Friday, 19 February 2016

If You Want to Get Ahead...

For most of the 20th century, middle class men and women wore hats out of doors. Going bare-headed meant you were very Bohemian, or too poor to afford a hat. Working class men wore caps; working class women wore shawls over their heads. During the war and after, women wore headscarves tied under the chin.

In the 1960s, change was in the air and the middle classes got the idea that society was now classless: Cockneys became celebrity photographers, and young people copied the way they spoke. Somehow ditching hats was part of this new egalitarianism. If you had no hat, you couldn’t raise it or tip it to anybody. And forget about being respectable!

Oddly, at the same time broad-brimmed hats (with a long colourful scarf around the crown) became a fashion item. These quickly ossified into a respectable hat for the kind of lady who had never shed the headgear - in beetle green, orange or chocolate.

In the 70s women wore woolly cloche hats in cold weather, or safari hats (based on the solar topee); in the 80s they wore saucer hats at weddings and the races, but universal hat-wearing was over.

For several decades, people went mainly bare-headed. They got wet in the rain, and cold in winter, their hairstyles were ruined and the sun got into their eyes. By the noughties, the only hat options for men (on sale at roadside stalls or in newsagents and hardly a fashion item) were baseball caps (unwearable by the middle classes because American) or ski hats (what the Americans call beanies).

Men have more hat opportunities now. In the 60s it was quite cool to tie a headscarf at the back of the neck, but sadly headscarves of any kind have never returned.

More clothes here.

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