Blog,  Hats

The Hats We Wear

As a milliner, hats are my craft, my passion and an empowering extension of my own personality. I love wearing hats and whilst I have a never-expanding collection of figurative head wear, it’s my range of metaphorical hats that seems to be growing at an alarming rate as I juggle life in this modern world.

Hats used to be the norm, you were never fully dressed without a hat and yet now in our fast-paced society there has been a massive reduction in the number of people actually wearing them. Hats have become “old hat”.

The irony of this fact is that as the number of people wearing literal hats may have decreased the number of metaphorical hats we wear daily has increased dramatically. The metaphor of “wearing many hats” was born from the historical situation where hats were often an integral and even necessary part of a working uniform and society in general.

White-collar workers, bankers (pre 1960’s), miners, undertakers, chefs etc all wore, or wear, a particular hat. We could easily identify a person’s occupation or role simply by their head wear.

it’s my range of metaphorical hats that seems to be growing at an alarming rate as I juggle life in this modern world.

Hats indicate status and position. Nurses wear hats (until the practice was stopped due to infection control), police officers and in the military, everyone has a hat or cap. The badge denotes which service you’re in and sometimes even what you do i.e. pilots in the RAF have chip hats. In the British Army it’s the “cap badge” that shows which regiment a person belongs to. The Royal Marines have their green berets, Cold Stream guards have bear skins, but senior officers in all services have different caps to highlight their rank.

Hats worn in the military are the epitome of confidence and courage and are used to identify you as part of a certain family, a gang of which only a few are invited into. In earlier times a young single lady “set her cap” to indicate to a suitor that they were romantically interested in them. When she left the house, she would change her hat depending on what she was doing and where she was going.

Nowadays, our lives within this accelerating world have endowed us with a lot less patience to constantly be changing our head wear. As our daily roles increased, the task of swapping one’s hats has definitely become too tiresome to be practical, we simply couldn’t keep up with the necessary changes.

On an average day, how many metaphorical hats do you wear? How many different duties or jobs do you undertake on a daily basis? Maybe you start the day with your “parent” hat on, then the co-worker hat, the sibling hat.

The son or daughter hat? The boss, the friend, the confidante? Perhaps you wear the chauffeur hat, followed by a quick swap into housekeeper on the way home to pick up supplies for tomorrow’s packed lunch, before it’s back into the parent hat, the spouse hat, the cleaner hat before finally the night cap? It’s exhausting, but it’s modern life.

If they were physical hats, we couldn’t possibly wear more than two maybe three on top of each other before something must give and they would fall off. This image creates a visual representation of what can happen to us as human beings when we do try and wear too many hats, to do too much. As they say, you can’t pour from an empty cup. How can you give your best to other people if you are not meeting your own needs sufficiently?

The truth is we can’t. How much of our own well being or sanity are we sacrificing by trying to wear too many hats at once? When do you wear your hat? Your own hat? When do you put that special hat on that is just for you? To take time, however small to just be you? To simply “be”? Probably not as often as you should. Perhaps if we actually wore a hat at this time it would be a visual signpost to those around us that silently says, “do not disturb”.

On an average day, how many metaphorical hats do you wear?

We all need those precious moments to cultivate our own emotional well-being. To be calm and mindful and at ease. During the process of writing this article I had to change roles “at the drop of a hat”. I “threw my hat in the ring” for a couple of other projects, listened to a friend promising to keep what was said “under my hat”, calmed my daughter who “had a bee in her bonnet” about something before finally putting my “thinking cap” on to finish writing.

Once I have, my “me time” hat will sit confidently on my head so that I can just “be”. Be kind to yourself, be mindful of how often you swap those metaphorical hats and don’t forget to find time to wear that special hat just for you.

Susie O'Neill is the Founder of Dorset based Mad Hat Co. Bespoke Milliners & Hatters based in Bournemouth. Follow Susie on social media @madhatcompany

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