Chad the Dad Demystifies Pilgrim Attire

Chad (the Dad) Harris, a stand-up comic and regular contributor to The Mystery Hour, answers your questions about Thanksgiving symbolism—from a dad’s perspective. This month's question is about Pilgrim Attire.

By Chad Harris

Nov 2019

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Why is there a buckle on Pilgrim hats?  

A great question! And a great conversation starter (or diversion if dialogue is not going your way) at Thanksgiving dinner with the family. The capotain or “sugarloaf” hat—usually black and worn from the 1590s into the mid 17th century—is identified with Puritan costume. Millions of kids have drawn buckles on Puritans’ headgear for years without really knowing why. Some attribute the strange buckle to: a strict Christian sect that demanded a “tightening of the belt” around one’s head to prevent evil or impure thoughts from escaping; lack of storage on the Mayflower (“Put the extra belt on your head, Brewster”); a symbolic mark indicating that Pilgrims were square, dull people and not hip to current culture; the first attempt at an adjustable hat, the buckle sliding to allow for different head sizes; leftovers being placed in the large hat, then buckle-cinched shut, creating the first to-go bags; a sign, pointing to the coming store The Buckle inside of Battlefield Mall; one Puritan clothing designer who wanted to buck the system in England.

Figure it out? Loosen your belt buckle you party Puritan and pass the seconds because sadly, most scholars agree that the buckle was never a thing and was added to the hat during the 19th century. Gobble out this fact after soliciting answers from around the dinner table. Why do we still carry this image forward? ’Cause hat buckles is funny.

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C(TD) claims not to provide helpful advice.