Saturday, September 15, 2012

Reflecting on hats

click photo to enlarge
It's not only fashions in hats that come and go, hats themselves fall in and out of favour. When I was a callow youth the trilby and other styles of men's hats with brims were on the way out. Flat caps were following a similar course to near extinction, being favoured by older folk only. One hat that was worn by a few men, and which is rarely seen as daily wear now, was the beret. Some men had got into the habit of wearing one during the war, and continued (without the badge) when they returned to "civvy street". Women wore hats on more formal occasions, but not too often as everyday wear. However, the headscarf was common, though like the men's hats it was in decline. Children wore the hats that their parents told them to wear: caps and balaclavas were common for boys, and bonnets for small girls. However, once the 1960s appeared few self-respecting teenagers wore anything on their heads except their flowing locks that grew in length as the decade progressed.

Consequently, for someone of my age it has been interesting to see which hats continued through the period of relative drought that the 1960s heralded, and how hats then made a comeback to the point where many teenagers have lost the habit of removing it when going indoors. Older men have always favoured hats, especially if their hair disappeared or thinned to the point where the summer sun would burn the top of their head. So, Panama hats never disappeared, and in Britain remained as sure a sign of summer as the thwack of leather on willow (cricket for the unenlightened) or the unveiling of tattoos on the midriffs of young women. But it's the rise of the American-style baseball cap that is the real surprise for me, given that baseball has about as much exposure in Britain as cricket has in the U.S. However, I suppose that these caps have been adopted world-wide as both headwear and a medium of advertising, so it's probably inevitable that they should fetch up on our shores too.

The other week I attended the Steam Threshing weekend at Bicker in Lincolnshire. This event, a small country fair that raises funds for the local church, features a variety of attractions but especially traction engines and an old-style threshing machine. As I made my first circuit of the field looking for photographs I came upon this group of men sitting on straw bales watching a traction engine. They were wearing a fine collection of hats - two Panamas, a baseball cap and a fisherman's hat (also, I believe, called a bucket hat, a "beanie"). They seemed perfect for one of my rare forays into people photography. Incidentally, I went to this event a few years ago and photographed a quite different collection of hats - see here.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 271mm
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/1260 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On