A look at the past: bygone hat fashions

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Look at any movie with a 1930s, ’40s or ’50s setting, and you’re almost sure to see a couple of things: everybody smokes, and all the men will be wearing hats. People wore hats in those days, men and women.

We’ll get to the women in a moment, but let’s take men first. Take Daddy, for example. If he went outside, he’d have on his hat – a straw sunhat if working in the field or a Fedora-type if he was going to town or church or a singing, or out to sell insurance.

Fedora: according to my American Heritage Dictionary it is a soft felt hat with a brim that can be turned up or down. Fedoras could also be creased on top in different ways. Daddy had a redhead’s complexion, so he was very careful about being out in the sun. His hat was always on his head.

My brother was the same way. He wore a safari-type helmet. I wore a wide-brimmed straw sunhat to the field.

Those Fedoras were all pretty much alike, slightly different shades of gray, and they never wore out. Daddy had two or three from the time I can remember, and I don’t remember him ever buying a new one.

I remember when stores like Hall’s and Duke’s and Fleischer’s and Hollingsworth, Norman and Stern (these were all old Opelika stores for you latecomers) would have a whole rack of hats. Men just wore them, and I don’t understand exactly when or why they stopped.

Western movie stars, of course, wore them. They wouldn’t even think of riding down the canyon to see the desert sun go down without a Stetson 10-gallon hat firmly attached.

Come to think of it, Buck Jones or Johnny Mack Brown could jump off that 20-foot-high balcony onto that hard leather seat of the saddle on his smart horse without losing his hat. Maybe some other things, but not his hat.

In the Army, I had that soft little cap. It has a name among soldiers, but I won’t go into that here. Anyway, that’s what you stuck on your heard for dress purposes. A fatigue cap was normal at other times.

Now, women’s hats. That’s a whole new story. I kind of miss men’s hats … but not women’s. Lord, no. I’m convinced that the people who design women’s hats and shoes hate women with a passion. It was a great moment when women stopped wearing hats to church and other gatherings. Thank you!

To tell the truth, I wouldn’t mind if men’s hats came back in style. I could cover up this wild mass of hair that I try to tame with generous doses of Vitalis and Lucky Tiger and Wildroot Creme Oil.

I could just slap on a Fedora, get the brim adjusted to a rather dashing angle and be on my way.

Bob Sanders is a veteran local radio personality, columnist, author and raconteur of note. He can be reached at bobbypsanders@netscape.com

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