All The More Reason


Hats Off!
August 25, 2006, 7:59 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Mustafa Kemal ‘Ataturk’ was the founding father of modern Turkey. After the break up of the Ottoman Empire, he refashioned the country in an orgy of ‘Modernization’ (and for ‘Modernization’, read ‘secularization’). Islamic posts and religious schools were abolished; representative, if imperfect, democratic institutions were created; a new legal code imitated from a Western model was substituted for the Holy Law, the domestic production of alcohol was encouraged (the fact that Ataturk was a lifelong drunk may, or may not, have something to do with this)

One particular preoccupation of Ataturk was the way in which the new Turkish citizenry attired itself. The veil was officially discouraged:

“In some places I have seen women who put a piece of cloth or a towel or something like it over their heads to hide their faces, and who turn their backs or huddle themselves to the ground when a man passes by. What is the meaning and sense of this behaviour? Gentlemen, can the mothers and daughters of a civilized nation adopt this strange manner, this barbarous posture? It is a spectacle that makes the nation an object of ridicule. It must be remedied at once.”

Hats particularly occupied Ataturk.

“Gentlemen, the Turkish people, who founded the Turkish Republic, are civilized; they are civilized in history and reality…A civilized, international dress is worthy and appropriate for our nation, and we will wear it. Boots or shoes on our feet, trousers on our legs, shirt and tie, jacket and waistcoat- and of course, to complete these, a cover with a brim on our heads. I want to make this clear. The head covering is called ‘hat’ ‘

Accordingly, the traditional ‘fez’ was banned as a feudalist relic.

In his book, The Closed Circle, David Pryce-Jones recounts the tale of what, donning the presumably uncivilized Holemesian deerstalker, we may take to be a rather salutary moment in the young Ataturk’s life:

‘On his first visit to Western Europe, to observe the French army on its annual maneuvers, he had bought in Salonika what he took to be Western clothes and a soft hat. Meeting him at the station in Paris, the military attache had laughed at the sight. “The suit was dark green and the hat a jaunty Tyrolean air to it.” Paris-styled clothes then had to be procured.’

Apocryphal or not, there is something quite delicious in the idea that a prospective Member State of the European Union was forged by man with a point to prove about his dress-sense.

Michael P

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