Head Where the Hats Are

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The Zulu isicholo (left) and Haredi shtreimel (right) both signify marital status. © Cassiopeia Neely

We put hats in boxes, but the inverse is often true, too. Hats evoke a sense of place and time—they conceal the head, but they also reveal something about the wearer. A Stetson suggests a rugged lifestyle, just as a cloche conjures the image of a Roaring Twenties flapper. An Australian book I recently edited described a character in a “flat cap,” and based on context I knew this was a contemptible sartorial choice, but I couldn’t picture the hat without Google’s help. (Apparently they’re called driving caps in the United States.) I started to wonder, What other headwear don’t I know about?

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Wearing Ethnicity

Cultural mashup: Indonesian batik shirt meets Scottish tartan pants. Photo credit: Tumblr

Fashion mashup: batik and gingham. Though gingham is a type of plaid, it isn’t a Scottish pattern—it may have come from the Malay word genggang. Photo credit: Tumblr.

As the trees shed their leaves with the coming of autumn, so do we as people shed our summer clothes. If Target ads are any indication of fall trends, plaid is the pattern of the season. While tribal and Polynesian prints are considered “ethnic” summer motifs, Scottish tartans have been eagerly integrated into American fall style.

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