? One way is for the women to bring out their wide-brimmed hats that have been set aside year after year. Just remove the old trim and decorate them anew with colorful scarves, bright blooming flowers, Easter bunnies, many-hued birds with spreading wings, never too many to adorn the spring bonnets.

“Mummy can I have a spring bonnet?” exclaims the little daughter. “I want it to match my new spring outfit.” Little brother looks on in disdain at the frivolity but will not be neglected as he asks, “Can I get a baseball cap with my team’s name on it?” Everyone wants to participate, spring is in the air!

Be sure to secure your hat well with a colorful ribbon or a hat pin as the seasonal wind can blow it away. Even the pin could be an interesting adornment with maybe a little fledgling bird perched on its end.

All of this springtime joy will pass in the coming weeks as we watch the bright sunshine and think, “Is the sun going to mark my sensitive skin?” So the gay bonnets are set aside until another spring and we search through our closets for practical sun-blocking head gear. Fashion and color is not important, we need a wide brim that the sun’s rays cannot penetrate. Now the children are not trying to emulate the adults, they just want to run and play unfettered by adornments.

Before long another season approaches when the green leaves of summer turn brown and orange and red then fall from the trees. It’s autumn so the female of the household thinks of fashion as she looks forward to social engagements. Now the hats she will wear should be adorned with somber colors to match the muted tones of the season and the latest styles must be considered in order to impress her peers.

Very soon these newly acquired hats will also be set aside as the temperature changes and preparations must be made for winter weather. Now it is important that the children’s comfort and well-being be of prime importance, so the woolen caps and the waterproof rain hats will be found because the first consideration is practicality for the cold days ahead. Some bright color will add cheer to dull days so don’t hesitate to add shades of red and green, blue and purple to the fabrics. Both boys and girls will welcome the bright hues.

In years past certain hats were considered the mark of a gentleman. A shiny black silk top hat proclaimed the wearer to belong to the upper class. A black bowler hat or a brown trilby would usually indicate the man was of the middle class. The common beaked cap would only be worn by the working class. A straw boater was considered sporty for summer. A man or a woman was seldom seen out of doors with the head uncovered.

Then and even today street musicians have a traditional use for a hat. A passer-by listens to their performance then throws money into an upturned hat placed on the ground for a donation, it’s their method of subsistence while providing entertainment for the onlookers. The hat is also a receptacle for receiving coins thrown to the unfortunate and often handicapped peddler and the homeless.

The performing magician can give us the illusion that anything of any shape or form can be pulled from his hat. Birds will fly out of a hat that the performer has demonstrated to his audience is completely empty. “Ladies and gentlemen, you can see I have nothing up my sleeve,” he assures the onlookers. He will use his hat for every purpose other than a head covering, and that’s entertainment that is enjoyed by all ages.

The circus clown wears a zany hat on top of his mop of unruly hair. It delights the onlookers.

Many of us have pulled a marked piece of paper out of a hat and been lucky enough to win a prize or disappointed that the hat produced nothing for us.

Every evening as we hear the well-known news commentator Pat Morrison deliver her report, we admire her fashionable attire with the ever-present matching and glamorous hat and we all remember the outrageous head attire of Luella Parsons the famous female film critic.

There is another way to make a hat useful and bring a smile to a child’s face. Unfortunately there are many ailing children, some of them confined to a hospital and lacking their own hair. There are some organizations that welcome willing and able hands to make hats to be given to these youngsters. Besides being practical they add to the patients’ appearance, are fun to wear and greatly appreciated by the caring staff, the parents and the children. The reward is the happy face of the child who wears the hat.


Copyright Freda Isaksen 1986–2006. Permission to reuse for non-commercial purposes is granted, provided that the text is unaltered and the original source is acknowledged. For more information, contact isaksen at math.wayne.edu.

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