A Most CAP-tivating Tale…….

Do you know the most annoying thing about hat-posts………?

(comedic pause)



I BOUGHT A HAT (see pic for said article). It’s blue and woolly and bigger than your average bunnet.

I’ve never owned a hat before, believing that my head was too big to warrant the attention.

Kiera Knightley ruined hats for me with her beautiful ickle, ‘willowy-body and pixie-small-head’ in the film Love Actually. Sad to say, but place our heads side by side and mine’s a whopper.

I found out years later that Keira wore the famous hat to cover a gigantic spot on her forehead that couldn’t be masked by make-up or lighting.

Me? Well, I don’t have any forehead spots, just a prodigious head. But a Scots girl can’t resist a bargain and it was 70% off.

It got me thinking about women, Scotland and Kilmarnock Bunnets.                                                  

Tam O’Shanters or Tammies (named after eponymous hero of the 1790 Rabbie Burns poem) are traditional, Scottish, men’s woollen bunnets, knitted from one piece.

Like mine, they were originally blue in colour.

By the year 1599, five ‘bunnet-makers guilds’ had formed in cities around the country: Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Perth, Stirling and Glasgow (where I bought mine).

Of course, I didn’t buy a Tam O’Shanter.

I bought an equally Ayrshire-centric, BIG KILMARNOCK BUNNET.

Kilmarnock and Stewarton went on to become the Nation’s beating pulse of quality bunnet making through the 17th and 18th centuries. Kilmarnock Bunnets are bigger and better than your average bunnet, measuring an impressive 15 inches in diameter.

It is no coincidence that sumptuary sounds like a made-up mixture of sumptuous and consumption. That’s exactly what Sumptuary Laws were designed to do – help maintain social order by making it easier to identify which individuals have power. In short, they prohibit poor people from wearing finery that might confuse an observer about their station in life. They also forbid women dressing like men, and perhaps ‘enjoying their freedom.’

Sumptuary Laws focus on what people can and can’t wear, limiting the use of fine fabrics, adornments or the kind of necklines that can be worn, with a focus on perceived extravagance.

Boobage has long been a sign of beauty, wealth and social position. Displaying one’s breasts was a status symbol for the aristocratic and upper-class circles. Necklines were measured by the ‘width of fingers below the collarbone.’ I’m not sure who’s fingers were used as the standard, but some man would place their fingers across the décolletage and mark as law at the point where they landed.

Hats got a boost in 1571 when Parliament passed a law forcing all men to wear a hat on Sundays and public holidays. Offenders who broke the law were fined seventeen pence. Noblemen and ‘deserving’ citizens were exempt.

Other Sumptuary Laws that seem just plain weird now, include:

  • The Burghers of Calais and their wives were forbidden from wearing gold belts. No-one seems to know why.
  • 14th Century French prostitutes were banned from wearing squirrel fur on their clothes.
  • Prostitutes in Venice though, had to wear yellow.
  • Meanwhile, in Medieval Marseille prostitutes were made to wear striped cloaks.
  • In Elizabethan England, only the Queen was allowed to wear purple.
  • Only Elizabethan Dukes and Marquises could wear leopard fur.
  • And not fashion related, but amusing. In the early 15th Century, the city of Chester banned Welshmen from being there at night, or they’d be legally decapitated. Even more amusing, there is no evidence that the city ever repealed the law. I shouldn’t laugh. Apparently, it’s also still legal to shoot with a bow and arrow any Scotsmen who make it to the English city of York.

Are clothes still a reflection of how we see ourselves? Big head, little head, Keira Knightley.

Do they help us to be seen in the light that we wish to be? Exude our personalities and social status?

I prepare excitedly to embrace the ‘new found freedoms’ my hat bestows upon me. Time travel? Shape Shifting? Invisibility? Sexual Liberation? Infinite chocolate?

So far, its main freedom has been to keep my head warm on bracing January dog walks.

That is, until it rains.

Then it’s like walking around with a sopping, sodden fish glued to your bonce, dripping ice-cold water down your neck.

Turns out wool’s not that waterproof.

Which reminds me of the Victor Hugo quote:

“What is love? I met in the street a very poor young man who was in love. His hat was old, his coat was threadbare – there were holes at his elbows; the water passed through his shoes and the stars through his soul.”

Readers, let the stars pass through your soul, irrespective of the fish on your head and your fingers of cleavage.

Happy 2022 everyone!

Lauren Lloyd  


“Wae ma big Kilmarnock Bunnet as I ran to catch the train
I’ll never forget the trick that was played on me by Sandy Laing
He said “mind Jock when ye get tae the toon speir ye for Katie Bain, ma
Loon, she bides at number eichty street in Glesca”

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