My father always wore a hat. Always.
He wore it when he left the house for the train station that would take him to his downtown law office. He wore it home again. When he and my mother went out on a Saturday night, a hat was on his head.
My father was like all the other dads I knew who seemed to have been born with gray, serious-looking hats as part of them. Hats were the rule, not the exception.
On the inside band of my father’s hat were his initials – HS – in gold. That imprint always seemed magical to me. It made my bespectacled dad seem terribly important.
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Only later did I learn that men’s hats needed initials because they all looked so much alike that it was one of the only surefire ways to claim one’s own. That knowledge took away a lot of the romance.
And speaking of romance, when I met the man who would become my husband, I vividly remember that he was wearing a serious hat. I was a senior in college – he was an “older man,” already a lawyer and way beyond my world of fraternity parties and finals.
“He was wearing a hat!” I told my best friend, Jane Lee, back then. And we agreed that the hat might just be a deal-breaker. Too stuffy. Too grown-up for the likes of us.
Luckily, I reconsidered. I recognized that maybe young lawyers all wore hats, and that his was actually – well, cool. Besides, this young lawyer looked distinguished in a way that most crew-cutted/crew-neck-sweatered college seniors didn’t.
I’m glad I tolerated that hat, because we’ve been together for – can it be? – 56 years.
But my husband, like most men, doesn’t wear a hat these days. And because of that dramatic shift in haberdashery habits, a whole industry has been somewhat sidelined.
Whatever happened to hat racks? And beautiful hatcheck girls, the kind you used to see in old movies where the setting was a supper club?
When I show my daughters and grandchildren pictures of my late father, they stare at a stranger in a hat. And they always notice it. “What’s that on his head?” grandson Sam once asked as he studied the man whose blazing blue eyes he has inherited. To him, a fedora looked like part of a weird costume. It was another startling reminder of how much the world has changed.
Of course, men’s hats are not the only casualties.
My daughters have never known a world of stockings that constantly fell down or those instruments of torture known as girdles. It took a while, but women finally realized they didn’t have to endure such things.
Jill, Amy and Nancy are not conversant with the huge hair rollers that my generation donned to get the perfect bend in our pageboy-fluff hairdos. Mind you, hair blowers that dried wet hair and added volume in a flash were not on the scene, so we were doomed to sleep at night with those confounded cylinders against our pillows.
And thankfully, my daughters and their daughters never donned “gym suits,” with hideous shirt tops and bloomer bottoms. Not even the most perfect, beautiful, magazine-ideal cheerleader looked anything but absurd in those little numbers.
So yes, fashions do change. And hats have gone the way of Model T’s and one-speed bicycles.
But given the fickle and capricious nature of what’s hot and what’s not, one just never knows.
My husband has stashed one of his old hats in the back of an upstairs closet. This is not a careless man, and he, too, has considered the possibility that hats may make a comeback.
If they do, he’ll be ready.