Men and women have worn hats for hundreds of years. Pioneer women wore cloth bonnets and men wore leather or straw hats to keep the sun, rain and wind off of their heads as they traveled on horseback or in the front seats of wagons. When the automobile became a more popular means of transportation, hats were worn in the open roadsters for the same weather-related protection.
Hat factories in Norwalk and Danbury employed hundreds of workers, churning out men’s bowlers, top hats, fedoras, western style cowboy hats and women’s hats with feathers, ribbons, netting and fabric flowers.
Danbury was known as “Hat City.” Workers were happy to have steady employment in those hat factories until the daily exposure to mercury and other toxins made them too ill to work. The phrase “mad as a hatter” refers to the side effects of muscle tremors and neurological issues (the “Danbury shakes”) developed by the factory workers as a result of mercury poisoning.
I started wearing baseball caps to keep the sun off of my face while working in the garden and walking laps at the track. My cap collection included a Holstein-patterned cap, a Boar’s Head deli cap (amusing since I am a vegetarian) and a NY Yankees cap.
Several years ago, I flew down to visit my mother in Florida. I had forgotten to pack a hat. Mom’s fashion accessories of shoes, handbags, necklaces, and earrings began to include baseball caps in every color. Mom let me wear her new pink baseball cap. I liked it so much that Mom let me keep it for the flight home. (See my headshot)
Before I submitted my first column to the Katonah-Lewisboro Times, the editor said to include a head shot. I asked my friend, Pat, to take a photo of me wearing the pink baseball cap. Months later, I started writing feature articles for a quarterly magazine. That editor also asked me to include a head shot to accompany my articles. Of course, I sent her my pink baseball cap photo. The magazine editor responded, “We don’t want the same photo that you use for your newspaper column.”
Since the magazine is quarterly and my article was going to be published in the spring issue, I decided it would be fun to match a different hat to each season. I searched around in my closet and found a wide-brimmed straw hat. I tied a piece of pink fabric around as a hat band and asked a friend to take my photo. The straw hat photo looked cute so I used it again for the summer issue.
For the magazine’s fall issue, I wrote two articles. One article was on fall walking tours and the other article was on the many reasons I enjoy the fall season. But I did not have a fall hat for my head shot. Lizzy arrived at our Pound Ridge Library adult writing class the following week carrying hatboxes and tote bags filled with a variety of autumnal chapeaux. We had an impromptu fashion show after class. Problem solved.
For the winter issue, I already owned the perfect cold weather hat. Over Labor Day weekend, I asked my neighbor to take a few photos with my cell phone before we set out for our daily walk. There I was on a sunny, humid 80 degree morning wearing my red fleece winter hat and wool plaid scarf over a t-shirt. I posed in front of an evergreen tree and submitted that new winter-themed head shot along with my next article.
Kim Kovach has now added a maroon baseball cap and a jaunty tweed cap to her hat collection. www.kimkovachwrites.com