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January 21, 2013

Mystery Millinery

By far the most fascinating story to be covered at today's inaugural festivities involves the genesis and meaning of Justice Scalia's head-dress.  The voracious hunger for conspiratorial explanations in the Twitterverse was predictable, but it was sated (or perhaps 'whetted' is the mot juste) by Kevin Walsh, whose dash and sense of medieval panache is second to none.

Posted by Marc DeGirolami on January 21, 2013 at 09:37 PM in DeGirolami, Marc | Permalink

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Ummmmm...Thomas More's hat?

Posted by: Don Altobello | Jan 21, 2013 11:01:44 PM

Matthew Schmitz over at First Things says, "Wearing the cap of a statesman who defended liberty of church and integrity of Christian conscience to the inauguration of a president whose policies have imperiled both: Make of it what you will."

I'd say if it was a protest against erosion of religious liberty, it was pretty nervy of the man who authored the majority opinion in Employment Division v Smith.

Posted by: David Nickol | Jan 22, 2013 7:12:25 AM

Probably Justice Breyer was protesting the same thing. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/01/live-updates-inauguration-day-2013/

Or do you have a separate theory about the earflaps (I believe they are known as "martyrdom earflaps" by those in the know)? Perhaps Senator McCaskill can explain.

Posted by: Marc DeGirolami | Jan 22, 2013 7:59:12 AM

That quote from Schmitz sounds painfully dumb to me, but what I'm interested in is whether Moore counts as "medieval". I would have though he was already into the renaissance. (My "atlas of medieval history" has its last map at about 1476 or so, for example.)

As for Bryer's hat, it's what I'd call a Russian ice-fishing hat. Russian ice fishing consists mostly of drinking vodka while sitting on a frozen pond, as far as I can tell, and the more you drink, the more the flaps, (which are oddly never used for the ears, as far as I can tell) come out to look like airplane wings.

Posted by: Matt | Jan 22, 2013 1:40:11 PM

More may not be properly situated as a medievalist (a sourcebook I recently received about More describes him as "the first major writer of the English Renaissance"), but the hat's origins are older as a symbol of both academic and (later) legal distinction. I think both the birettum and pileus (the antecedent of J. Scalia's model, I believe) are 13-14th century caps used for these purposes.

Posted by: Marc DeGirolami | Jan 22, 2013 3:19:41 PM

Thanks, Marc- that certainly makes sense.

Posted by: Matt | Jan 22, 2013 7:39:35 PM

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