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Thirty-Eighth Sort

How come hats aren't popular anymore?

by Dear Jon
April 5, 2001

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Thirty-Eighth Sort_Dear Jon-How come hats aren't popular anymore? ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON

Dear Jon,
How come hats aren't popular anymore, like they were in the '40's and '50's? Also, how come it's ok to call actress Judi Dench a dame, but not other women?
A Hat Guy

Dear Hat Guy,
I am so glad that this is an "actual letter," because it sounds a lot like a letter I would have written to myself. So whoever you are, you're cool.

You are pondering questions that have no real answers, unless, of course, you expect me to look anything up. But since I don't do that, let me speculate. First of all, "hats" and "hair" do not go well together. Guys in the 1960's decided to let their hair grow, and they could no longer fit their hair underneath the hats their Dads wore. When hairstyles shortened again, guys were glopping mousse and hairspray and gel, and didn't want hats to crush their 'do.

Hats have only made a comeback among the retro-crowds, and are considered survival gear among golfers in the desert southwest. Jake and Elwood Blues did a lot for the hat scene in my opinion, and so did Arnold Palmer, but these are definitely niche fashions. The floppy Fedora became popular with Indiana Jones, but again, among retro-fitting fans of days gone by.

As far as "dames" go, in certain circles isolated from us low-brow politically neurotic Yankees, this is a term of respect and endearment for older, established women of esteem. It is derived from "Madame," from the same root as the French "Mademoiselle," which are terms of respect for mature women. Maybe in the United States, there really is "nothing like a dame," to quote Rogers and Hammerstein. Compare Goldie Hawn with Judi Dench and you get the idea.

Of course, as you know, even "dames" are going to be sensitive to this term if you address them as such too soon. Judi Dench is obviously older. Julie Andrews, however, probably as old as Judi Dench, is not trying to project that image. It would be a mistake to refer to "Dame Julie Andrews." You never want to overestimate a woman's age.

As far as that goes, it's probably safest to just not say anything at all to women, who, if disposed to find you in the wrong, will anyway no matter with what terms of respect you address them. Of course, this strategy doesn't work either, because then men get accused of never talking, which, according to feminine logic, means we don't listen either. Whatever. Rule of thumb: When in America, never tell a dame she's a dame unless you have Harassment Insurance and can comfortably settle out of court.

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