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First Word

Ow. I must learn to wear hats. Despite having indulged my penchant for pedestrianism in Houston, I never seemed to get sunburned quite as easily as I do here in Los Angles. Itís probably because L.A. is so very deceptive (what a shock!) in that the ambient temperature always seems so pleasant. You donít realize, until itís too late, that youíve actually been lulled into spending more time outside than youíd originally planned.

Houston had the kind of heat that literally took your breath away the moment you stepped outside. You were all too aware of the sun and its wrath. Here in L.A., you leave your door open all the time. Indeed, your home is a mere extension of the outside environment. You stroll outside so casually, walking down the street, and thinking itís really no different than you felt at home. Itís only when Iím about a half mile or so from my apartment (and baseball cap) that I start to feel the mounting discomfort -- exacerbated, of course, because of my follicularly challenged pate.

I start to get woozy and cross from one side of the street to the other hoping to hide from that imaginary giant kid in orbit whoís singled me out with his magnifying glass. Before I know it, Iím ducking for cover at every opportunity and still, by the time I get back home, I look like Iím wearing a bright red yarmulka. For the rest of the evening, I feel the unpleasant tingle of roasted flesh slowly (and certainly) metamorphosing into skin cancer on my brow. And whatís with that weird oily sweat that only sunburned skin seems to exude? Eeew.

Interestingly enough, while over exposure is a common enough ailment in my normal life, itís not something from which I suffer from too much in the SCA (well, not that sort of overexposure anyway!).

For years, I watched a growing male fashion trend in the SCA. Grown men, seemingly quite masculine in nature, donned white linen caps with strings dangling down either side of their heads. I scoffed at these men for wearing what essentially looked like baby bonnets on their heads. Rather than evoking the manly image of medieval knights, I always pictured some Victorian-era dowager going to bed at night with great, gray braids hanging out from underneath her sleeping cap. Certainly, not the look I was going for when I put on my garb. Like most aspects of my SCA evolution, however, Pennsic prompted me to reexamine the little biddy baby bonnet syndrome I saw plaguing even the most virile of men in these Current Middle Ages.

As most of us know, Pennsic can be hot. I suspect that a mid-afternoon August day on the Serengeti is akin to taking a stroll on the sun and just about as pleasant. Since carrying a parasol was hardly appropriate to my persona (and I pray to God Iím never that gay!), I took a serious look at my head covering options. After all, you canít go to Pennsic and hide out in your tent. They become unbearable about a half hour after the sun comes up. Besides, all of the good shopping is always over there, far, far away. And my old adversary the sun is always there too, waiting for me to reveal my tender, shiny head and passively suffer its assault -- the gas-filled bully! Yeah, yeah, weíre all impressed that you convert 700 million tons of hydrogen into helium every second, but do you really have to take it out on me? But, there comes a point when you have to decide, am I going to let the sun make me its bitch or am I going to suck it up and check out... hats.

Like so many other things wrong with the America of my youth, I blame JFK for making me chapeau-phobic. The man never wore a hat since, God-forbid, he mussed that election-winning head of hair! And within a single generation, the hat died in the American male wardrobe. As a child of the Ď60ís, I automatically associated hats with women. A man wearing a hat seemed somehow feminine. You just didnít do it. And that carried over to the SCA even though the medieval man most certainly wore hats.

The most common hat I always saw at Pennsic while walking about was the wide-brimmed straw hat. It had several flaws for me though. The primary and most idiotic was guilt by association. I knew several ďgeekyĒ men who wore them and, while Iím sure it works great for them, I couldnít shake the ďRebecca of Sunnybrook FarmĒ impression that their straw hats conjured in my mind. Plus, they had an annoying tendency to fly away. And, if you want to make a man feel ten times gayer while wearing a hat, add a drawstring.

Now, I did like the wide-brimmed felt hats I saw. It had a much better association for me as the first person I ever saw wearing one at Pennsic was Duke Olaf. It was a wide-brimmed, black hat upon which his gleaming ducal coronet sat. And he looked macho! The thing is, Duke Olaf makes everything look macho! I have (hand to God!) seen the man belly-dancing with a flower behind his ear and, even while doing it, he comes off as the freaking manliest man ever to strap on a pair. So, just because it worked for His Grace, didnít necessarily mean it was going to work for me. And, of course, the other thing is, felt hats are hot! Sure, itíd keep the sun from flame broiling my head, but itíd still steam my brain like so much cauliflower. And thatís just icky.

When I first joined the SCA, I patterned a lot of my wardrobe off of Michael Praedís costumes in the 1984-85 series Robin Hood. Between that and the movie Knightriders, I had all of the inspiration I ever needed to play in the SCA. So my garb was very hooded-mantle heavy. In all honesty, itís still a look I really like and employ in many outfits. Itís also very period-appropriate for me (not that I cared at the time). The problem with hoods though is that they obscure your vision and the mantles, again, can be hot. I still use them as my primary Fall/Winter fashion accessory but as Pennsic headgear, still not ideal.

Enter, the coif. Yes, the blasted baby bonnet. Itís white. Itís linen. It breathes, cools, protects. It does everything I need it to do... except look macho. The thing is, being period can be macho in its own way. Researching your period, finding things appropriate to that time, creating them, and employing them at events brings a unique and special gratification -- a satisfaction not all that different from the pleasure gained from scratching oneís self. And thatís macho enough for me.

Knowledge does breed a certain contentment. What at first looked silly to me on other men, was merely my own ignorance. I could find examples of that seemingly ignoble cap throughout the Fecamp Psalter (ca. 1180) only a century out from my own period. To my amazement, the simple coif stayed in use, mostly unchanged, until 1500. And, even then, it was still being worn by men and women both; just as a three-piece pattern rather than the previous single-piece version. As a testament to the designís durability, it is still what astronauts wear under their helmets. Yep, a plain old (well, probably 25,000 dollar version) medieval-style coif. So, who the hell am I to balk at such a ubiquitous bonnet? Even Iím not that pig-headed.

I suspect that being sun-burned is a very period look. But itís a wholly unnecessary one. One of the more fun aspects of being in the Society is the opportunity to research, explore, and experiment with clothing from different eras. Sure, there are some aspects of medieval fashion with which I doubt Iíll ever be comfortable (give up my FotL boxerbriefs? Never, I say!). But a bright red noggin is one accessory I can do without.

Sadly, I may sometimes forget to don my Carolina Raptor Center ballcap when I walk out to Santa Monica Blvd. But, what truly saddens me, is that I didnít have the opportunity to pit my new coif against the shining days (what few there were) of Pennsic this year. But next year, I suspect the sun will be calling me out one afternoon and Iíll be armed and ready -- with my baby bonnet. Aw, yeah, whoís your daddy, Sol? --BRAN

Corvus Calendar

2nd - Medb Renataís Birthday
6th -12th - ∆thelmearc: Pennsic War XXXVI in Cooperís Lake, PA
11th - Trimaris: Pennsic Pitty Party in Wyvernwoode (Tampa, FL)
12th - 13th - Perseid meteor shower peaks.
18th - Atlantia: WOPP - A Knightís Tale in St. Georges (Pickens, SC)
18th - Northshield: B.Y.O.M. V in Vilku Urvas (Deer River, MN)
19th - Miguelís Birthday
19th - Michael Bís Birthday
24th - Dagrís Birthday
25th - Atlantia: Sacred Stoneís Baronial Birthday in Crois Brigte (Booneville, NC)
31st - Sarahís Birthday
31st - 3rd - Trimaris: Fall Coronation hosted by Marcaster (Camp Ocala, Altoona, FL)

ē August 3, 1492 - Christopher Columbus set sail from Palos, Spain, with three ships, Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria.
ē August 5, 1583 - The first English colony in North America was founded by Sir Humphrey Gilbert.
ē August 24, 79 A.D. - Vesuvius erupts and destroys the city of Pompeii.
ē August 24, 1572 - Thousands of Protestant Huguenots were massacred in Paris in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.

1st - Atlantia: Fall Coronation in Sudentorre (Haymarket, VA)
1st - Caid: Highland War in Al Sahid (Victorville, CA)
1st - Caid: Potrero War in Calafia (Potrero, CA)
2nd - Griffithís Birthday
4th - Deirdreís Birthday
8th - Atlantia: Southern Atlantian Archery Day in Crois Brigte (Boonville, NC)
8th - Caid: Fall Crown Tournament in Altavia (La Crescenta, CA)
15th - Atlantia: Glory Wars in Hindscroft (Booneville, NC)
15th - Caid: Fall Collegium Caidis in Lyondemere (Torrance, CA)
18th - Eldredís Birthday
19th - Peterís Birthday
20th - Ealdthryth & Eldredís Anniversary
21st - Victoria & Griffithís Anniversary
22nd - Caid: Sea Battle Tourney in The Canyons (West Covina, CA)
23rd - First Day of Autumn/Autumnal Equinox
29th - Atlantia: Storvik Baronial Birthday in Storvik (Upper Marlboro, MD)
29th - Caid: Angels Anniversary - Itís a Mystery! in Barony of the Angels (Monrovia, CA)

ē September 28, 1066 - The Norman conquest of England began as Duke William of Normandy landed at Pevensey, Sussex.

Corvus Crossword

Only the solution grid is displayed on the online version of the Raven Roundtable.

Solution to crossword appearing in Issue #46.

Last modified on Wednesday, November 26, 2008
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