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2010 | 58 | 3-4 | 367-385

Article title

CHAPEAU BAS. ON THE MODERN PREDECESSORS OF THE TRICORNE (Chapeau bas. O nowozytnych przodkach trikorna)


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The wardrobes of modern gallants were full of varied hats, caps, nightcaps and skullcaps which kept the wig in place; the mediaeval kiwior was still popular around the year 1620. Due to the climate, sabre or marten caps were often worn even by the followers of the Western fashion. For example, King Sigismund III was wearing a 'wolf fur hat' when he was attacked by Piekarski. King Vladislaus IV Vasa was fond of two-peaked caps, which were called boukinkans in honour of the Duke of Buckingham. But even the Sarmatians valued the practicality of the hat. This article presents hats as an element of the Western fashion, a cultural trend that was never truly eliminated from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The hat was regarded as a signal of social distinction, religious denomination and political preferences. It had varied social functions, being a prop in legal relations, in the diplomatic protocol, in the court ritual and in the royal rite. Guides to etiquette taught when the 'jewel of the manly head' absolutely had be taken off, for example before the portrait of one's superior or in the presence of a person positioned higher in the hierarchy, unless they kindly relinquished their privilege on the occasion, etc. The sovereign had special prerogatives in this respect; apart from situations accounted for by the diplomatic protocol, courtesy and court etiquette rulers never appeared in public bare-headed. Tipping one's hat was a primary gesture of greeting, especially before the spread of the handshake custom. Finally, one's headgear could be an instrument of refined stylizations, as was the case with the 'chimney-like' a la bravado hats or the huge drooping a la Negligence hats. With the dictate of the beret receding, the second half of the 16th c. was dominated by velvet and silk hats shaped by inner constructions made of wire, straw or papier mâché (cardboard, felt, buckram, palm leaves, bast), which were often called 'Milanese hats' or 'high German caps' in Poland. Richly embroidered, usually leather a tozzo berets (French tocques, Italian tocchi, Spanish gorras aderezadas) of German provenance with a high crown and a small brim were sewn of strips of cloth so they needed 'keystones' on the top, which were often spire-shaped or covered with a 'cabochon'. To avoid fraying, the seams in silk hats were impregnated with wax. The puggaree was first used to hide seams, creases, stains of wax and glue, etc., at the joining of the crown and the brim. In the 17th c. the light a l'espagnole hat gave way to felt hats, usually made of wool mixed with beaver fur. The most popular varieties were hats of grey felt (of Italian origin) and of waterproof beaver felt (Dutch kastoor), sometimes covered with silk. 'The Albanian hat' with a wide brim and a small head-fitting crown, worn since the third quarter of the 16th c., together with the Spanish sombrero, was probably a model for the so-called 'French hat' (chapeau francais), popular in the time of Henry IV. In Polish sources hats are divided into beaver hats, called 'castor' ('full', 'three-quarter' and 'half-castor', French semi-castor) and other types, called 'simpler'. The city of Gdansk (Danzig), which played an important role in transmitting the Western fashion, was a centre of felt production and had several dozen hatters and haberdashers who manufactured puggarees (Hundbandmachere). A whole collection of a la mousquetaire hats is found in the painting The execution of a convict by Bartholomäus Milwitz in the National Museum in Gdansk. Other sources document the battle for ruling gallant heads between the hat and the wig. Hats were worn inside until c. 1685; later they no longer served to cover the head but to bare it on order to show respects, therefore they were often carried in one's hand or under one's arm. The reduction of the wig promoted tricorns, which came back to their original function; its retreat at the end of the 18th c. cleared the way for top hats.










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  • Mgr Jacek Zukowski, ul. Waflowa 6a, 02-971 Warszawa, Poland


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