Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/548

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
530
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

SERVILITY IN DRESS.
By HERBERT MAXWELL.

THE further we travel from the origin of our species the less concern does male humanity show to enhance what share of beauty it may lay claim to, or to screen the ugliness it is generally heir to, by grace of garments. Among civilized and well-to-do men, gala costume has no keynote now but respectability—at weddings as at funerals, at garden parties as in Parliament, costume is attuned to harmonize with the hurtful cylinder of sable which the supineness of our great-grandfathers allowed the hatters to impose on them as a headdress, and a hundred hopeless years have but served to bind more tightly on our aching brows. If the chimney-pot hat were comfortable wear—were it sunproof or rainproof, or easily carried when not in use—our allegiance to it might be monotonous, but at least it would be intelligible. But, in plain sooth, it is intolerable in sunshine; it is so sensitive of rain-drops that an umbrella must be carried for its special shelter; and when we travel, it is as difficult to dispose of as a murdered corpse. It can not be concealed; the accursed thing will fit in with no other portion of our raiment, and must be provided with a special case of grotesque and impracticable shape. In wear or out of wear, we can not forget its existence nor neglect to make provision for its protection. Cephalalgic humanity has tried every means to be quit of it, but in vain. The creature has not even a serious name, for no one, except the fiend who frames it, knows it as a silk hat; schoolboys, with the contempt born of familiarity, call it a "buster" or a "topper"; soldiers, scornfully, a "stovepipe"; civilians, realistically, a "chimney-pot." In vain has bountiful Nature provided straw, and human ingenuity fashioned felt: two more perfect substances for head-covering could not have been devised; but, perversely, littering our horses with the one, and roofing our barns with the other, we thrust our thinking organs into unyielding towers of pasteboard. In a simpler age we should have made a god of It—prayed to It, sung to It, bowed to It, propitiated It; but, having adopted monotheism, we are outwardly consistent, and are content to insist on taking it to church with us. The first inhabitant of Mars who visits the earth, and publishes a volume of travels on his return, will probably describe how, in western Europe, the possession of a chimney-pot hat is held to be essential to salvation.

And now let us dismiss the Hat from consideration (would that it could be as easily dismissed from wear!) with a passing speculation as to the tenacity with which, in its present form,