Thursday, January 19, 2017

When Is A Hat, Not A Hat?

When it's a bearskin? (Source)
Or is it always a hat but perhaps called something else? Is a hat ever a cap, or is a cap a hat, but a special hat? Do cats wear caps? Or hats? (Hats, for proof, see the footnote.) And what the heck is a toorie? Can men wear bonnets and still be men? Stay tuned, for today I answer all of those questions in my attempts to remain non-controversial. (I was going to go down that whole "soda, pop, coke" path but decided that the country is divided enough. Also I didn't want to set Joe off. Again. And there is that vow not to discuss soft drinks. Which I have broken, if only in passing. En passant, if you will. As you are but pawns in my evil schemes... What? Never mind. Chess joke.)

So while doing my rounds of the blogosphere, I ran across this Althouse post. (And where, oh where does one put the link when there are multiple spots that will suffice? This, Althouse, or post? I went with post. Is there a protocol for that sort of thing? I've been blogging almost five years and I still get confused. At least now, with Buck's help, I know where American commas go. Yes, it's different in Britain. I know, I know, they invented the language, we just modified it. Oxford commas, I use those now as well. Or would that be "too"? English is hard.)

Anyhoo. I am a "hat" kind of guy. When I am out of doors (an older, and quaint, way of saying "outdoors" or "outside") I am always attired in some sort of chapeau. (Which en français can mean hat or cap. I make no claim to French being "easy." German, auf der Greifhand, while not easy per se, is easier than French or English.) Usually this is what is commonly referred to as a "baseball cap" or simply "ball cap." (Though in winter I will wear something other than a ball cap. Which are simply no good for keeping the ears warm.) This was not always the case. In my youth, when I had more hair, I didn't wear any sort of head covering, other than the hair that is. Which used to cover my head. (Which are now sparse, much like the buffalo, or American Bison, if you prefer.)

Then one day I went fishing in Korea, on the tidal flats not far from the city of Kunsan, which I later learned was off-limits to American military personnel. Didn't get caught, no harm, no foul.

"Uh Sarge, you know that area is off-limits, right?"

"And how the hell am I supposed to know that? There are no signs in Korean or English to advertise that fact, and it's not in the newcomer briefing."

"Oh. Okay, we'll fix that."

Anyhoo. While out there, after consuming vast quantities of soju with the Korean soldiers "guarding" the place, we all staggered out onto the tidal flats to "fish." I actually don't remember many of the details of that day other than it was hot, with a hazy overcast. Oh, and I was already well along in the balding process. Think on that for a bit.

So yes, the top of my head was badly sunburned. Yes, that hurts like hell, don't try that at home. From that day hence, I wore a hat whenever I was out of doors. Unless I was on the flightline, where hats are frowned upon as they might get blown off by the wind and sucked down the intakes of jet engines. No, I never saw that happen. However, as the unit cost of a General Electric J79 axial-flow turbojet engine will run you well over 600 grand (in 1960! and the F-4 had two of those), it was thought wise to keep things which might go down the intakes away from those intakes as much as possible.

Thank the good Lord I worked in a covered area most of my time on the flightline. (Otherwise I would have spent a small fortune on sunblock.)

As an aside, hats and caps are also barred from the flight decks of carriers. FWIW, the General Electric F414-GE-100 (of which the Super Hornet has two) will cost you north of 3.7 million dollars. Each. Yes, I said million, yes, I said each.

"So Sarge, when you went out on the Reagan a couple of years ago, did you protect your head somehow?"

"Uh no. We forgot our sunblock."

"Did you get a..."

"Yes, yes, I did get sunburned. Learned my lesson I have, won't do it again. I swear."

At any rate, that's why I started wearing hats, or caps if you will. Usually with some logo embroidered thereon. As of late those have been Air Force logos though I do have a large collection of U.S. Navy ball caps with ship names and crests embroidered upon them. But I got tired of explaining to people that I was in the Air Force, not the Navy.

"So why are you wearing a cap which says USS RONALD REAGAN on it?"

"Because my daughter gave it to me."

"But you weren't in the Navy."

"I know. Go away now."

It's easier to stick with USAF caps. Less explaining to do. Though I did have a civilian, yes, an American civilian, ask me what "USAF" stood for."

"Freedom and the American way."


Yes, that's why.

Oh, and before anyone thinks I don't know, in the Navy (and among Uncle Sam's Misguided Children) it's called a cover.

"What's called a cover?"

"A hat, a hat is called a cover."


"I don't know. I was in the Air Force..."

So, what's a toorie? Well, originally it was that small woolen tuft on top of a Scotsman's bonnet. Which kind of looks like a pom-pom, but ain't. That ball o' yarn thing is called a toorie. Oddly enough, that little button thing on top of a ball cap (baseball cap) is also called a toorie.
Seriously, that's what it's called.
And when is it okay for a man to wear a bonnet? When he's a Scotsman.

The Thin Red Line by Robert Gibb (Source)
The guys on the left of that painting are Scotsmen, they are wearing feather bonnets. Seriously, that's what they're called. The guy on the right? Yeah, he made fun of the Scots wearing feather bonnets. And kilts. So they shot him. And the horse he rode in on.

So if you're a Scot, you can wear a bonnet and a kilt, which looks like a skirt but isn't. Only in Scotland are the men manly enough to do such things. What does one wear under a kilt?

Nothing. Nothing at all.

Yeah. Scotland.

Oh, one last thing, the Marine in the opening photo, yeah, the guy wearing the bearskin (sorry, a bear, I am once again appropriating ursine culture), in French that's called a bonnet à poil, literally a "bonnet with hair."

So yeah, Scotsmen and Marines. They can wear bonnets. Also these guys -

And these guys -

And yes, they are in the process of shooting guys who are making fun of their bonnets with hair.

So, the short answer to the question posed in the title is, never. A hat is always a hat. Unless we're talking in the more general sense of headgear. Which might not be a hat but something else entirely. All of that stuff (verbiage if you will) which came before was the long answer. Man, I could use a coke right about now... (Sorry.)

Footnote: We all know about "The Cat in the Hat" by Dr. Seuss. Or we should, that might depend on how old you are. Anyhoo. That cat wore a hat. That is not the only cat I've ever seen wearing a hat. Our cat Pat, once wore a hat. A knitted hat, or cap, made for him by The Nuke. For The Nuke had taken up the hobby of knitting. Most of what she knitted tended to look like yarmulkes, she was less than amused when we, meaning the rest of her tribe, referred to them as such. In fact, yarmulke kind of rhymes with her actual name, her given, or Christian name, if you will. Anyhoo. She knitted a hat for Pat, our cat. He did not care for it at all. But because he and The Nuke were really good friends, he didn't maul her or attempt to get rid of the hat on his own. He just sat there and looked sad, even pathetic, until she took pity upon the poor feline and removed that woolen piece of headgear (which I believe would properly be called a touque in Canada and parts of Vermont. At least the part I'm from...). And that is the story of Pat, our cat, who once wore a hat.


  1. In the engineering spaces the ventilation fans are usually run with the exhaust fans on high and the supply fans on low. This creates a negative pressure in the space so that when steam or smoke leaks into the space this will give the watchstanders enough time to either escape via the escape trunks, or to take other appropriate actions.
    This negative pressure means that if you ask a sailor new to the space to give you their brand new ballcap, and you fling said ballcap towards the exhaust fan grating, the ballcap will stick to the grating. Then you can tell them the only way to recover the ballcap is to get safety gear from the bosun's mates and climb up inside the space and knock the hat off with a broomstick. Then when the sailor is festooned with all sorts of safety gear, and clutching a broomstick, and looking up, you can turn the fans off and the ballcap drops to the deckplates. I thought this would be less funny now, as I am a mature adult, but I am giggling as I type this.
    My wife knows that if I see a total stranger with a Navy ballcap I will great them with, "What did you do in the Navy?"

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Ah yes, an excellent hat story. (But a bad link, just thought I'd mention that.)

      Rather surprised me that it was published in 1938. In my mind Dr Seuss is timeless, though in reality this fellow New Englander (Springfield, MA) was born in 1904 and died in 1991.

    2. Not sure what happened here.

      Methinks you went one deletion too far.

  3. Actually the Marine is wearing a Busby.
    I leaned a few things in Band--besides how to play a Double Bell Euphonium!

    1. A busby is another term for a bearskin, or bonnet à poil, but typically is used to describe a smaller form of that headgear. The Queen's Guards regiments wear the bearskin, the Royal Horse Artillery and the British Hussar regiments wear a busby in full dress uniform. Typically these are now made with synthetic fur.

      If the Marines call that a "busby," they are technically incorrect by traditional standards.

      Trust me Cap'n, I know my hats.

  4. Since I live a mile above sea level and can get a sunburn from a 100 watt light bulb, I do have a fair number of covers. Only a few have any logos. In summer the cover is a straw Resistol in the Open Road style (yes, a daring style statement- not).

    1. I will always go for practical over style.

      Wise choice in headgear WSF.

  5. I wear a hat. When it rains. Bought in Scotland. But. Of course. I still have my hair at 57. And I wear a kilt. But not with a hat. It's all so very confusing.

    1. Choices, choices...

      For use with kilts, a feather bonnet is recommended, though not required.

  6. So I've learned that button think is called a toorie (I'm going to use that) and that Marines can wear what ever they damn please on their head. I always wear something on my head for that same sunburn thing, so hat's will not make me do that "Slowly I turned, step by step" thing.

    1. Whew.

      I was somewhat worried that I would offend your fashion sense. (Tee hee, not really. Oh, where do you stand on "Moe, Larry, cheese!" just wondering...)

    2. A favorite Curly routine.

  7. Oh, and before anyone thinks I don't know, in the Navy (and among Uncle Sam's Misguided Children) it's called a cover.
    And, of course, the sailors and, probaby, the marines immediately refer to it as a lid.

    1. Oh, and I have it on pretty good authority that the Scots are not the only ones to wear a kilt.

    2. As to calling a cover a lid, of course they would do that.

    3. I should have mentioned the Irish.

    4. Do tell? And just when will we see that?

    5. Marines, of course, are also known as Jarheads (including my beloved stepson, a newly-promoted Sergeant). They will proudly tell you "We're Jarheads--we screw our lids on!"
      Of course, Sarge, you're already aware that, although ball caps, Dixie cups, combination covers, and piss-cutters are verboten on the flight deck, pretty much nobody is bareheaded--they're wearing cranials.
      Now, is a helmet (cranial, motorcycle, or other) a hat? Another rabbit-hole down which we could go.
      --Tennessee Budd
      Postscript: It's your blog; feel free to edit "piss-cutter" if it offends. I don't think it a strong enough term to constitute cursing, but you may. I know you USAF (whatever that means--I'm astounded by that!) types have more delicate sensibilities than we old squids (j/k)!
      PPS: I sometimes have folks ask me what is meant by my "O.D.S. Veteran" cap, when I occasionally wear it. Sometimes I'm nice & tell them it's "Operation Desert Storm"; generally I tell them I'm an official Odious Veteran.

    6. Heh. Well, piss cutter is one name we Zoomies had for the flight cap. Not the worst name though.

      Yes, I knew about the cranial, avoided it on purpose. I'd go with a cranial is a form of headgear, not necessarily a hat, more like a helmet. Now is a helmet a hat?

      A very good question, perhaps for another time. I have a number of helmets in my collection.

      Hhmm, how about a hard hat? More like a helmet than a hat, but there's that name. Nice can of worms you've opened Tennessee, I sense another post being necessary to explore that.

  8. But right now, it's watchcaps that get worn.

    1. Watchcaps are de rigueur for the northern climes at this time of year.

  9. Not just bear culture, but bear SKINS? Sigh. So offensive.

    Although, based on the fur pattern, it looks like I finally know what happened to Aunt Mabel. We warned her to stay indoors during hunting season, but would she listen? Never.

    1. I was worried about offending all of bear-kind, but in the interests of history, I couldn't resist.

      Heh. Poor Aunt Mabel.

  10. Another fine post. Thanks.

    Paul L. Quandt

    P. S. I likes a blog where the comments are as good as the posts.


    1. Thanks Paul.

      And yes, the commentariat seem to be on a roll lately. Very impressed I am.

      I rather enjoy reading the comments. It's one of the reasons I do this blogging thing.

  11. Had a friend who did American Revolution re-enacting (yes, it is a thing) as a redcoat, with the rev-war version of a bearskin hat. Funny watching him and his mates get shot, fall to their knees in white stockings, whip out squares of canvas and lovingly take their multi-thousand dollar hat off and place it gently upon said canvas, and then expire most graphically.

    Geeks, you find them everywhere, in all forms of dress and accoutrement.

    (And being a fat, pasty northern-European style male who can get a serious sun-burn on a cloudy day, I feel your pain about being exposed to the demon-sun.)

    1. Once upon a time, when the bicentennial of the Revolution was upon us, I almost joined the 23rd Royal Welch Fusiliers. A reenacting group. Though their uniforms were awesome, they were also expensive. As was the Brown Bess.

      So I joined the Air Force instead. The uniforms weren't as cool but the pay was much better than the Fusiliers.

      And that has made all the difference. (With apologies to Robert Frost...)

  12. A toorie? So, if you wear your hat backwards is it a eiroot??

    1. Heh. I do like the way your mind works Proof.

  13. "What does one wear under a kilt?"

    Stocainnean, brògan, and skean dhu.

    1. Well there's that. But you know what I meant.


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