Saturday, December 14, 2013

Wanted: A Warm Hat

Vienna Christmas Light -

I'm packing warm clothes to wear in Vienna for Christmas and started thinking about hats. I looked up beaver hats (information from the Hudson's Bay Company) which I remember were always claimed to be warmest.

Just like the cigar salesmen I've been reading about lately, who made outrageous claims about the benefits of cigar smoking, the beaver hat guys claimed that wearing one of their hats made you SMARTER. Like some kind of wizard hat. 

Rubbing the fur oil in your hair, they claimed, would improve your memory and best of all for people like me, a deaf person would regain hearing by wearing such a hat. 
We're going to Vienna because at the last minute, we cobbled together a Christmas trip using frequent flyer miles. We're doing a lot of flying to get to Vienna (Emirates via Dubai) but we're looking forward to a good time once the miles are covered. Hats will be essential as temperatures are forecast to hover around 5 - 7 degrees C. with Christmas day being the warmest at 8 degrees. Brrrr.
In Vienna we rented an apartment right downtown within walking distance of most of the Christmas markets and concert venues. We've had good luck renting apartments on-line. This time we used Airbandb. Sometimes the photos are more flattering than the real thing - kind of like
We'll see....
Apartment kitchen

Living room
We have tickets, also purchased on-line, for a couple of Christmas concerts: one on Christmas Eve and one on Christmas day. 
Vienna Concert Hall

The Christmas markets are supposed to be great fun. Look at the woman shopping in this photo...add 35 years to her, change her hair color, add a beaver hat (maybe) and it could be me!!
We usually buy one Christmas ornament a year. Looks like we'll have a few to choose from!

Here's the scoop about beaver hats in case you're interested: 
In the 17th century hats were an important item of clothing and denoted an individual's social status and occupation. They were extremely valuable and might be passed on from father to son. Hats were made of fur felt, and the best quality felt was made from beaver. The fur of the beaver had little barbs on the end which, when pressed, would interlock and make a solid fabric. This process was called "felting". The felt was then taken and formed into a hat.
During the reign of King Charles I of England (1625 - 1642) the fashion in Europe was for dashing beaver hats trimmed in Ostrich feathers. But by this time the beaver was virtually extinct in Europe. Fortunately, North America, covered as it was by vast forests and subjected much of the year to cold temperatures, provided an alternate source of supply. And so the fur trade was born. The huge demand for hats in the 18th and early 19th century caused the fur trade to boom. Hudson's Bay Company was created to explore and develop new lands in the ongoing search for this most precious raw material. In fact, in its earliest days, the Company promoted itself by presenting complimentary beaver hats (total cost £34) to important men in London to encourage their investment.
Originally centred in France, the European hat-making industry was to a great degree the preserve of Huguenots (French Protestants). But when the Edict of Nantes (1598), which had allowed them the freedom to practise their religion, was revoked in 1685, over 10,000 hatters emigrated to England. France's hat-making industry collapsed while England became the centre of production.
Beaver hats were water-repellent. This fact, coupled with the fact that many hats had wide brims, may help explain their popularity in a rainy climate prior to the invention of the umbrella. Superstitions surrounding beaver fur may also have contributed to its popularity. It was said that wearing a beaver hat made you smarter. It was believed that by rubbing the oil into your hair you would develop a remarkable memory. It was also rumoured that a deaf person would regain their hearing by wearing a beaver hat.
Beaver felt declined in the mid-nineteenth century when silk velour was found to be less expensive yet just as stylish. Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria, popularized the wearing of silk hats in the 1840s.


  1. Isn't -7º child's play where you are from? In Toronto people were wearing something they called a baclava, they looked like something you might purloin from a wayward Incan but they do keep your ears covered. Have a wonderful time, don't forget the pastry...

  2. That was the best "flash mob". I sure would like to run into one of those- any one!
    The apt. looks great. I can't wait to hear all about it. I hope you're having fun. How could you help it?