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Magical Monikers

Classic comedian W.C. Fields loved screwball titles like the one he gave to a fake Indian Rajah, the Miffentiff of Boppindill. Fields filled his films with goofy characters with unforgettable names like the not-overly-bright Marmaduke Gump, con-man Cuthbert Crudd and bank examiner Pinkerton Snoopington. He even chose a wacky pen name for himself as screenwriter-- Otis Criblecobbis.

The Lure and Legend of Fedora
I know in my inner ear that W.C. Fields would have found Fedora AMIS to be a sublimely “euphonious appellation.” I revel in the sound of it. What’s more, I can’t resist the irony. Strange twists of karma have warped the meaning of a Russian lady’s name into unisex headwear. In a thousand ways, the legacy--the historic roots--the epic melodrama in the word “Fedora” transport me to my favorite era in history--the Mauve Decade of the 1890s.

If I asked you to think of a person in a fedora, whom would you picture? Scarface Al Capone? Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade--wearing his Private Eye uniform of trench coat and fedora?

The fedora looks as though it was born to adorn the dome of a tough guy--a gangster in a pin-striped suit knocking on the door of a speakeasy or the skull of a storekeeper who wouldn’t stand still for extortion. But it was, in fact, created by a theatrical costumer for the head of a high-born lady--a fictional high born lady--the widow Fedora Romazoff, heroine of the play that bears her name. A woman made the part and the hat famous—the divine actress madame Sarah Bernhardt.

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The Phat Hat

Fedora:  a pinch-front hat with hatband around the crown and pliable brim to pull down rakishly over one eye.

Fedoras first came into vogue with American women’s rights groups. Enfranchisement-minded ladies could order them from the 1895 Montgomery Ward catalogue. Later on, men saw how terrific Fedoras looked--and hijacked these handsome hats for themselves. British fashion plate Edward the Eighth--the romantic prince who gave up his throne for the woman he loved--popularized fedoras for men in 1924.

Here-to-stay Headwear

Young American media stars prove the fedora is no passing fad. Hunky Matt Bomer who plays sleek and sexy Neal Caffrey on USA Network's White Collar, Rappers Run DMC, American Idol heartthrob Nikko Smith (son of St. Louis baseball great Ozzie Smith) and the punk band RANCID are just a few current icons who show us that fedora hats are the hottest thing in urban ice.


The Constant Chapeau

What do these famous fictional characters have in common?  Freddy Krueger, Carmen San Diego, James Bond, Indiana Jones, The Blues Brothers, Dick Tracy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

They all wore fedoras--the hats that give even artificial heads the look of supreme cool.

Name of Fame

Now, ”Fedora” has gone electronic. A new generation celebrates the fedora by giving it a whole new meaning and a brand new prominent place in cyberspace--as name for servers and software. When will fedoras go out of style? Never.

Why I am Fedora AMIS

I advocate a return to hats. Hats are practical. In the summer hats keep sun off the face--which prevents sunburn and suntan--which prevents skin cancer and puts the need for botox a few years farther off.

In spring hats keep off the rain. In fall--in fact all year round--they keep off bird benedictions. In the winter, hats keep heads warm. Scientists maintain that 60% of one’s heat loss is through the head. Is there any good reason for failing to wear a hat?

In the days of ever-more expensive heating fuel, maybe we should re-adopt the headwear of the folks who lived in drafty castles in the middle ages--the indoor cap. You must admit wearing a cap is a good idea. Nurses put sock caps on baby heads in the hospital, don’t they?

When all is said and done, I love fedoras even without symbolism or practicality. Look no further than this--I can’t resist the sound of those syllables rolling off the tongue--Fedora AMIS. What’s more, I look better in a fedora than I do in a baseball cap--but keep that under your hat.