I wonder when hats stopped being an essential item of clothing? Maybe it was during the Second World War, that conflict which changed society in many ways. Anyhow, now that summer is approaching, I’m sensibly wearing a hat to protect myself from the sun. It’s a baseball cap, which for some reason looks odd when I’m wearing a long skirt (I never said I had fashion sense). Here are some fictional hats which I particularly remember from books:
The Mad Hatter’s top hat. Famously, John Tenniel depicted this Alice in Wonderland character as wearing a large top hat with a label which reads: ‘in this style 10/6’. So the hatter is wearing a hat that’s for sale at ten shillings and sixpence (either this represents his trade… or maybe it’s just part of his madness?) It’s well-known that workers in the hatmaking industry were poisoned by mercury, leading to the expression ‘mad as a hatter’.
The Sorting Hat. This ancient and magical singing hat is used to sort Hogwarts students into houses. It does this by looking inside the students’ minds, assessing their qualities and suitability for Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin. Its appearance is that of a traditional wizard’s hat (i.e. tall and pointy with a wide brim) but particularly old and shabby. Plus, it can also speak through a rip near the brim. After being placed on the heads of students for many hundreds of years, this hat probably doesn’t smell too great.
The Quangle-Wangle’s Hat. One of Edward Lear’s eccentric poems, this exceedingly large hat belongs to a mysterious figure called the Quangle-Wangle, who’s a bit lonely at the top of a tree. Then lots of birds and animals suddenly turn up and make their homes on his hat. So everyone’s happy. I don’t know what the hat is made of, but to be one hundred and two feet wide and to support a zoo-full of creatures, it must be strong material indeed.
The Cat in the Hat’s tall white and red striped hat. I’m not sure if this is actually a top hat, as it looks like a more eccentric style with a wider top. Anyway, the story features an anthropomorphic cartoon cat who brightens the day of two bored children with his tricks, accompanied by Dr Seuss’ irresistible rhymes. The author himself was a hat lover (there isn’t a posh word for this, it seems) and had a collection of them.
Ant and Bee’s hats. This classic series of 1950s/60s children’s books by Angela Banner featured two hat-wearing insects. In the first and original book (Ant and Bee and the ABC), Ant has a hat that’s too big, while Bee’s hat is too small. A gust of wind blows their hats off. The insects look in boxes of lost property, and after going through all the letters of the alphabet, they finally find the hats being used as part of a weird machine. Now firm friends, Ant and Bee swap their hats (a bowler and possibly a bucket hat).
‘Hat’s all, folks’.