I was walking to work this morning and passed an elderly woman whose outfit fascinated me, primarily because of a particular item of clothing which caught my eye – her hat. It looked like a toy hat: it was a dull metallic gold, Fedora style, and by the looks of it, made from plastic. I thought it odd that an old woman would wear a toy hat out on the street. Then I took in the rest of her outfit and somehow this hat made sense. Not because she was wearing some sort of fancy dress costume or even anything outrageous or ridiculous. But because her gold toy hat, strangely enough, perfectly complemented her outfit, which was by comparison, startlingly conservative. She was wearing a pale, beige-yellow pantsuit, nicely tailored, in textured linen. The jacket had a neat V neck and smart little buttons. Her blonde hair (no mauve rinse in sight) was curled and set and she had a petite leather handbag looped over one shoulder by a long handle-strap. Thus the gold tones of the plastic hat perfectly matched the soft gold yellows of the linen suit, as well as her blonde hair and fair complexion. Who would have thought a plastic toy accessory could look so elegant?
The woman’s face on the other hand perhaps revealed more about her apparent inclination to wear toy hats than her outfit did. This was not the kind of old woman who looks cuddly and homely, all soft hands and smiling eyes and knitted cardigans. This woman had attitude. Her face looked stern, showcasing a set of deeply imbedded wrinkles, and she had a skinny cigarette jutting from her lips. Yet she did not look cranky or hard. She did look like she could have been through a lot in her life, but she also looked like someone who might wear plastic hats on a whim, just for fun. Or to simply and seriously rebuke the conserves of a polite society: one which demands pearls with linen pantsuits and hats to be made of felt or finely wrought straw.
I am not sure precisely what I am trying to convey when I write this. It was a moment and a sighting that caught me by surprise early one morning and I wanted to share it. It was truly beautiful because it was unexpected and a little confounding. It also made me think of a friend, who told me a while ago that she went on a walk through her city one day, pretending to be Scott Schuman from The Sartorialist. She did not have a camera but she was looking out for curiously stylish people (or even just curious or just stylish). She looked genuinely disappointed when she told me that she did not see one person she thought would be worthy of a picture on The Sartorialist – someone with a little Alice in Wonderland, magical sizzle in their demeanour and attire. I think my woman, in her gold toy fedora, would have definitely piqued my friend’s interest (maybe even Mr. Schuman’s). An ode to being extraordinary.
*Photo courtesy Rodney Smith.