Hats Off to London

The Anglophile in me cannot resist one more post on London, but this one will not be about sports, but rather about hats.  And I will put a little Salem in here, because I am inspired.  As part of the Olympics celebration as well as the Mayor of London’s summer-long schedule of happenings called “Surprises”, twenty of the city’s most conspicuous statues have been topped with hats designed by eminent British milliners. For the next few days, Londoners will be amused (I hope) with very clever juxtapositions of hard and soft, traditional and fanciful.  The event is called “Hatwalk“, and here are some of my favorite pairings:

Queen Victoria wearing what appears to be an Olympic-flame hat, by Justin Smith, Esq.

Another flame: Admiral Nelson in a hat by James Lock & Co., Hatters.

General Sir Henry Havelock in a Philip Treacy “spectator”.

The Poet Robert Burns (A Red, Red Rose) wearing a hat by William Chambers Millinery.

General Sir Charles James Napier wearing a Sophie Beale hat.

King George IV and his horse, resplendent in Brighton pavilion-inspired hats by Stephen Jones.

Sir Arthur Sullivan and The Lady, wearing Gina Foster and Victoria Grant hats.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill on Bond Street, wearing hats by John Boyd and Herbert Johnson, respectively.

All photographs by Getty Images.

I love this installation (for lack of a better word–I’ve been struggling with what to call this happening) because it’s creative and historical at the same time–drawing attention to both design and the people, along with their eras and accomplishments, who are “modeling” the hats.  Several of these statues are in very prominent places like Trafalgar Square, but others might have been overlooked and forgotten.  Even before I became aware of Hatwalk, I had been thinking about several statues here in Salem and its environs which I pass by every day and never really look at, much less take the time to stop and read their plaques and inscriptions. If these statues had jaunty hats on their heads, perhaps I would!  One Salem statue in particular which needs more attention (or interpretation) is that of Roger Conant (1592-1679), who settled in Salem in 1626 and became its first governor, after brief stays in the Plymouth and Cape Ann colonies (he really disliked the Pilgrims).  The Conant statue was erected in 1913 after the Conant Family Association commissioned sculptor Henry H. Kitson (who had designed the famous “Minuteman Statue” and whose amazing home, Santarella, I featured in a previous post) for the design.  It is a commanding and majestic statue, but it suffers from its proximity to the dreadful Salem Witch Museum:  too many dim-witted tourists casually assume that Conant has something to do with the Witch Trials because of his seventeenth-century attire.  They never even bother to read the plaque–and the things I have heard them say as they have their pictures taken with poor Roger!  I think that Kitson did a good job with the hat, but perhaps the occasional placement of a slightly more Cavalier-esque one would help?  I hate to call on the Gunpowder Plotters for fashion advice, but I’ve always admired the depiction of their hats in the contemporary broadside below.

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