Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hats in Your Stories

1904 Hat Man

Because my last hat blog still gets hits each day, I'm doing another one. Hats are a popular topic. Many young people wear them today, so you can put your modern teenage protagonist in a fedora and a reader won't be surprised.

If you're writing a historical novel, do a bit of research, making sure a particular hat is in fashion and which gender is currently wearing it.

Also, ask yourself why your character wears his/her hat. Do they need protection from sun, rain, or the blows of falling fruit? Is the hat a symbol of rank or status? Is it improper to leave the house without a hat? Must they remove it indoors, at the table, or before urinating on cats? Does your character think they look cute, cool, or beautiful in their hat? Science Fiction and fantasy writers, you too can consider these types of questions as you world build.

Not only can a hat tell much about a character, it can be a good prop in a scene as a character takes it off, smoothes the brim, or pulls a an alien rabbit-like creature from it at parties.

Let's look at some hats, shall we?

A bowler (also called a derby or coke hat), was a popular hat in the Old West in America. That's "the hat that won the west," according to author Lucius Beebe. Surprise you? It suprised me!

A porkpie hat has a flat topped short crown with a indentation all the way around. It was originally a women's hat and gets its name from looking like a pork pie. In Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows we read about an unnamed wizard wearing one at the wedding reception. "Charlie, Hagrid, and a squat wizard in a purple porkpie hat were singing 'Odo the Hero' in a corner."
Buster Keaton in Porkpie hat
Boaters are similar to porkpie hats, but have no crease. One example of these are the straw ones worn by barber shop quartets. Those are mentioned in Harry Potter too. In the Philosopher's Stone it's said that Smelting boys wear them with their school uniforms.

Dudley Dursley in his boater hat

The fedora was invented in the 1880's and today there are variations on this hat style. For writing purposes, it's probably fine to simply put your character in a fedora and let the reader imagine what she or he will. If you like, give it a color or tell us if it's wide or short brimmed. Though some, particularly in the U.K., a short brimmed fedora is called a trilby.

Now some people consider a trilby to be a different hat entirely. It has a short brim, shorter crown than a fedora, and the brim turns up in the back.


And just for fun, because I found this picture, here's Harry Truman's panama hat. It's made of straw, leather, and fiber.
Panama Hat Made for Harry Truman


Shelley Sly said...

I think the only hats I've had in my stories have been cowboy hats, and I've never even worn a cowboy hat myself. My favorite hat worn by a character is the fedora Neal Caffrey wears on the TV show White Collar.

AnthonyJRapino said...

I;m partial to the porkpie hat myself. :-)

Joylene Butler said...

Loved learning about hats. Thanks, Amanda. I'm not sure which one i like best.

nissa_loves_cats said...

I was reading some 1881 newspapers in the historical society research center, and there was a little blurb about how John So-and-so came to town without a hat on, implying that was proof the guy had pawned his hat to buy liquor.

Another hat story was one about Bill So-and-So coming to town wearing a Democrat hat, and how could anyone do that since the late Civil War was All Their Fault.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Shelley~ I had a cowboy hat when I was a kid. It had a blue feather. I thought I was so cool. :)

Tony~ Right on!

Joylene~ So glad you enjoyed the hat post. It was fun to write!

Nissa~ Interesting stories! They inspire me to include some weird hat lore in my wip. :)

Kara Hartz said...

You and your hats.
I'd argue, but you make your point too well. Darnit.

Marian Allen said...

For some reason, my husband gets a hat catalog a couple of times a year. I always cabbage onto it so I can have hats for my characters, if I want them.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Kara~ My question for you is, what sort of hats will your gorillas and aliens wear?

Marian~ Wow, I want a hat catalog. That would be so helpful!

Marian Allen said...

Just go here: Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Medeia Sharif said...

I love the look of hats, but I haven't incorporated them into my stories.

I'm partial to bowlers.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Medeia~ Bowlers are awesome! Maybe Almira will wear one in your sequel. ;)

Connie Arnold said...

Thanks for sharing about the different hats. I've been wearing hats a lot in the last few years since I've become photosensitive. It's a nice bonus that I often get compliments on my hats or how good I look in them!

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Connie~ That's great something positive has come out of your photosensitivity. Hats! That reminds me how of something I didn't even touch on in my post- that sometimes hats are necessary for medical or even religious reasons.

Shelley HW said...

Oh hats. I wish i looked less like a dork in them. Great post!

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Thanks Shelley.
I'm sure you look great a hat! :)

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