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Hats and Human Dignity

Submitted by on January 13, 2011 – 11:04 pm 4 Comments

Rummaging through the photos of the Library of Congress is a thrilling experience for anyone who loves learning about American history and culture. The images capture everything from events that defined a community to moments in national history to the mundane of everyday living down through the generations.

Hats add dignity to everybody, no matter how down and out.

There was a time when everyone wore a hat, even the down and out, as it was a sign they hadn't completely lost their dignity.

This photo of spectators at a fire in Washington D.C. in November 1937 is especially engaging. The emotions of the witnesses are raw, and their humanity transcends the decades. Also impressive is the composition of the crowd. A man who appears to be homeless is next to a man smoking a pipe and apparently much better off. Each seems equally concerned about the fire.

Also fascinating in this photo is the hat as a status symbol, especially in that era. Even during the Great Depression, no dignified man would be seen without a hat. In this photo the apparently wealthy man has a nice center crease fedora, much like our Stetson Selby. However, even the seemingly homeless man appears to hold on to his dignity by still wearing a crumpled and battered fedora, which probably looked more like our Dynafelt Pinch or Dobbs Dayton in its younger days.

The man in the suit and tie behind them, though a little blurry in the depth of field, clearly has a different personality and hat to match. His is a teardrop crown fedora similar to a Stetson Downs, Biltmore Stewart or Dynafelt Bogart. Wait, how can we tell? The C-crown fedora often has a smaller gap between the pinches as the crown sweeps in a little more circular pattern when compared with a more straight-back look of a center-dent crown like the battered fedora of the man in the front of the photo.

As we do with movies, we’ll keep bringing you more of these classic photos to highlight the hats of every era. Stay tuned.

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