Who owns a hat for 50 years?  Well, if it’s a Moriarty hat, perhaps you understand why.

Getting ready to shovel the driveway one cold morning last winter, I reached to the top shelf of the hall closet for a hat.  My fingers felt the double-thick headband of my old Moriarty hat tucked up out of sight.  I pulled it over my ears and went a-shoveling.  Working the shovel in knee-deep in snow, a thought occurred to me.  Wait a minute.  I bought that hat from Mrs. Moriarty’s shop on the Stowe Mountain Road in 1964.  That made it fifty years old.  My hat was fifty.  It has been with me in trunks, suitcases, boxes and dresser drawers in moves from New York to California to Japan back to California and then to Massachusetts.  Been with me at Mammoth Mountain, cross-country in Appleton Farms, MA, going to class in Syracuse, sailing the Gulf of Maine, walking to work from North Station in downtown Boston.  Fifty years is a long time to own a hat.  Of course, I had other hats, but my Moriarty kept popping into my hand from time to time from the top shelf.  How did this happen?

It's quite the hat. Back in the 60s and 70s, Moriarty hats were iconic.  The Preppy Handbook lampooned them as an essential part of the spoiled college kid outfit.  Almost everyone I skied with at Song Mountain, Tully, NY, had one.  The three points on the top were like a rooster’s cockscomb, distinctive and bold.  You wore your hat down tight over your ears with your goggles wrapped around your head.  No helmets in those days.  It was a “look” that even the most tentative skiers could exhibit.

Mrs. Moriarty founded a cottage industry around weaving those hats.  Soon outpaced by the volume of orders, Mrs. M. enlisted an army of fifty weavers in Stowe village, producing as many as 40,000 in 1965.  At its height, the Moriarty hat was as ubiquitous a symbol of skiing as Head skis and Marker turntable bindings.  An ad in SKI was bold enough to say, “The people of Vermont make great maple syrup, great cheddar cheese and the best ski hats in the world.”  As I said, icon status.

You can buy a vintage Moriarty hat on eBay or from the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum that somehow has a stock of left over inventory from the later days of the company.  The Moriarty family got out of the business in the 80s.

Mrs. Moriarty was told by skiers that "they skied better" with her hat on. Credit: SKI January, 1965
Mrs. Moriarty was told by skiers that “they skied better” with her hat on.
Credit: SKI January, 1965

Don’t ask why I never sent my hat off to the Salvation Army.  Despite the odd moth hole, it has simply always been part of my kit along with a handful of books, a banjo, a lighter from my Navy destroyer, and other small remainders of the past.  Things that travel through life with you have value.  When you pick them up again after many years, memories start to emerge in layers.  Even after many years.  Even a ski hat.  That’s why I love my Moriarty hat.

Do you still have one?

For more information, check out Retro-Skiing.com as well as Ivy-Style.com.

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