Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Hat Etiquette

A couple of days ago, Sky showed, on my Big Screen (on the Far Side) a 1995 film of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, which, the makers and actors seem, in an important respect, to have forgotten was written in 1811. I did not watch it all as such, it was just 'on' in the background but I did watch a couple of scenes. I was impressed by the very suitable settings and the costumes looked spot on but then there came a scene outside in which a hatted male character was introduced to a female character in the midst of a spectating assembly. The dialogue (screenplay by Emma Thompson) seemed fine, the acting itself was at least workmanlike but there was something terribly wrong. During the direct introducton, the male character did not even touch his hat. It was as though the actor were in his everday situation of hatlessness because, without a hat, you need no hat etiquette. But the Georgians and the Victorians and all the way down to the mid Neo-Elizabethans were absolute sticklers over such basic manners and knowledge of hat etiquette transcended class and age and everything. Anyway, for me, this gaping lapse (uncorrected by the director Ang Lee), made the whole film completely unconvincing and I turned the channel over to National Geographic. Book I (History of Men's Fashion)has a very adequate passage on hat etiquette.

In the first picture is Lord Cowper (1738-1789); in the second is WSC and in the third is former US President Herbert Hoover in 1946. They all knew very well how to doff their hats.

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