Blog: Hats

Burt Ross

It’s strange how we all come away with a different perspective after sharing the identical experience. A thousand people can read a book or watch a movie, and we remember different things based on our own life’s experience. 

Back in September I watched a well done PBS documentary on William Randolph Hearst. Most people who watched this two part series might reflect on how much money he earned, the majestic, towering San Simeon he built, how lonely he was at the end of his life, the struggle between his estranged wife and his alcoholic mistress, his reactionary views especially during World War II, and so on.  But not me.  I came away from these many hours of excellent television thinking about hats. Yes, you heard me correctly, hats!

There was one scene which especially struck me. In 1936, with Americans still struggling from the depression, thousands of workers in San Francisco protested and rioted. They bashed windows and destroyed property. For those of  you who believe smashing windows and destroying property is a new phenomenon, read some American history. Remarkably, these rioters were all wearing jackets and proper hats.  I am not sure whether men were even allowed out of the house without a hat, be it a homburg, fedora or derby. 

And so there before me on the tv screen were thousands of rioters in their Sunday best. Not a single man went hatless, and I am not talking about caps. This must have been the heyday for hat makers, but somewhere along the line, proper clothing went out with a whole lot of other things. I wouldn’t wear a hat to a wedding, if my life were on the line. But there these men were smashing away but dressed most properly. 

Today’s rioters have no respect at all. They feel no need to dress up when they destroy property. When they bash a window, they wear t-shirts and jeans, and occasionally a cap, but never a proper hat. What is this world coming to?