What are you playing hat?

Gayle Wade puts her civil rights hat on as an 82-year-old WI member is barred from a pub for obscuring her face from the CCTV cameras.

I LIKE hats. I've got lots of them, in all kinds of shapes and colours. There are several I would struggle to find an occasion to wear.

Some people think that those of us who wear hats are a bit odd, but never until now have I thought that hats might be considered some kind of weapon of millinery destruction!

A perfectly respectable 82-year-old lady, a retired teacher, was instructed to remove her hat when she went for lunch at a pub in Ely.

Apparently, hats are banned at The Hereward, in Market Street because they might interfere with the effective operation of CCTV.

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The pub manageress was quoted in the Eastern Daily Press as saying: "It's for customers' protection as much as anything else because in this day and age, you don't know who are the troublemakers."

I would have thought that, even in these depraved days, 82 year old WI members were unlikely to be the culprits in any bar room brawl or over-the-counter robbery, but who knows?

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Betty Wilbraham, pictured wearing the rather fetching black hat with a mulberry ribbon which caused all the trouble, looks as if butter wouldn't melt in her mouth - but looks can be deceptive, I guess.

For all I know, street-fighting grannies might be causing trouble at The Hereward every night.

Surprisingly, this was not Mrs Wilbraham's first visit to the pub - but the first time anyone had enforced the no-hats rule.

To be honest, I would feel a teensy bit reluctant to patronise a pub where they felt they needed to make sure all the customers were plainly identifiable on CCTV.

It rather hints at the fact that trouble is a regular occurrence and staff need to be prepared to defend themselves.

It wasn't so long ago that social rules were completely different; wearing a hat used to be the norm rather than the exception. You only have to look at archive films to see that.

Hats denoted social class and trumpeted the wearer's sense of style. Frivolous and fashionable hats have been the preserve of women down the ages.

It was only in the Victorian era that men started to impose constraints of sobriety on their head wear.

If a man had no hat on, then he couldn't take it off as a sign of respect, or wave it in the air as a sign of glee - or keep his head warm!

In the 1950's people started to abandon the convention of wearing a hat - and gloves - with their smart clothes.

Now that many young men feel as undressed without their hats as any Edwardian gentleman, they are told they must take them off.

If the cap or hood hides the face, then I suppose there is some risk that it could help a perpetrator get away with crime, but I would think it is a mistake for a pub to treat all customers as potential criminals.

A bit of common sense could have avoided a situation where the pub has been roundly mocked in the press, on radio and television for picking on a harmless hat wearer and falling head-first into controversy!

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