Bring Back Bonnets

posted in: Family 20
Silk and straw capote bonnet. Spain, c. 1840. Photo: Wikipedia.


Like most women — not all, but most — I am in a constant battle with my hair.

I could soften that and say with a thoughtful look, “I am in a constant conversation with my hair”, but that hip-sounding statement — aside from sounding pretentious — is simply not true. A conversation is defined as “a talk […] in which news and ideas are exchanged.” Believe me: No new ideas have been exchanged between me and my wimpy hair since the 2nd grade when Mom let me perm my bangs. Now that was a conversation! But that was a long time ago.

These days, my relationship with my hair is absolutely a war: It’s my wimpy hair vs. me. The war is my wimpy hair trying to be its wimpy self and me, doing my best to eliminate the wimp release the tousled, volumized woman within me just dying to get out.

The good news is that lately, I’ve been winning. I’ve got a round brush and I know how to use it. I have a great curling iron. I like my shampoo. And it’s exciting, because lately, four or five days out of the seven-day week, I have at a Decent Hair Day. Sometimes, it’s an actual Good Hair Day, and last week, I had a Great Hair Day … until I went outside.

Oooh, was I mad!

My hair, which looked so boss when I rode the elevator down to the lobby, was toast within five minutes of being out in the city’s early spring weather. Wind, mist, more wind: My hair didn’t stand a chance. And as I walked to class, trying to turn my head with the wind (as opposed to against it) in order to keep at least a few carefully-combed strands in place, I thought of my grandmother, Gramma Graham, and her plastic bonnets. In an instant, I finally understood what I always saw as so old-lady-ish, so old-fashioned. No, no, I thought, as I tried to hold down the awesome “swoop” thing I had achieved with the back of my hair, she was right. Gramma Graham was so right.

I thought, “I need a plastic bonnet. Any bonnet. Bonnets make sense.”

And they do. They protect your face from the sun; they protect your hair from the elements. They can look rather beguiling if you want them to. Bonnets are cross-cultural, too, as many cultures feature bonnet-like headwear. The bonnet, man. The bonnet! Let’s bring it back. I like my hair right now. I’d like to see it live longer than 20 minutes.

I think about my Gramma Graham and I miss her. She was a good woman to the core. Ethical, loving. She loved my mother and she loved me and my sisters. And she had great hair, too; not wimpy at all. Gramma actually went prematurely gray at age 30, and no one has ever looked more beautiful, I think, than my gray-haired, thirtysomething grandmother did in the 1950s.

The bonnets she wore are long gone. But practicality is easy enough to find, and reasons for connecting with your family are everywhere, if you’re looking.

20 Responses

  1. Juline
    | Reply

    Just wear a scarf, like Jackie O! You could totally pull that off!

  2. diane
    | Reply

    Great idea, Mary. As I covered my head yesterday with my recently sewn sunhat, I thought that it did an excellent job of covering my thin, flattened hair. I DO love bonnets….I say: Bring them back!

  3. Ann Bailey
    | Reply

    Oh Mary…..Perm your bangs? – what a visual with your long straight hair and this big kinky-curly pouf on your forehead. Mary, I don’t even know how you have your hair now, but I remember a time when you wore it very short. You looked stunning. You have a perfect face for a great short cut with your gorgeous eyes and killer dimples! You’re so pretty! Go short! IMHO

  4. Barbara
    | Reply

    I agree….bring back bonnets! There is nothing more adorable than a baby in a bonnet….at least in the 50’s when babies wore bonnets!

  5. Karen
    | Reply

    My grandmother wore bonnets in the 50s, too! In fact, I have an old newspaper pattern that she used to make them. It’s somewhere in my boxes of sewing material, scraps, and patterns from my grandmother, mother, and me that I REALLY need to sort through — oh, the guilt every time I peek in that closet!

  6. JB
    | Reply

    How about when you have your hair cut and they make you look so nice (in a way that you know you can’t replicate tomorrow), then you step out the door and don’t even make it home before it’s gone. I always stop at the butcher’s on the way home from the hairdresser so at least someone I know will see me looking good. He always notices and asks if I’ve just had it done. (Which, of course, only confirms the contrast to my everyday life). Oh well. Such is life.

    You HAVE been looking spectacularly good in the Quiltfolk pics and trailer. Such insouciance! Such verve!
    You go Mary!

  7. Cathy
    | Reply

    Yes, and the hats too. I love the dress-up hats of yesteryear. I purchased 4 from a second-hand store a few years ago that are like new. I love the look from the 40s.

  8. Nancy Rudy
    | Reply

    I have the same problem.. baby fine hair – hats in winter are a must not only for warmth but walking across a windy parking lot removes any styling you may have done and you end up looking like you’ve just gotten out of bed. I love the idea of scarves, bonnets, sunhats.. all can be quite stylish too.

  9. Mary Spriet
    | Reply

    Hats and and scarves are great! You really need something on your head during these cold, rainy, windy days. I made a felted wool hat several years ago when I first started knitting and love it in the winter. Get a really nice silk scarf and keep it with your coat. You can always pull it up around your head if you need it. Hats just make sense and I don’t understand why more people don’t wear them. Wouldn’t you love to work in an old milliners (or haberdashery or whatever the hat shops are called) shop? Designer stylish hats would be so much fun!!!

  10. Susan Brown
    | Reply

    How about a cloche??? Haven’t I seen a picture of you in one?

  11. richard stofer
    | Reply

    Richard Stofer says
    March 2, 2018 at 9:12 AM

    I rarely reply to your posts, but certainly enjoy them.
    As a 50 year old man, my hair is honestly not been a huge concern until the ol’body clock started ticking past 45.
    In my youth I had more hair than brains. Long, unfrizzy, blond locks that most of my girlfriends were jealous of.
    Now, I still have lots of hair, tho streaks of gray demand real estate and selfishly want attention.
    Gray is not the problem, its the dry frizzy garbage that has moved in that is. Like bad neighbors moving in across the street, I just have to deal with it. $40 dollar shampoo and special conditioner is really not even on my radar. Nor is any sort of man vanity but simply I don’t want frizzy dry grays busting out like bean sprouts all over my head.
    So my question to you and fellow followers of the ol’ PG, what has worked for some of you?
    I guess it is sort of vanity, but I just don’t wanna look like a pad of steel wool is plopped on my noggin.
    Any help people?

    BTW I was in the first round of letters when you first started the P. O. box and will be a loyal reader no matter how much razzing my wife gives me.
    Write on Mary, write on. RS

    • Betty
      | Reply

      Try PAUL MITCHELL Smoothing Super Skinny Serum. Makes my hair feel soft and smooth. Also, since it’s basically an oil, I tell myself that it helps put a little oil back in my hair so that it’s not so static-y in the dry winter months.

      • richard stofer
        | Reply

        thank you betty

  12. HelenMarie
    | Reply

    I have given up. My hair is white. My parents did this to me (mom died at 85, still a total brunette with a mop that could have been swingy had she ever let it grow that long)

  13. Shari sack
    | Reply

    Who doesn’t love a good hat? Personally, I was always fascinated by the clear plastic, toss in your pocketbook (as Grandma Laura called it), miraculously refoldable to be used again and again as needed…. rain bonnet .
    I played with it as a kid and always tried to figure out how to tuck all my hair inside! I miss that. I miss my Grandma Laura more… but her influence and ideals and presence in my life are always with me…. Now, if only I could find that rain bonnet at the dime store.

  14. Marcia Hicks
    | Reply

    It is interesting to meet someone with thin hair because mine is as thick as a wooly mammoth! If I have to wear a hat, my head feels like someone has put a pincushion on my head upside down!! I can’t get that thing off fast enough! Count yourself lucky that you can wear a scarf, hat, bonnet or anything stylish on your noggin’! Embrace it my dear!

  15. Susan Brown
    | Reply

    Just did some surfing on your behalf…check out and search for berets…they have some loose ones that would look tre chic on you!!!

  16. rita penner
    | Reply

    Is that the kind of bonnet you have in mind? It would flatten fine hair in an instant.

  17. Joan gurney
    | Reply

    Oh I would love that ! Just think how pretty we could make them.! Would love a a pattern!

  18. LynAnne Smucker
    | Reply

    My maternal grandmother use to go once a week to get her hair done, set in rollers. Then after that she used scarves to keep it all still looking nice throughout the week. She even would go swimming in the pool that was a part of her mobile home court with us as kids, but manage to keep her hair out of the water (something as a five year-old I never understood). She lived in Santa Maria, CA and had to contend with quite a few moist or windy days. However, she managed to still look stylish with the variety of head scarves used to combat the elements and keep them from wrecking her hair style.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *