Hats keep you warm, provide cooling shade, are revealing, concealing, and sometimes purely decorative. A hat usually provides the finishing touch to a person’s dress, complementing an ensemble and unifying the appearance. Whatever their purpose, a hat reveals something about its wearer: their sense of style, purpose, activity, or class.
Illustrations that include hats allow us to use them as hieroglyphs—as a readable symbol demonstrating a person’s relationship to the larger world.* When viewed as a trope, a hat may describe the relationship between the self and the world and may be considered a metaphor of the class and social status of the individual under its brim. In the 19th and early 20th centuries illustrators sometimes used specific types of hats to assist readers in constructing the meaning of their subject.
Thomas Nast (1840-1902) “Move On!” Has the Native American no rights that the naturalized American is bound to respect? Political cartoon for Harper’s Weekly v. 15 no. 747 (April 22, 1871): p. 361. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA