Hat Expert Profiled in Post

Beverly chico

 

The Academy is always seeking out the best of the best to teach our courses. This Spring is no exception.

Dr. Beverly Chico was a long-time teacher at some of the best universities in the nation. Her passion lies in Headwear, and she is teaching a course about how hats display culture, starting March 9-April 6.

Just a couple of years ago, the Denver Post interviewed Chico to learn about her studies:

Denver Post article on Dr. Beverly Chico

LIFESTYLES

History professor and author Beverly Chico fairly brims with knowledge about headwear

By Claire Martin
The Denver Post

POSTED:   10/31/2013 12:01:00 AM MDTADD A COMMENT| UPDATED:   2 YEARS AGO

 

GREENWOOD VILLAGE — If there is such a thing as a thinking cap, it’s somewhere in the collection of more than 600 hats and headwear amassed by Regis University and Metropolitan State University history professor Beverly Chico.

Hats are much more than a superficial accessory, she believes. They signify rank in military and religious orders and provide protection as well as hint at the wearer’s style.

“Four of the five senses are in your head, and it’s through our senses that we interact with the world,” Chico said. “It’s through the face and head that emotions are expressed. So hats are one of the most important artifacts from around the world.”

A silver Miao hat

A silver Miao hat (Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post)

For further evidence, pick up a copy of ” Hats and Headwear Around the World: A Cultural Encyclopedia.” Chico described it as a “summation of my life.” It’s 532 pages long, weighs nearly two and a half pounds, and costs $100, a price point that Chico acknowledges may be daunting.

But true hat aficionados will find it an invaluable addition to their libraries, which perhaps already include Chico’s articles“Mexican Headwear,”

A Thai dancer’s headpiece

A Thai dancer’s headpiece (Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post)

bergfashionlibrary.com/viewencyclopedia/bewdf/BEWDF-v2/EDch2036.xml” target=”_blank”>”Central American Headwear,” “Caribbean Headwear” and “South American Headwear” in volume 2 of theEncyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion (Oxford University Press). She also wrote “The Turban and Male Headwear in Central and Southeast Asia” for the Encyclopedia’s Volume 5.

A French feather Cloche hat from the 1920s

A French feather Cloche hat from the 1920s (Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post)

Small, with a slash of bright red lipstick and dark hair she wears in a ballet dancer’s bun, Chico began collecting hats in 1955, when she was living in dictator Francisco Franco’s Spain as a college student. Franco’s control of Spain virtually cut it off from the rest of Europe. As a consequence, Spain “had the best flea market in Europe,” offering bargains on historic, collectable hats, she says.

When Chico returned to the U.S., she brought back hats, including a 500-year-old Samurai helmet, and a burgeoning passion for the stories they told.

A Chinese tiger hat

A Chinese tiger hat (Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post)

“Headwear is like a walking billboard,” she said. It’s very subtle, but hats make you taller. The taller you are, the bigger you seem, a psychological message that announces you are important. Look at the spiked helmets soldiers wore. Look at a Shinto priest’s ceremonial hat. It’s like a pillbox with a tail. But only the emperor can wear the tail standing up, because he’s the intermediary between humans and the gods.”

Chico also sees hats as mileposts, and as talismans.

Here is an autographed golf hat that legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus sent her after she wrote to Nicklaus about her father, a member of Palm Beach’s elite Old Guard Society of golfers.

Here is the military hat that her son, Matthew, grabbed when the family attended the eldest son’s 1982 graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md. Chico knew that in the traditional hat tossthe hats are up for grabs. Matthew initially was reluctant.

“Do you want supper?” she asked him. He sprang out and returned with three hats, including the hat of May Holland Johnson, one of the first women to graduate from Annapolis. Today, it’s among the neatly labeled boxes in the Chico home’s Hat Room.

Here is a miner’s helmet with a propane-lit torch (a nod to her husband, Ray Chico, a mining geologist.) And a gaucho hat that represents Ray’s Argentine roots. And a bark-cloth hat acquired in 1987, an Indonesian souvenir with grim ties to Michael de Guzman’s Bre-X gold scam.

Here is her mother’s nurse’s aide cap that dates to her training during World War II.

Here are hats her son Greg brought from Africa and Thailand. Here is a cone-shaped fisherman’s hat, containing a message between the layers of straw, that son Matthew brought back from his Peace Corps service in the South Pacific.

Here is a Bedouin headpiece from a trip to the Sinai desert, and here a head ring from Rwanda, where the rings stabilize the buckets women carry on their heads. Here is a Brownie beret, a nod to daughter Tita’s Girl Scout days.

“People ask me which is my favorite hat,” she says.

“I say, ‘That’s like asking me which is my favorite child.'”

It’s hard to choose a favorite among so many hats with so many compelling stories.

One example: The disconcertingly jaunty masallahceremonial feathered hat worn by a Turkish boy on the day of his circumcision. Finding that hat required seeking out an Istanbul store that specialized in ceremonial circumcision outfits, a quest that earned Chico a few double-takes.

And with so many hundreds of hats and headwear to choose from, guess what kind of hat Chico wears?

She doesn’t. Instead, she wraps colorful ribbons, chosen to complement her outfit, around the bun that sits high on her head, and lets the ribbons trail down her neck.

“I decided that after I turned 50, I shouldn’t wear my hair long,” she said. “So I put it up in a bun, as the Spanish women do, and my sister suggested the ribbons.”

join Beverly in her class on Wednesdays at 1 pm. to learn more. Please email info@academyll.org for more information.

 

 

 

 

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