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Perspective: In defense of big, weird hats

In this age of tension and polarization, we should strive for more events that require absurd headwear

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Michelle Budge, Deseret News

Over the weekend, the world watched as Prince Charles officially became King Charles III. Whether or not a 74-year-old man needs an elaborate party with a $125 million price tag amid a cost-of-living crisis, and whether or not a British monarchy should exist at all is, frankly, none of my business.

I have my own country’s problems to worry about, and criticizing the U.K. for anything feels like telling my neighbors their grass is getting too long while my home is infested with termites. I can’t deal with the monkeys in their circus while I’m wrestling gorillas in mine.

So the only opinion I feel comfortable presenting publicly is my opinion that the big, weird hats worn by many coronation attendees were very big and very weird.


In this photo made available by Buckingham Palace on Monday, May 8, 2023, King Charles III and Queen Camilla are pictured in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace, London.

Hugo Burnand/Royal Household 2023, Associated Press


Katy Perry attends the coronation of King Charles III in Westminster Abbey in London, Saturday, May 6, 2023.

Gareth Cattermole/Pool Photo, Associated Press


Princess Anne in the gardens of Buckingham Place as King Charles III receives a royal salute from members of the military in the gardens of Buckingham Place, London, after the coronation ceremony, Saturday, May 6, 2023.

Andrew Milligan/Pool, Associated Press

Later that same day, more than 150,000 horse/bourbon enthusiasts gathered at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby, an event that I believe must truly stump the aliens monitoring our planet — not just because tens of thousands of creatures gather to watch some of the smallest of their own ride a different kind of creature that is only vaguely aware of what’s happening, in circles, for all of two minutes, but also because the hats are, again, very big and very weird.


A woman walks to her seat on the day of the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 6, 2023, in Louisville, Ky.

Bryan Woolston, Associated Press


A man walks to his seat on the day of the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 6, 2023, in Louisville, Ky.

Bryan Woolston, Associated Press

The hats, and the events to which they are worn, are easy targets for mockery, and their critics are not without reason to believe these events have problems that need solving.

But I believe that, as adults, we need more, not fewer, occasions that require wide brims and ribbons and papier-mâché roses.

Sometimes life feels like one big decrescendo in terms of celebrations. As a kid, there’s a birthday party every weekend. My kids are in this phase of life, and I’ve taken to keeping wrapping supplies in the car so that when we inevitably forget to get a gift until 20 minutes before the party starts, we can buy one and wrap it en route.

Teendom offers school dances, award ceremonies, band concerts, homecoming games and graduation. Early adulthood for me was one long string of bridal showers and wedding receptions to attend, including my own. Then a few years later, there was a baby shower every Saturday.

But now, the baby showers are rare and usually just sprinkles. Weddings are few and far between, and my peers and I are all so much in the thick of our careers or child rearing or both that it takes intense calendar coordination and frequent rescheduling to gather for even just a simple dinner.

There’s also this strange adult-onset phenomenon where one feels shame in asking others to gather for one’s own birthday or to celebrate an accomplishment. But might we be better served by taking a page from King Charles’ book and throwing more parties for ourselves?

I want more reasons for celebration.

I want to raise my Diet Coke glass to my friend who just got a promotion. I want to attend the party of a fellow mom celebrating the successful potty training of her last kid — the end of diapers forever. I want more housewarming parties and certainly more birthday celebrations. I want to know when a neighbor has survived a hard week and take them to dinner.

And I certainly want more occasions to wear big, weird hats without having to fly to Kentucky or the other side of the Atlantic Ocean or paying $125 million to put on an event where I can experience them.

So invite me to your next birthday party and I’ll show up in a rose-covered sunhat and together we’ll show the aliens what’s worth celebrating.