Hat

schoolboys being shown rabbits and hat 1927

[this looks so much better on my site]

The blender, the former, the calibrated shrinkage.
The proofing, the blocking, the brimming.
Each hat takes the underfur of a dozen rabbits.

From first outing rabbits plagued Australia (also mice, camels,
toads and white men). Farmers were boots-full of cottontails,
Tractors down to their axles in warrens the size of Belgium.

Back then all men went hatted (except on Sundays) and
any trapper or dead-eye could make a living from fur. Gone mostly.
Myxo and Calicivirus, plagues on a plague, killed the industry.

The stoving, the pouncing, the flanging, the trimming.
White satin lining with gold leaf crest:, Imperial Quality
and two lions rampant. This is a hat to doff at any old royal.

The band, the bow, the crown, the gutter.
The Trilby of bookies, Sinatra and the rat pack.
Of fast money and low slung autos. An urban, urbane hat.

The Fedora, the Homburg, the Pork Pie.
Gene Hackman as narc Popeye Doyle in The French Connection
wore a black Pork-Pie and chased that gang all over town.

‘You can wear anything with confidence,’ the shop guy avers.
Gene never lacked in that department but I
would need a trumpet and years of learning to wear that.

Try The Specials or Jo Jo Zepp if they’re still hiring. Nah.
With these thin lips? These little lungs? And out-of-work players
are everywhere practicing their resonant licks on street corners.

‘Maybe a broader brim? It’s a big step to go wider.’
Really? In that I look like a standard lamp, like John Howard*
visiting the boondocks – out of place and insincere.

Green, charcoal, settled on this one black hat
Hat of discernment and judgement.
To be cautious and conservative, practical and realistic.

A hat for flighty times, to restrain my wild surmise.
So again we regard the shape, the labour, the felt,
the history, the shade, the hat.

***


* Prime Minister of Australia 1996-2007
Image – Fort Street schoolboys being shown rabbit fur felt hat – 1927, Sam Hood, State Library of NSW

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