Monday, June 4, 2012

Plumed Hats & Scarlet Cloaks

Seventeenth century artist Stefano della Bella drew this man in a plumed hat.  It would be marvelous to see men in such hats now, a change from the common baseball hat we see everywhere.  (Isn't "della Bella" the perfect name!)    

Here in Boston, in the 18th century, well-to-do men wore scarlet cloaks woven from fine wool dyed from cochineal made from the shells of an insect that feeds on cactus.  On Sunday we saw two scarlet cloaks on display at the Concord Museum.  Now in Boston men wear drab colors: gray, dark green, brown.  (I first came across the word "cochineal" in a poem by Emily Dickinson, in which she describes the arrival of a hummingbird: 'a revolving wheel of cochineal.')

Gathering insects for making cochineal.

Men wearing flamboyant clothes would probably not improve society but would make for a lively scene, a scene on the street and subway.  First we have to get people out of their cars.  Men, put on your scarlet cloaks and plumed hats and strut!


  1. Would indeed be a sight to see and wonder nowadays. Over here, it's mostly grey, black or anything dark. Over a year, I spend more money on tea than for clothes. Please have a good Thursday.

  2. There is a society in the Congo (I think it's called Sapeau, or Sapo) and it stands for Society of Well-Dressed Gentlemen. They're modern dandies and have been going for donkey's years now. There was a very good documentary on their lifestyle, which I showed as part of an African film festival I coordinated and curated some years ago. I don't know what to think of dandyism. Part of me likes it from the point of view of a neutral, but I'm more comfortable in jeans and T-shirt or jumper. Still, when I do dress up, I feel a difference. And most people around me do, too.

    Great post and images. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  3. Hello, Cuban:

    Thanks for the information. I'll google and see what comes up.

    Though I like the show, I'm all for comfort.

    Cheers from Boston