Image courtesy of Jonathan Morse

Learning from LongHouse: Hats
By Carrie Rebora Barratt 

The saying goes that “God made a few perfect heads. The rest he covered with hair.”  At LongHouse, we know that for all of the perfect heads and the heads with hair, there are also hats.  And hats and hats. Jack left us all of his hats. He wore a history of hats, even though he had a perfect head and God-given hair.  And an extraordinary head to boot.

We are gently, and with huge love and emotion, looking through Jack’s things.  I am humbled to be learning from LongHouse, learning from Jack. I met him once, long ago at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, when he came to study textiles and to check on his own, safely and soundly preserved for all eternity in cabinets in the Antonio Ratti Textile Center, next to ancient fabrics and historic tapestries and American schoolgirl needlework.  And he was wearing a hat.  I remembered that.  A hat indoors, slightly renegade, totally stylish, covering a perfect head and maybe some hair issue.  Who knew, didn’t matter, such a master, he paved the way for dressing authentically.

We are assessing at LongHouse, respectfully opening closets and kitchen cabinets and medicine chests.  Only a year since he moved to another sphere, now an angel, but he left lots of stuff.  Magnificent stuff balanced with mundane stuff.  As it should be. 

And imagine opening a Japanese cabinet to find his hats. A history of hats. Bowlers (or derbys, same thing), homburgs, that with the V-shaped divot (think Al Pacino in The Godfather), fedoras with soft brim so that Jack was in step with Indiana Jones, trilbys of a much narrower profile (think Jack conjuring the Blues Brothers), porkpies with the trim gutter brim, and baseball caps with the number sticker for the head - Jack’s were all LHR, his brand, his life, his place.  There are also many flat caps, also known as Ivy caps, Gatsby caps, driving caps, the sixpence, the duckbill.  First introduced in England in 1571 to get men to support the wool trade and then famously worn by Jack around the garden and David Beckham after games, the chimney sweep cap (think Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins) that connected working men to the elite. Jack was both, a working man of means, wearing hats to be us and them. 

Hats have long been a part of men’s wardrobes, declaring a man’s place in the world, his occupation, his beliefs, his status. Worn on the head, the hat contains thought, respect, nobility and service.  And protection.

The hats Jack left us are filled with ideas, thoughts, and meaning. Game on, we need to listen to the hats.

Image courtesy of Shonna Valeska.

Jack liked hats, wore hats, travelled the far wide world and collected hats.  He collected many things, but the hats are profound, because they graced his head. He said, I think meaning his ceramics and fabrics but also the hats: “Building a collection of any size or material is the surest means to affirming our identity and a powerful hedge against being only a statistic.  With both government and industry wanting us to be as predictable as sheep—and tongue-tied and butterfingered to boot—our primary need is to reinforce our personal identities.”

Hats off, hats on, to you Jack.