Tuesday, October 28, 2008

‘Hattitude’: Inside scoop on favorite hats

I was reading some comments online, and apparently several readers are as interested in the hat I wear in my columnist’s mug as in my weekly commentary.

A co-worker, Denise Rockenstein, gave me that hat. It happens to be one of my favorites. The flower-and-lace arrangement in the front compliments everything, from salwar kameez to tank top and capris.

Cynthia Parkhill in a plastic tiara
I won this tiara at the
Rogue Valley Fun Center
My co-worker, Mandy Feder, suggested that I write about my hats. Since Halloween is almost here, it seemed an appropriate time to share some of my favorites:

• This time of year, the stocking cap is a recurring favorite -- as essential to my wardrobe as cardigan and gloves. The intricacies of patterned knitting are seemingly limitless in creating beautiful wearable art.

I read a book called “Knitting for Peace” that profiles charitable knitting groups. Recipients range from newborn babes to U.S. troops overseas.

One of the projects is something called “chemo caps,” stocking caps made out of soft materials for cancer patients who have lost their hair. First item of business once I learn how to knit, is to make some stocking caps and maybe even donate a few.

• A few years ago, while my husband and I were visiting Ashland, Ore., we drove a few miles north to the Rogue Valley Fun Center. We spent a few fun hours playing the arcade games and won coupons to redeem for prizes at the arcade concession stand.

I was looking at the prizes, debating which one to get, when Jonathan gave me a nudge and pointed to a plastic tiara with “pearls” and set-in “stones.” After selecting the tiara, I asked him how he knew and he said every little girl wants a tiara.

Cynthia Parkhill in Tudor flat cap
Hand-made Tudor flat cap
• Tudor English flat caps look like throwing discs and could double as discs, I suppose, if stiffened with interfacing. In portraits contemporary to the era, they display panache and flair.

Hang around with reenactors and you pick up all sorts of trivia germane to the shared pastime: so I had known for years that the era’s sumptuary laws required everyone to wear a cap.

A short while ago, however, I learned the reason for the law. I was reading “Shakespeare: The World as Stage” by Bill Bryson and he said sumptuary laws’ restrictions were nearly always directed at imported fabrics. “For much the same reasons, there was for a time, a Statute of Caps, aimed at helping domestic cap makers through a spell of depression, which required people to wear caps instead of hats.”

So there you have it! A historic “Shop local” ordinance!

• The timeless classic I keep coming back to is my brown Greek fisherman’s cap. It’s made of wool with the classic embroidered ribbon across the front and on the peak.

I really like this juxtaposition of a cap style that’s traditionally “male” embellished with a detail that is arguably feminine. It’s a reminder that people can choose to transcend the limitations imposed by stereotypes.

So, for me, the ongoing dilemma isn’t whether or not to wear a hat. In the case of my columnist mug, it’s why I have to settle for just one.

Published Oct. 28, 2008 in the Lake County Record-Bee

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