My granddaughter told me that wearing a hat at high school is only an optional part of her uniform. She said it as if it was good news and from her perspective, I suppose it was. As Dezzy sees it, hats are just not stylish. There’s the straw hat, the floppy cloth hat, the cap and (shudder) the visor. Dezzy has developed into a young lady with a sense of self and of fashion. She believes that hats are just not cool. And feeling immortal as we all do at that age, I’m guessing that she brushes aside talks about skin cancer.
It seems like minutes ago when a five year old Dezzy posed proudly in her school uniform and broad brimmed hat with a draw string that kept it in place. She wore that hat in its various sizes all through primary school. Her family provided her with the out of hours hats. She never questioned our authority, but accepted that it was all part of a grownup’s rules that had to be followed. These days Dezzy keeps a floppy hat in her bag, folded up and ready, just in case I should insist she wear it. It’s a pity hat. I still have some influence but it is obviously waning fast.
If I look back far enough into my past (back to Fred Flintstone’s day, my sons used to say), I can empathise with Dezzy. Our uniform skirts were one inch below the knee but the moment we left at the end of the school day we untucked our shirts and rolled up our sleeves and rolled our skirts up at the waist. Hats were not mandatory, so of course we didn’t wear them, but we didn’t know as much about sun damage in the Stone Age.
Perhaps if Dezzy had experienced the ‘Slip, Slap, Slop,’ campaign, initiated by the Cancer Council, and the jingle that went: ‘slip on a shirt, slop on the sunscreen, slap on a hat.’ That was almost two generations ago. I found it effective but I was an adult at the time. Giving lectures and pointing out the grisly details and consequences of ignoring us, even catchy jingles will only have a limited effect on people Dezzy’s age. What she and her friends need is an alternative option.
I recently followed Dezzy around our local shopping centre while she spent her birthday money on clothes. Dezzy went right past the handful of straw hats that were artistically placed here and there around the shop. No one was buying them, no one was wearing them. Even I thought that they were dull.
There was a time when wearing a hat was de rigueur. Like the American Express card, no one dreamt of leaving home without a hat. Ironically now that we know we should be wearing them, we don’t. Time for milliners to give the issue some serious thought and plug into what is essentially an untapped market. Hats for young teens could be cool if they played it right. Those fascinators look lovely on Melbourne Cup Day, why not extend that metaphor. A bit of ingenuity and imagination and a get together between manufacturers, models and actresses could turn the tide and widen the brim.