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World War II and the future / Hat of the Day – 1930s rust felt hat

March 25, 2010

My husband and I watched the Smithsonian HD Channel last night and were mesmerized by their show “Apocalypse” about WWII.  It was chock full of facts that neither of us recall learning in school, despite being history buffs.  They had hours of footage that we’d never seen, including lots of footage of civilians, and naturally the milliner in me couldn’t help but notice all the headwear (or lack of it).

Here are a few of my observations:

I noticed the womens’ elaborate hairstyles which frequently replaced headwear entirely.  I noticed the surprising lack of snood-wearing, surprising because I know the snood was extremely popular, at least here in the United States.  Certainly it could be that the footage they were showing focused on the fighting, but perhaps women in the European theater didn’t have time to bother with any headwear other than scarves.  I’m not claiming to know all the answers, nor have I had time to investigate properly, but these questions intrigue me.

I also noticed the overwhelming use of millinery for the military.  Clearly, headwear has ancient roots in the military – first, for head protection, but also for identification and inspiring nationalistic loyalty.  The sea of hats in the WWII footage was both beautiful and haunting.  I can’t separate my feelings of awe at the amazing designs from my sadness at how those designs were used.  Until last night, I had never thought about which milliner made the hats that Hitler and Mussolini wore, but clearly a milliner made them.

Watching the show last night, I was touched by the realization that my generation in America has never experienced what it’s like to have our home soil truly invaded.  While the 9-11 attacks were technically an invasion, it’s not the same as a war being fought on our own turf.  America hasn’t felt that since our Civil War in the 19th Century.  My generation has never seen our neighborhoods blown to bits for weeks at a time.  We’ve never become homeless in an instant on a widescale basis like those on the front lines.  We’ve never had to take refuge in a neighbor’s home against foreign invaders, much less take refuge from our own neighbors who have turned on us as happened so recently in Rwanda and is happening again in Darfur.

War is extremely complex and to say that ones nationality is a good predictor of their political leanings is naive.  That’s why I think it’s so important that we see war from the human side, from the personal side, from our neighbors’ perspective and their neighbors’ perspective.  Because if we dehumanize people we are likely to demonize them when it comes in handy.

Right now the world scene isn’t healthy.  Economies are collapsing around us and we’re all left to wonder what the next few years will bring.  It is a time ripe for fanatics of all walks to stir up propaganda benefiting their agendas rather than uniting people for the common good.  Let’s all choose every day to connect with others, especially those whom we may not understand.  Every one of us has special skills and can contribute to a healthier global community if given the opportunity.

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Hat of the Day

Today’s HOTD is a lovely rust-colored felt hat from the mid-late 1930s.  Already it shows the sharp silhouette soon to be influenced by military uniforms of the 1940s, but still retains the soft curves of the 1930s.  It is topped off with a curled feather in orange and rust colors.

rust felt hat with curled feather trim, mid-late 1930s

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