Monday, February 28, 2011

8 Commandments of Hat Wearing.......

Michael Cunningham: Photographer & Co-author of the book Crowns

I wanted to do something different in honor of black history month.  My church was having a hat day and I sooooooo longed to bring my camera and stand at the doorway and snap pictures as the women entered the sanctuary with their heads crowned in fabric glory.  There were all different colors, shapes and shades of fabric twisted and formed in ways that were inconceivable.

Taking photos did not sit well with me as it seemed very disrespectful to snap pictures in church. I settled for the next best thing- the internet.   
The heritage of black women wearing hats to church actually started during the slavery era.   It was an opportunity for women to shed the apron strings and and house dresses and don a style of sophistication.  It started with simply adding ribbon or flower as a decorative feature to a straw hat.  Wearing hats and dressing impeccably for church was a way to honor  and reverence God.  The covering of the head is even referenced in scripture.

Years later after slavery ended, hats not only became a status symbol by pairing it with matching gloves and pocketbooks (purses).  Hats are also symbolic of the length and breath that black women have come throughout history by celebrating their confidence and independence while triumphing over hardships.

Today hats are worn by older women or "women of a certain age" within the church.

Lastly, if you are brave enough to find and wear that stylish hat to church then here are some rules to follow.

9 Commandments of hat wearing
Thou shalt not wear a hat wider than the shoulders.
Thou shalt not wear a hat a shade darker than the shoes.
Thou shalt only wear hats with the colors of white, cream and pastels for Easter.Thou shalt not wear a hat with crumpled, wrinkled or droopy feathers or flowers. (That would just be plain tacky.)
Always look tasteful and tidy when wearing "the hat."
Remember your bone structure. If a hat doesn't fit the face, don't buy it.
Thou shalt not allow a hat to compete with accessories and jewelry.
Always let the hat be the focal point of the outfit. 

For additional pictures see Time Magazine photo album


  1. Hi Lisa,
    This is very interesting! I didn't know that much about hats. I know in the catholic church women had to wear hats until Vatican II in 1965 when the abolished that rule.

    I recently learned that men wore hats, the kind you see in the movies, until John F Kennedy came into power. He chose not to wear a hat which made the bare head look popular with men. Apparently, men stopped wearing those hats nearly overnight. The hat business might not have been the best one to own in the 1960s!


    P.S. Did you visit LFI last week - I mentioned you here:

  2. Hi Lori,
    Thank you for sharing information I wondered why hats did not seem to be too popular among men.

    I did visit last week, unfortunately, I missed this particular posting as I am trying to catch up on my regularly visited blogs. I will go back and take a peek.

  3. LOVE IT! I wish you had taken pictures outside of the church as the women were exiting. For me, true elegance is a black woman wearing a hat...because it's not only the hat but the whole outfit from head to toe. And then, it's about much more than's about the inner beauty of the woman and the way she moves. It's her confidence, her radiance, her richness. It's about tradition and family. Life, it's about life.

  4. Hey J,
    This is very insightful! I agree that it is about the whole outfit and the attitude of confidence that is worn by the black woman.

  5. I didn't know one's hat should not be darker than one's shoes... but thinking about the concept, it does make sense.