There are too many people wearing not enough hats and not enough people wearing too many hats.
- Horse 562, Rollo, 7th Jun 2006¹.
A long time client came to our office the other day and among other things, he wanted our opinion on whether or not he looked good in his new trilby. In a perfectly non partisan, objective sample of two, my boss thought that he looked daft and I thought that he looked absolutely fine. As someone who is known for wearing hats, the discussion then turned around why I am able to look good in a hat while other people are not.
From the outset, I don't agree with the validity of the premise. I don't think that I have some magical ability to look good in a hat, or that wearing any given hat would suit me more than someone else. The fact is that I am of slight build and am rather noodley in appearance; I think that I look more like a collection of voles who have managed to acquire a man suit and are operating it like the most complex marionette that the world has ever seen. You could paint me green and let me loose downtown and everyone would think that I would do an excellent Kermit The Frog impression. Would you put Kermit The Frog in a hat? Possibly.
Come to think of it, I have seen Kermit The Frog in a trench-coat and hat² and he looked absolutely fine.
No, the reason why I think that other people think that I look good in a hat is because the expectation that I can wear a hat and pull off the look, already exists.
In the grand old days of yore, from about the 1950s and earlier, the proportion of the population that wore hats was far more than it is now. If you look at photographs of people waiting for trains and buses, the number of hats which have settled upon people's heads is astonishing. One could argue that in a world where everyone wore brown and everyone also wore hats, that it was boring but if I had a time travel device, I would very much like to go to the 1910s and spend a small fortune in a milliner's shop.
I have been watching episodes of the television series Perry Mason recently and something that I've noticed is that the characters in the show that wear hats, tend to be older. This particular series is from 1958, when there were still 48 stars on the United States flag, when cars had sprouted giant fins at the back, and where the credit card is seen as a pretty nifty sort of thing. The wearing of hats was already on its way out then and by the 1960s, was really only the domain of the fuddy-duddy class, of which I am a card carrying member. A direct parallel can be seen today with the wearing of ties; if I look around the train carriage which I am currently seated in, I am the sole person wearing a tie. Button down shirts and shirts which have various patterns of chequers and pin stripes are common but no ties.
If the tie is now seen as more or less redundant, then the wearing of hats must have gone through that same cultural shift 60 years ago. I imagine that this is partly the reason why I like wearing hats and ties so often. Obviously, I am a piece of chronoreal³ jetsom that has floated through time and have landed in the early part of the twenty-first century. I like wearing hats and ties because deep down, I know that I don't belong in this century and probably should be in some government offices in Whitehall, deciding whether or not we should do anything about Kaiser Bill and the news of that unfortunate chap whose head exploded while he was taking a car ride in Sarajevo. If I watch an episode of Perry Mason, or perhaps Poirot or Marple, or maybe Sherlock Holmes with Basil Rathbone, I don't look on those things as period dramas but as fashion options.
Of course it does help that I also like wearing waistcoats and greatcoats but that merely serves to define what sort of hat that I can get away with. A cheesecutter can be worn with practically anything but a bowler demands a little bit more forethought, unless you happen to be a street urchin in either London or New York City in the 1890s.
If it exists at all, which I'm not especially convinced of, the reason why I am able to pull off wearing a hat is because somehow through the act of bravado, I have convinced the world that I look good in a hat. Such an argument is directly out of the offices of the Redundancy Department of the Department of Redundancy. Likewise, the reason why my boss might have thought that our client looked daft in a hat was because he had never seen this person in a hat before. The solution therefore, if our client wants to convince the world that he looks good in a hat, is to start wearing hats. Eventually people's expectations will match up with his desire to be seen to look good in a hat.
²https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VL-NeEbJw28 - Still a more credible news source than CNN, which is "fake news".
³If that wasn't a word before... IT IS NOW!