Saturday, 22 March 2014

A bowler for national occasions

Alice and Joan

Making Memories: Oldham
Hats are different in the 21st century. There's a social etiquette to the hats of the 1920s, 30s, 40s that is now gone. All those men wearing flat caps to the football, just look at the old photos. Hundreds of men in tweed caps, cheap, warm and waterproof. The women weren't allowed in some churches unless they wore a hat or scarf, to show respect. But hats were also a signal for celebration, going out on a Saturday night was topped off with a fancy hat. 

Today's sessions were themed around hats. The morning group were in a Residential Ward at Shawside Residential and Nursing Home and were dazzled by the wondrous hats that were brought in by our student volunteer Isobel and Gallery Oldham. The hats became a delightful prop for dressing-up, plus a stimulus for memories. They evoked early memories of mums and dads, all in hats from long-ago childhoods. They also evoked the social mores of the times, hats for religion, hats to show rank and status, hats that couldn't be afforded.


The joy of putting on hats and the different personae that went with them was infectious - our morning was punctuated with giggles as well as hats.

In the afternoon, at Chadderton, the talk took a darker tone, of mill accidents and child labour, all spinning off this one topic, the hat. Here it was a badge of steadfastness and social position, earned through sheer hard bloody work. Sometimes literally bloody.

The names of hats have poems in them, listen: the bowler, the trilby, the panama, the Ascot hat, the homburg, the topper, and the trilby. With them come mind pictures and with the pictures, words. We made some little poems based on the number three (the number of the hat-trick) to give them a shape, which we'll share in a later blog.


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