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The choice of headgear gives us an insight into how societies live.

Ancient Egyptian Priest

Egyptian Priest
Relief 1317 BC

Throughout the ages men and women have covered their head for a variety of reasons. The history of head coverings parallels the life and living conditions of different societies.

From the early beginnings religion played a large part in the custom of not venturing out into a public place bareheaded. Devotees to this day cover their head to demonstrate outwardly their religious beliefs.

In a similar manner culture influences the choice of headgear. Office bearers announce their rank and position in the community by their dress. A king wears a crown and a fireman wears a helmet and not the other way about.

However, for those who work outdoors the most practical and enduring reason for wearing something on your head is to protect yourself against the elements and the dangers of the job.

John Taylor and Caddie

John Taylor
and Caddie

Golf was played in the second half of the 19th century by men wearing top hats. This form of headgear denoted that you were rich and powerful.

Golf was at that time a game largely reserved for the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie who were involved in the professions and the trades. Men dressed to display their wealth and to impress. The top hat was the ultimate symbol of status.

Wearing a top hat may have been an outward show of money, but it must have been highly impractical when the strong winds blew across the Scottish links.

Fashion historian Colin McDowell describes the top hat as "the power of political conservatism and the rule of the status quo."

It obviously impressed the Japanese as they embraced the custom of wearing top hats during the Meiji Period of 1868 to 1912. However, golf only got started in Japan in 1901 when Arthur Hesketh Groom, an English tea merchant, constructed a four-hole golf course near Kobe.

As the game became more affordable in Britain, and was played by more people of a lesser station in life, common sense on what to wear on your head prevailed.

The top hat was replaced by a tam o’shanter, or the plainer flat cap. This stayed on in the wind and protected your head from the rain and cold.

Pictures of golfers in the first half of the 1900s show most golfers wearing a flat cap. It was this 'Andy Capp' look that was exported to the colonies and North America. It became an essential part of a golfer’s uniform.

All has now changed and hardly anyone has remained faithful to the traditional cloth cap that Ben Hogan wore during his playing days. Headgear has become a billboard for advertisers and for some golfers a way to attract attention to themselves so they stand out from the crowd.

On tour the headgear of choice is the baseball-styled golf cap or visor. With sunglasses now more popular, players are obliged to place their sunglasses, when not in use, on the back of their cap so as not to hide the sponsor’s logo. Caddies even get paid to wear the sponsor’s cap such is the power of advertising.

If you are concerned about skin cancer, the most sensible head covering for golf is a hat with a full brim. This gives you the maximum protection from the sun’s harmful rays. Sam Snead and Chi Chi Rodriguez wore straw hats throughout their careers, well before scientists began to express their health concerns with the depletion of the ozone layer.

Mr Lu of Thailand who put Asian golf on the world map cut an unmistakable figure with his colourful pork pie hat. Today golf hats are not fashionable as they tend to be associated with older men. Greg Norman did his bit to raise their profile with a variation of the Crocodile Dundee look of Paul Hogan.

So what headgear should you wear when playing golf? It doesn’t really matter within reason. I am sure if a player arrived sporting a bishop’s mitre or a jungle explorer’s pith helmet, he would pull him aside and given a quiet word of advice about honouring the traditions of the ancient game.

That said, if you can’t impress with your golf, you can avoid obscurity by developing your own trademark style of headgear. Who knows, you may set a new fashion trend and appear on the cover of Time magazine.

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Image Source
1 = egyptian-home.com
2 = nationalgalleries.org
3 = google.com/Time Inc

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