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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Dad’s hats


Dad generally wore a hat on leaving the house.  So did my grandfathers and my uncles.  They would no more have gone on a Sunday picnic without the hat than without a suit coat and tie.  The hat was part of the outfit.  Once when I was two or three I was on the corner of Euclid Avenue and 12th Street in Cleveland, waiting for the light to change to cross the street.  Dad had a load of parcels in his left arm, clutched to his chest in order to also keep hold of the brim of his fedora.  My hand was in his right hand.  As the light changed and Dad helped me step down off the curb the wind caught his hat and sailed it down the sidewalk.  Dad considered only briefly; we crossed the street.

There was a green fedora on the hook in our closet, too.  Dad wore it to irritate my mother on occasion, and he always wore it on St. Patrick’s day.  It didn’t scream green; it was a very subdued dusty cedar green.  I remember him going off to work in that hat, once a year, for a long time.  Then one day it no longer hung in the closet.  I doubt it blew away.

After he retired, Dad’s penchant for hats blossomed.  He experimented with caps.  He had a Sherlock Holmes deerstalker for a time, but it really didn’t suit him and it disappeared.  He had a Russian Cossack that he did wear all winter.  It was a beauty, dark, curly lambs’ wool.  I think it was left behind somewhere and lost.

Dads' hands down favorite hat was his French beret.   Unlike other hats that he removed on entering a building, greeting a friend or sitting down to a picnic, the beret never left his head. He found the headwear of his life late in life, but he logged more beret hours than any other, including the red wool French Canadian hat he wore every winter.

One summer, on a joint family vacation, probably rock hunting in North Carolina, we were touring some historic site, looking in old barns and cabins at the displays.  A small knot of tourists always seemed near us, chatting excitedly.  Finally two of them broke away, approached my parents and asked, “Excuse me for interrupting, but may I ask, are you Norman Rockwell.”  My dad was so pleased he led them on for a few seconds past my mother’s tolerance.  She said, “Now, John, tell them I’m not Mrs. Rockwell.”

The only picture I have of my dad with a hat, and it's his beret.


  1. Sounds like he had a good sense of humour.

  2. There are so many things that have disappeared from our parent's era. I remember by dad's spats. Today, they would seem like such a silly thing to bother with.

  3. I do like hats, pity that they have gone out of fashion for the most part.
    Jane x

  4. You are a wonderful story teller.

    Hats did play an important role in past times, I believe. Hats were very important to Dad.

  5. Funny...Hubby and I were walking to church today. He put on a baseball cap to keep the sun off his face, and we had a discussion on the way there about how men and hats.

  6. You have to have the right head for a beret, and your dad had it! I liked your mother's comment :)

  7. Yes! I can totally see the Norman Rockwell resemblance! Although I admit that when I first saw the photo before reading the post my initial thought was Jacques Coustau, but no - that was way off the mark. Pure headwear stereotyping that. I do admire a man that can rock a good hat, whatever it is, though - that's why when I saw the title of this post on Kathy G's blog roll I couldn't resist checking it out. Glad I did!

  8. My word, I had to Google to see what Norman Rockwell looked like - and I can see how those people were fooled!

  9. Oh this is lovely story. I'm sure it's an age thing because Im gradually amassing a collection of hats myself as I get older.

  10. My, he does look like Norman Rockwell! Gotta love a man who loves hats.

    I love my hats too.

    Great loving post.

  11. I love the beret on him and it is a treasure this image of him. My college kiddo, she wears large slouchy berets. BTW I want you to know I have tried to add you and many others to my blog roll but I am not being allowed to do so. Others are having the same issue but we cannot at this time fix it. Very aggravating. Hugs, O

  12. My dad loved hats, too. But not as much as my Husby! Dad always wore a stetson. But all of his brothers lost their hair (he's the youngest) at an early age and he decided it had something to do with wearing a hat all of the time. After that, he never wore one. Oddly enough, he was the only one who kept his hair!

    1. Oh, and your Dad does look like Norman Rockwell!!!