Saturday, August 06, 2005


Men Without Hats

The Daily Telegraph reviews Hatless Jack by Neil Steinberg, which despite a great deal of sniping by the reviewer, has some curious tidbits on the pre Kennedy era of required men's headgear:

We learn about the social meanings of the collapsible opera hat; have itemised for us the papers that Abraham Lincoln kept inside his stovepipe hat; are led into a genuinely fascinating economic history of hat-check concessions in New York restaurants and nightclubs in the 1920s; are reminded of the bizarre craze in the first days of air age for armchair travellers to dispatch their hats on world tours.... In the days of uniform hat-wearing, hatlessness represented a fallen state. Magwitch's bare head when Pip meets the convict in the graveyard at the beginning of Great Expectations adds to his aura of wretchedness. Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick has his hat stolen by a swooping sea hawk before the Pequod goes down. Lord Dunsany's pathetic protagonist of "The Lost Silk Hat" wails, "I can't be seen in the street like this."

The reviewer grouses about the sheer sartorial trainspotting involved and repetition of Steinberg's book, which for all I know may well be true. But frankly, this negatively reviewed history still sounds more interesting than most of the ones they give good reviews to.

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