Hat culture in the black church

There’s an interesting article about the hat culture in black churches. The article, A congregation of splendid hats, is written by Karen Grigsby Bates. According to Ms. Bates, the ladies were looking splendid in their hats on Palm Sunday at the West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles.

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A congregation of splendid hats

Hats are a tradition in black churches. On Palm Sunday at West Angeles Church of God in Christ in South L.A., the pews blossomed with fabulous creations.

By Karen Grigsby Bates

This is going to date me, but it’s true: When I was young, most black ladies wore hats to church. Easter was the true beginning of spring, the day when hats in spring colors blossomed throughout the congregation: yellow, peach, mint, lilac, pink. Even if the weather wasn’t cooperating, the hats came out. At my home church, Dixwell Avenue Congregational in frosty New Haven, Conn., it wasn’t unusual to see a lady wearing her spring finery beneath her mink coat. It might have been barely 50 degrees, but it was Easter, and the hats were coming out.

Although the world has gotten much more casual in the intervening decades, and sadly, hats are far less ubiquitous, hat culture remains alive and well in many of the nation’s black churches. On Palm Sunday in South L.A., the pews of West Angeles Church of God in Christ were splashed with plenty of color: broad brims in coral, pink and cream trimmed in ribbons and flowers; lampshade profiles in aqua and pistachio; and high-hat toppers in dusty rose, trimmed in lace and festooned with silk flowers. The black hats were anything but basic: The equestrienne top hat sparkled with tiny crystals on its crown and net veil, and the brim of one magnificent upturned glazed straw had a sunburst pattern of gold threading and crystal baguettes that perfectly echoed the gold and silver threading on the cuffs of the wearer’s St. John knit suit.

It was a rich sample of the fashionable display in many of the city’s black churches, though perhaps on a slightly larger scale — West Angeles is one of the biggest Protestant churches in the region. Its 24,000 members attend one of three services each Sunday, and its bishop, Charles Blake, is about to be installed as the presiding bishop for the Church of God in Christ, the fourth-largest Pentecostal denomination in the United States. The bishop says, “all are welcome. We don’t care how you dress, we just care that you come.” But most people come dressed up because they want to. And many of the women — old, young and in between — wear hats. Serious hats.

You can read the entire article here and check out the hat photo gallery here.

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