Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Get Ahead

Advertising agencies, looking for a cliché to represent Spain, usually go for bulls and flouncy dresses but I have a different suggestion – headgear.

Think about a “typical” Spanish woman wearing one of those lacy gauzy headscarves supported by a comb pushed into her hair. You don't get much more Spanish looking than that. The peineta, the hair ornament, has a convex body and a set of teeth that fasten into hair worn in a bun. They have their origins in prehistory but they became everyday items in the 19th Century when the Spanish Queen, Isabel II, took to wearing them. The peineta is nearly always worn with a mantilla, a lace or silk veil, draped over the head and shoulders. Nowadays you usually see them at upmarket weddings, town fiestas and Easter processions.

Still not convinced? Well what's the first thing you associate with the Guardia Civil?– no, not speeding tickets. Yep! that funny shiny tricorn hat. Tricorn hats were pretty common headgear at one time. Think Hornblower or Captain Jack Sparrow. The one I'm on about has served the Guardia Civil since a little after the corps was founded in 1844. Most tricorns were made of felt but the Guardia one is of vinyl. Away from the Mediterranean coast plenty of Spain has severe winters. Originally the guards used to protect their military issue felt tricorns from rain and snow with oilskin. That style developed into the hat we know today.  Queen Isabel must have had a hat thing because she had a hand in promoting the tricorn too.

Would you agree that those Andalucian dancing horses are trade marked Spanish? The riders usually wear a cropped jacket suit with black and brown riding boots and a flat topped broad brimmed hat. El sombrero cordobés, the Cordovan hat, takes its name from the Andalucian city where the hats are traditionally made. They vary in crown and brim measurements, in detail and in colour but they all have the same basic shape. Bullfighters and flamenco artists popularised their use in the 19th Century.

The matador salutes the crowd. What does he have in his hand to accentuate his bow? Right again; one of those strange hats that look like Mickey Mouse ears. The montera is a traditional hat that has was adopted by bullfighters after Paquiro, a famous 19th century matador wore one in the ring for the first time in 1835. He thought the lobes looked like bull's horns. The hat, covered with Astrakhan and lined with silk, complements the gaudy, and heavy, suit of lights, traje de luces, worn by matadors.

Berets, I have to be honest, I associate with stripy shirted Frenchmen or paratroopers but if you happen to be in the Basque Country, or in neighbouring Navarre, and don't see anyone wearing one of the oversized local versions called a boina then have a word with me and I'll eat mine. It's so typically Basque, and it has been since the 19th Century Carlist Wars, that ETA terrorists wear the beret atop their balaclavas when they give press conferences.

There are plenty more of course, straw hats for field workers, cloth caps for hunters, emblematic military headgear including the famous tassled cap worn by the Legion and a sort of conical top hat from Aragon which Richard Ford used on the cover of his famous guide to Spain. Yep, no doubt about it Spaniards are hat wearers.

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