We try to approach every object in the FIDM Museum collection with a critical, evaluative eye. But how do you maintain the necessary scholarly distance when confronted with a hat made from beer cans? It's hard not to smile, or at least raise an eyebrow when you see this creative hat.
Novelty hats constructed from beer cans bound with crocheted yarn seem to have emerged in the late 1960s, an example of a resurgent interest in hand-made clothing. In reaction to the highly synthetic materials and structured shapes popular in the mid-sixties, a fashion counterculture emerged that prized natural fibers and small-scale or handmade production. Garments became more individually expressive of the maker, and often featured hand-crafted elements such as patchwork, embroidery, visible hand-stitching, hand-painting, and crochet. Re-worked second hand or non-western garments were also popular wardrobe items for those interested in rejecting the fashion system. If not made by the wearer, garments with these elements were usually produced in small batches by individual craftspeople. The late '60s crocheted dress featured in this post is a great example of how hand-made clothing entered retail markets. It is from a small line hand-made in Portugal by designer Robert Car. The line retailed at Sak's Fifth Ave and I. Magnin.
Not a high-fashion item, crocheted can hats were a crafty project that could be made at home from a printed pattern. Though most often made from beer cans, these hats could be constructed from any empty aluminum beverage can. Some versions feature wide bands of crochet, with the yarn used as a decorative element that almost overshadows the imagery on the cans. Our hat, however, uses crocheted yarn sparingly, bringing the focus entirely on the beer cans. To make the hat, empty cans were cut to the desired size, and the edges perforated before being crocheted together. If you'd like to try and make your own beverage can hat, try this detailed tutorial. If you make one this weekend, send us a picture!