The Sociology (or Freudian Psychology) of Hats?

Over at the blog-that-must-not-be-named, the boys are at it again. This time it’s a short excerpt from a much longer piece that attempts to draw some sociological conclusions from the changes in hats during the 20th century:

I’ll just leave you with one sociological note. I love this. It’s James Laver’s sociology of hats. In the Victorian period, says Laver, men’s hats were very tall and very stiff, like John D. Rockefeller’s shiny silk toppers in all the old cartoons, while women were wearing kerchiefs, pieces of thin pale fabric that lay limply on top of the head with no superstructure to give them shape.

As you get to the early 1900s, instead of standing up erectly and boldly like the topper, men’s hats begin to shrink in size, stiffness, and assertion. The crowns shrivel to less than half the size of the topper’s—in some cases, as with the trilby, less than a third. They begin to be made of felt, with dents and creases and wrinkles that make it obvious just how soft and diffident they are. And today, a century later, men’s hats have been reduced to…oh yes, pieces of fabric that lay limply on the head with no superstructure to give them shape: baseball caps, gone-fishing caps, little-kid caps, snow caps with no pom-pom balls sewn on top, no balls at all…in other words, pre-puberty hats, while women’s hats, so-called garden party hats, become huge, with great brims of intimidating diameter and decorations gaudy as a peacock’s, which means—well, all I can say is that great theories have been induced from much less!

Okaaaay . . .  wow.

So if I understand it correctly, back when men were men in the Victorian times, men’s hats were tall and straight and manly. Then over time, men hats have become less impressive and somehow less masculine. The implication being that men’s hats reflecting the role of men in society, I guess.

As a student of history and someone who enjoys historical fashion, I decided to have a little fun with this. What follows is a brief study of hats across the centuries.

First, despite the author’s statement that Victorian women wore kerchiefs, Victorian ladies wore very impressive hats:

victorian hat

Victorian Women Hats Victorian lady with fabulous

Women even wore “top hats”

On the other hand, men also wore a variety of hat depending on the occasion:

In the 1600’s, women’s hats were impressive, and men’s hats were not so much:

Of course, since Elizabeth was reigning at the time, it might be argued that men’s hats expressed the angst men felt at being ruled by a woman.

Let’s move on to an earlier time. In the 1400’s women wore very impressive hats:

And what were the men wearing? Let’s just say it’s not as impressive:

Hmm. Maybe hats don’t reflect societal changes and gender roles. Maybe fashion has always been a bit silly. However, let’s consider one last thing.

Men here in Texas wear this kind of hat:

But then, so do the women:

6 thoughts on “The Sociology (or Freudian Psychology) of Hats?

  1. Richard Maddy says:

    Hilarious! I’m going to use this in my cultural anthropology class. Rick

    Richard E. Maddy, M.A., Ph.D. Adjunct Professor Anthropology BELS Division Lone Star College Montgomery

  2. Jeff Crippen says:

    So what kind of hats do the bros over at the un-named blog wear themselves now that they have had this revelation?

    Pointed, tall, and conical is what I suggest for them.

    • Valerie says:

      Rachel, thanks for all the entertaining pics and commentary. For the B Bros to post such ridiculous claims without any clear attempt at doing their homework is just LAZY, in my view. Let’s see a bit more effort, please. Also, nice one, Jeff!

  3. Kassandra says:

    It’s official. The Brothers B are now actually a parody of themselves. I actually went over there to make sure this wasn’t some elaborate two week April Fools’ joke.

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