April 24, 2012

If the cap fits . . .

 THE NAME JOHN G. HANNA will be familiar to anyone who loves old-fashioned sea-going ketches. Hanna was a sailboat designer, famous most of all for designing the Tahiti ketch, a rugged, heavy-displacement  30-footer known for its ease of handling and seaworthiness.

What isn't so well known about Hanna is that he had a thing about hats — the kind of hats amateur sailors wear to impress the hoi polloi and attract witless young ladies.  This is what he had to say about them in that feisty old yachting magazine, The Rudder:

"Anyone who ventures around yacht clubs, public yacht docks, and such places, is bound to see many painful sights. Being a patient old man, I just grin and bear most of them. But one always makes me move to the lee rail. I refer to the hundreds of men you see wearing either work clothes or any old kind of lounging clothes, and also a full-dress formal yachting cap.

"Faugh! It's as disgusting a spectacle as to see a laborer in greasy overalls wearing a silk opera hat. I doubt if a single one of the men misusing the yacht cap would make such an ass of himself as to appear publicly in the overalls-and-silk-hat get-up, yet he blandly goes around day after day in a get-up equally offensive to good taste. I never could figure why.

"Canvas hats are the proper thing to wear when swabbing or painting the old barge. For those hours when you are just loafing around in slacks and any old kind of shirt, sea-duty caps, with small, soft crowns, can be had, if you feel you must look very hotsy totsy salty. Hard as it may be to resist the temptation to show the girls you have the price of a formal yacht cap, if not a yacht, still it is better to put it away until you don the type of coat, trousers, collar and tie accepted as formal yachting dress.

"Mind you, I'm just an old clam digger, and I don't urge anyone to go formal, ever, if he doesn't want to. Point I am making is, there is but one choice for a man of any self-respect: either go all the way, or none. Mismatched rag-bag combinations are definitely out."

Today's Thought
To carry an umbrella without any headgear places a fellow in a social no man's land — in the category of one hurrying round to the corner shop for a bottle of stout on a rainy day at the behest of a nagging landlady.
— John Newton, Chief of the Tailors' and Garment Workers' Union, London.

A yachtsman dressed in a navy-blue blazer and skipper's cap walked into a psychiatrist's office wearing only plastic wrap for trousers.
"Well captain," said the shrink, "I can clearly see you're nuts."

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

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