Mad About Hats


Hats are a maddeningly complicated affair. There is so much speculation on why we wear them at all. Humans have covered heads since time immemorial. Initially, headwear offered protection from the elements and from injury, from falling rocks or flying meteors, for example. Later head coverings, which included everything from gem-encrusted tiaras to crowns of thorns became symbols of status, authority, and piety. In time, hats progressed to becoming not only a uniform, but an art form, as well.

In terms of fashion, hats have always served as a very essential and enhancing accessory since the onlooker’s attention is first drawn to the face. At one time, the wisdom of the day suggested that “if you want to get ahead and get noticed, then get a hat.” Indeed the word ‘ahead’ means just that: one head further forward.

Whenever, I publish a post on hats, I feel compelled to include these two very different philosophical views on the subject, since they prompt introspection, discussion and a bit of madness worthy of the topic.


The first view on the subject of hats comes from the novelist, Alison Lurie, who maintains that:

“Whatever is worn on the head
is a sign of the mind beneath it.”


A second view on hats is that of noted milliner, Stephen Jones, who, respectfully, disagrees:

“Whatever is worn
on the head
is a sign of what
a person
would like to be.

Hats are a
passport to
another world.”



Perhaps the best way to settle the dispute is to confer with a true connoisseur on the subject of hats: The indomitable master extraordinaire — the Mad Hatter!

After all, his ground-breaking works on the subject are legendary, emulated throughout history, and influential in their scope, affecting milliners young and old to this day. So thoroughly versed is Monsieur Hatter on his fanatical madness on all things “hat,” one might conclude he could easily assume either of the philosophical stances with complete aplomb.

Consider this exchange, for example, between he and Alice that suggests he follow Ms. Lurie’s theory that “whatever is worn on the head is a sign of the mind beneath it.”


Mad Hatter:
Do you know why they call me Hatter?

Because you wear a hat?

Mad Hatter:
No. Because I’m always there when
they pass the hat, so to speak.


Yet, in this alternate instance, Monsieur Hatter seems to subscribe to Stephen Jones’ idea that hats are passports to another world:


The Mad Hatter:
“There is a place.
Like no place on Earth.
A land full of wonder, mystery, and danger!
Some say to survive it:
You need to be as mad as a hatter.”

[Picks up his hat]

The Mad Hatter:
“Which luckily I am.”


For the reasonably enlightened, it is common knowledge that the logic of Hatters, mad and otherwise, can be a trifle confusing, so if you’d like a moment or two to think over your own view on the subject of hats, by all means, do so. Stephen Jones, himself, believes it’s always a good idea to not only consider your attitudes on hats, but your manner of wearing them as well. He strongly urges that one break in a new hat in the privacy of one’s own home or rabbit manze before embarking on the world. A hat, after all, requires proper dress rehearsal. Mr. Jones advises the following:


“Get used to it,
before you go out.
Then you will wear it
with nonchalance.”


Wise advice, indeed. Hence, in honor of Easter, a do-it-yourself, one-of-a-kind Easter bonnet that the Mad Hatter would be simply mad about. One that will define you as an uncontested “original.” Instructions Here. Be sure to practice frequently; it will be necessary, vitally so, in order to achieve achingly beautiful and perfectly executed nonchalance.


Photo:Designer: Jean Paul Gaultier, Spring/Summer 2010 Haute Couture, Paris
Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Alice in Wonderland, Costume Designer: Colleen Atwood




~ by eaesthete on 04/02/10.

9 Responses to “Mad About Hats”

  1. As a hat lover, hat collector and hat wearer, it’s all about what I call “Hattitude.” It’s not a question of whether the hat looks good on you; it’s having the chutzpah in today’s hatless world of simply putting one on and walking out the door. And then being prepared to be the only one at the wedding/funeral/picnic/cocktail party wearing a hat. My friends simply scan the crowd, locate the hat and they know they’ve found me.

  2. I absolutely love this Chamerops inspired hat! Thanks for sharing.

  3. After purchasing three whimsical vintage hats, I came home to find this on my news page. How wonderfully appropriate!

  4. I doff my hat to you, and my head says thanks for the top tips.
    I am not sure whether I even mentioned , I once photographed Mr Stephen Jones, who’d left his hat on public transport. It was indeed a sad day.

    In fact HIS why don’t you…for a recent Harpers (UK) was far more fun and Vreelandesque than all of the other try hards of recent years

    • JimJam,

      You never cease to amaze with a life file rich in anecdote. It surprises me not that you would happen upon Mrs. Jone’s hat. I suspect it wasn’t as conspicuous as
      that of the Mad Hatter’s. Did it look forlorn alone on the seat pining for a head to top?

      • Hello EA

        It was HE who stood in front of ME looking forlorn with no hat to top HIM, although I am quite sure the lucky finder of said headwear made their own day that little more outlandish. Shame it wasn’t me.

  5. Ahh Errant,
    I purchase hats whether they suit or not and in doing so, delight my daughter also. I was raised in a household where hats were an everyday item and I find great pleasure in wearing something that is, a modern day incongruity.
    As for the delightful Stephen Jones, I only wish I could visit upon his wonderful creations in Brisbane.


    A modern day incongruity, indeed! I applaud your panache.


  6. Thank you for your kind words, I shall think of them each time I don a hat.

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