I’ve never cared much for watching sports. I used to love the Olympics until it become a giant ad for whatever network owned broadcast rights. The time shift of the “best” events to evenings when they could bracket them with endless commercials is wretched, along with the insipid intros and commentary. “Little girls, dancing, dancing for gold,” repeated ad naseum by John Tesh as the intro for women’s gymnastics, was creepy as fuck. Stop it, John! Stop it now! You’re a grown man, John, for heaven’s sake, stay away from the gymnasts!

I was also a dedicated New England Patriots fan from 1982 until 2012 (goodbye, Tom Brady, you magnificent hoarder of big diamond rings). I actually liked them better when they were perennial losers with only occasional forays into the playoffs. They were the bumbling, stumbling, mockable team trolling the bottom of the league. Far less stressful for me since we learned to expect nothing (but I won’t complain about the six championships in nine appearances under golden boy Tom, either). Since 2012, I’ve freed up my Sundays by ignoring football completely.

But there are many sports movies I love to watch. Among those is Major League, the comedy with Charlie Sheen and Tom Berenger. I never fail to find it amusing, especially Pedro Cerrano and his delightful obsession with his bats. Like when he realized that golf club covers are excellent hats for bats.

I’ve lately been obsessed with hats myself. It started innocuously enough, as these things do. I made a joke post about wanting something different from the “Nazi’s take over the world” alternative history stories. Let’s have someone else take over the world for a change! Mongols, Russians, New Zealand (Taiki Watiti runs Hollywood!), anyone. But ultimately settled on the Ottoman Empire because they have “funny hats.”

That lead down a rabbit hole of a search which ultimately convinced me I was on to something. The Ottoman Empire indeed had a HUGE variety of astounding head gear. I’m now learning a ton of stuff I didn’t know about the prevalence and importance of hats in the Ottoman Empire.

For example, color coding was important. Muslims wore white turbans. Christians wore a variety of blue-shaded turbans. Jews wore yellow turbans. All of these colors were considered lucky, too. But Zoroastrians had to wear black turbans, a color considered an ill-omen (then and now I guess). Does that explain why there are no more Zoroastrians around these days?

Beyond the simple turban, there were a number of different hat styles for soldiers, religious members, servants. Everything from the sultan’s glorious, egg shaped ceremonial turban down to the lowly skullcap worn by the poorest citizens. It was hats, hats, hats, all the damned time.

The janissaries preferred tall hats – called börks – with built in neck shade, and then decorated them with even taller items. “Can you see us? No? (adds giant feather) How ’bout now?”
The glorious onion of Suleiman the magnificent it. Peel him, he’s got layers!

Really, though, the best headgear belongs to the noble class. Of course it does! While those bastards were passing laws telling you what each class/religion could and could not wear, down to the proper shade of color, they were going hog wild on some of the wildest hats the world has ever witnessed.

The New York Library has a wonderful book in its collection with colored plates created during the reign of Mahmud II showing members of his court in a variety of garb and head wear. They include Faberge egg hats, and conical hats, and giant axe-blade shaped feathered hats. Glorious, beautiful hats! The Ottomans was literally the empire version of Fortnight, with a hat for every possible look and function.

At the deepest roots, it’s a reminder that cultural details in your writing can be far more interesting than “they ate stew… again.” You can do some really wild stuff with textiles, architecture, customs, religions. And if anyone ever DARES say “well that’s just not realistic” (because they will, despite the fact you just wrote about a dragon flaming an entire caravan of refugees and their herd of tamed bugbears, and just try and herd bugbears yourself, I dare you), all you need do is show them pictures of what the Ottomans really did with hats.

Like these:

The boyscout of the Ottomans, he carries an extra pant leg on his head for emergencies.
This hat says I am fabulous, like a Faberge egg. Crack me open.
Glorious, astounding. This hat can cut sorrow from a widow’s tears, separate truth from a dead man’s lips.
This man about town wear’s a headpiece that says “I am comfortable with my manhood.”

In fact, I may have taken all this too far. A lot of my Viable Paradise friends are enchanted with the idea of an anthology of speculative stories revolving around hats. And well… so am I. Maybe that’s something I’ll do in the future, it’s appealing, like a good chapeau. It’s also a lot of work and I’m not sure I’m quite ready to take it on yet.

So get crazy with your details. Build rich, detailed worlds and let your inner weird out. You may never compete with the Ottomans in terms of sheer batshit insane outwear, but you may find the right hats for your own bats.

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