After the first hat, the next two hats I bought were also simple rings with net. I have never worn them before.
These hats fulfilled my two primary hat requirements at the time:
This hat type is still pretty inexpensive and easy to find (in fact, I picked up a group of three recently for $20.00 at the online Goodwill), but they appeal to me beyond those qualifications. I love the tidiness of these hats—how with a fabric ring base, a net, and maybe some ribbon, they elevate an outfit.
As you will see, my hat collection is long on small hats and short on large picture hats, or over-the-top confections with giant bows and feathers. The day-to-day ladies’ hats of the 50's and 60's interest me more than the modern “Kentucky Derby” hats. Except perhaps in the South, those theatrical hats are designed for a special occasion (such as the Derby or a wedding). They are a shout that drowns out all else. I prefer hats that date from the days when no outfit was complete without a hat and gloves. They are harmony for the rest of the outfit.
These particular ring hats caught my eye because they had embellishments on the veils that interested me. The black hat has small black velvet flowers with green leaves.
The off-white hat has small fuzzy dots. I was also attracted by this hat’s bow in the back and pillbox shape. It’s like one of those false-front buildings you see in movie Westerns: from afar it looks like a pillbox, but if you see it from above you realize it’s a ring, not a full hat.
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A few years ago, I moved from the Bay Area. It was a hard move for me; I’d lived my whole life in the East Bay and the Peninsula. I had family there, lifelong friends. My husband and I moved to a town where we knew no one beyond our real estate agent. We endured some struggles getting through escrow (what do you mean, the showers only have lukewarm water? How could you repair the garage wall in such a way that the garage door won’t close?). After moving in, the first time it rained, our new roof leaked, and whenever we ran our microwave, a fuse blew.
All of these problems had easy fixes, but dealing with them made me feel even more uncertain that we had made the right change.
Within a week of my move, still up to our eyebrows in boxes, we showed up at the first rehearsal of a local community chorus. Unlike my last chorus, this one did not require an audition, just a voice check. I wasn’t nervous (or not very) when the director took me through scales to find out my range.
But one element was the same in both choruses: the friendliness of the group. The singers in this chorus were so uniformly welcoming that for the first time since the move, I felt like I had found my place, my people.
Recently, another alto, Lee, came up to me at rehearsal with a grocery bag. It contained a red hat that was too small for her. Would I be interested in it? Of course I would!
The hat worked well for winter trips to the farmer’s market, when my usual straw sun hat wouldn’t be warm enough or suited to potentially damp weather. So here I am, wearing the red floppy hat on a drizzly farmer’s market day.
I bought this gray beaded hat at an art fair many years ago. It was made by Jax Hatz San Francisco. Because it covered my ears and wouldn't blow off, I wore this hat a lot while driving my convertible. I also wore it after top-down driving, especially if I had worn a ball cap—this hat hid hat hair nicely.
As the hat has seemed to loosen up over the years, I have worn it less often. I also find myself driving top-down less than I used to. Maybe that’s the loosening up in me, a laziness that doesn’t want to take down and put up the manual top, a skittishness about getting a headache from too much sun.
In this picture, I’m posing before the Carrizo Plains wildflowers—we didn’t travel top down because the rutted dirt roads would challenge my low slung car (and the dust would coat the interior). I put the hat on for the shots, and then was glad of its warmth when the wind came up as the day went on. I remembered why I had always loved this hat: it’s comfortable, neutral yet slightly blingy, and cozy around the ears.
Here are some old pictures of my travels in this hat: In Monterey in 2001 and driving the coast in 2011:
Ann Hillesland writes fiction and nonfiction and collects hats. In this blog she vows to wear (not just model, but wear out of the house) every one of her hats, blogging about their histories and their meanings for her.