Last Sunday a gentleman came through the front doors of our church wearing a hat. He looked very spiffy and since it was an extremely hot day and he had a fair complexion, it was a good idea to be wearing a hat. But when he took it off as he was ready to enter the sanctuary, as any well-bred man would do, he looked for a place to put his hat. He finally decided he would just put it on the pew beside him. Unfortunately there was plenty of room to put the hat down beside him on this hot summer day. We started thinking about how the difference in styles has dictated the type of furniture we have in our public buildings and homes.
Remember when there were slots underneath the pews of churches and the seats in theaters where a man could slide his brimmed hat upside down beneath his seat? The type of hats that men wore then all had either felt or straw brims that could easily hold the weight of the rest of the hat when it was placed in these compartments.
In addition, most public places had a hat rack inside the entrance to the building with hooks for wraps and maybe a shelf where the men could place their hats. Our church has one, wheeled clothing rack that is usually placed around the corner from the front door, and there is another by the lower entrance downstairs. These racks have clothes hangers for wraps and a shelf above for whatever needs to be placed there. That may be a man's hat.
The few women who wear hats to church, of course, leave them on during the whole morning. Younger men often wear caps instead of hats. I don't see any being worn during the service, but I certainly do see them still on the heads of men eating in restaurants. Back when I used to cook family meals in my own home I finally got used to seeing my young relatives with caps on, maybe even on backwards, when they sat down to eat.
But many just go hatless for social occasions and only wear hats or caps for heavy work or sports. With the recent push to avoid skin cancer by over exposure to the sun, this may not be a good idea. I wonder if we supplied a spot in every public place for their hats if men would start wearing them again. Or does the style of clothing have to change before there are hat racks supplied again?
I remember when most homes had an ornate, or functional, piece of furniture just inside the front door. Sometimes there was a mirror in the middle of it, but not always. Down each side were large hooks for coats and sweaters. Often there were little built-in tables on each side with maybe a drawer or door that could be opened where gloves and scarves could be stored. And in the middle there would be an umbrella stand and even a place for galoshes or rubbers.
At the back door there would be a simpler clothes rack and many houses had hooks fastened to the walls of back porches, or bathrooms where clothes could hang.
Going back a generation further, my father told me that they didn't have any closets at all in the houses when he grew up. In the bedrooms they would place the bedstead catty-cornered and the space behind them was used as a dressing room. The beds had high, wide headboards and on the back of these were hooks to hang their clothes. When I asked how they could put all their clothes behind one bed, he told me firmly that they didn't have as many outfits as I had and there was plenty room for his school pants and his dress pants since there was just one of each.
I wouldn't want to go back to that era's styles, and I sure don't want to have to wear a hat to church myself, so maybe I better just forget about the changes in furniture and fashion. However, hat's off to all the sensible and stylish people who do protect themselves from the sun.