The Top 5 Most Amazing Official Hats

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Gone are the days of the powdered wig (except in certain British courtrooms, that is), and rare is the modern sighting of a bicorn hat. Yet even today, in the second decade of the third millennium of the Common Era, there are a handful individuals who hold titles and/or posts that merit the wearing of official headgear. And we’re not talking about any mere policeman’s peaked cap or ballplayer’s hat here; many of these folks sport hats that are goddamned amazing. We’re jealous enough to be considering a career switch to Canadian equestrian law enforcement or pontiff just for the hat!

5 The Mountie Tam

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The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are a strange bunch. While many Mounties today wear modern uniforms similar to those of any other police force and drive around in cars or on motorcycles, many members of the RCMP still ride around on horses wearing bright red jackets and tight black pants. And tams. That’s the famous brimmed brown hat without which you just can’t picture a Mountie. Essentially, these folks trot around wearing great hats (atop otherwise ridiculous uniforms) looking like they just stepped out of the 19th century, yet they also have firearms and bust drug smugglers and protect the prime minister and such.

4 Crown of the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church

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One look at the sartorial selection of Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, will make it clear that this is one sect of Christianity that passed on that whole Protestant austerity business. Of the many fancy headpieces this religious leader can be found wearing, several feature gold leaf, jewels and miniature icon paintings, and are topped by jewel-encrusted crosses. Of course, this is also the patriarch who got into a flap over sporting a gaudy $20,000 watch, which was subsequently poorly airbrushed out of several pictures.

3 The Buckingham Palace Guard Bearskin

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Contrary to popular misconception, it is not the Beefeaters who wear those tall, puffy black hats known as Bearskins, it is the Buckingham Palace Guards, those poor soldiers so beloved by gawking tourists the world over. (The Beefeaters are often dressed even more ludicrously than the Palace Guards, mind you, but their hats are more like standard top hats.) The origins of these hats date to the 1600s, though they fell out of “fashion” for most of the 1700s, since which time they have been a ridiculous part of the ceremonial dress of many military outfits, most famously the guards in question. The hats were likely adopted to add apparent height, and therefore might, to the troops wearing them.

2 The Pope’s Mitre

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The current pope, Francis I, seems to be a man of reserve and simplicity, and dresses in much simpler garb than many of his papal forebears. So let’s not talk about him, and instead take a look at the headgear of his predecessor, the retired Pope Fancypants. Or Fancyshoes, at least. Or ok, fine, Pope Benedict XVI. Now there was a pontiff who knew how to rock a great mitre! There are in fact three distinct mitres worn by Catholic clergymen, the simplex, which is a rather simple (see?) pointy hat made of unadorned fabric, the auriphrygiata (have fun pronouncing that), which is woven partially of gold and silver threads, and then the pretiosa (or “precious”) which is encrusted with jewels and gold and the like. You know, holy bling.

1 The British Crown

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When you hear the term “Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom,” it is referring not to a single crown, but rather to all the jewelry, decorative clothing, scepters and so on that the king or queen of the UK wears during the most important of occasions, such as their own coronation. Taken as a whole, the Crown Jewels are worth an estimated $40 million just in terms of the precious metals and stones comprising them. Their actual value is incalculable, given their history and prestige. The most famous crown of the current sovereign, the Crown of Queen Elizabeth, was made in 1937 for Elizabeth II’s mother. It is made of platinum and studded with precious stones, most notably the Koh-i-Noor diamond, a stone of more than 105 carats.

Steven John is a published novelist and competitive pole vault champion. (The latter is not true.) His writing runs the gamut from speculative fiction to essays fueled by a mix of mirth and derision. He has never been to Lisbon but, statistically speaking, is probably taller than you.

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