Certainly, for one, we love headgear — and have for millennia — by their cornucopia of names. We appreciate the aesthetics, protection, and ritual of the ball cap, beanie, bearskin, beaver, beret, boater, bonnet, and busby. We love the caubeen, cloche, cocked hat, coonskin, fedora, fez, gat, helmet, Homburg, kufi, and kepi.
We esteem the mortarboard, Panama, pillbox, plug, plush, and porkpie. We glory in the shako, skimmer, slouch, snood, Stetson, stovepipe, and top hat. We are mindful of the toque, trilby, tricorne, turban, and the wimple.
And our euphonious names for hat parts roll off the tongue: crown, peak, plume, visor, brim, sweatband and hatband, bond, bow, liner, crease, roll, front dip, and vamp.
For a sense of Harvard’s history of hats, begin with the cover that went on once and will never come off: the scholar’s skullcap that tops the John Harvard Statue. (Look closely.) Or visit any number of Harvard repositories, where neat boxes of collected hats rest on shelves.
At the Harvard University Archives, there are freshman beanies from a century ago, reunion hats with loopy script like the iced writing on wedding cakes, and a 1911 crew hat that looks as fresh as when it came off the shelf at James W. Brine Co., a Harvard Square outfitter of that era. At Schlesinger Library, many artifacts are kept in boxes stored in the old basement swimming pool. Archived head covers include Florynce Kennedy’s suede cowboy hat; demure nurses’ caps from the 1930s, folded like origami; and Army nurse garrison head gear from World War II.
T.S. Eliot’s John B. Stetson “genuine Panama” is logged at Houghton Library as MS Am 2820. It appears unworn and the Coop price tag, $5, still dangles from the liner. In other boxes there are Gilbert & Sullivan costume hats, a woman’s boater, a clutch of powdered wigs, a feathered and florid Three Penny Opera bonnet that looks like a slain game bird, a paste-gem tiara from 1891, and a Joan of Arc helmet from 1924, complete with visor and neckpiece of mail. Said associate librarian Susan C. Pyzynski, “I don’t know where the sword is.”