Posted by: megaschwez | March 25, 2009

Fuzzy hats


Every society has its status symbols, its hierarchies and its secret associations.  I was flabbergasted to discover that Austria’s powerful matriarchal hierarchy parades its secret symbols in broad daylight.

I have hastily cobbled together this anthropological scoop for you to enjoy before it goes to print in National Geographic and you have to pay fifteen bucks to read it, sandwiched in between a story about naked Masai women and a report on beached southern right whales.

The Fuzzy Hat: A privilege, not a right

The primary totemic symbol of Austrian womanhood is known as the ‘fuzzy hat’. Pictured below are participatory members adorned with the totem in their native urban habitat.

Age-based hierarchy

The hierarchy appears to be age-based;  best estimates are that inductees will generally be given their training hat at around age 45-50. Training hats can be identified by their lack of fuzziness – they are generally similar in appearance to a beret, or in rare cases, a crocheted tea-cosy.

white beret teacosy brownberet

candid beret black beret

Magnificent head-plumage (‘Kopfgefieder‘), such as that pictured below, identifies the wearer immediately as a society elder. It is important to note that the degree of fuzziness is strictly related to age and rank. These luxurious examples indicate that these women have reached the apex of their respective hierarchies.

red fuzzy

fuzzy hat


brown fuzzy fuzzy2

Auxiliary members

Age alone, however, is not enough to guarantee the wearer the right to adorn themselves with fuzz. Auxiliary members of the tribe can be identified by their substitution of other headwear for the fuzzy hat, such as a traditional brimmed hat or an embroidered or even upholstered headpiece. These substitute headpieces are particularly often teamed with traditional dress.

brim3 brim1

Ceremonial use

The fuzzy hat appears to be an important sartorial element in a variety of ceremonial activities. In a rural environment, it is uniformly worn to village church sermons, but may also feature in local shopping expeditions. In urban centres, it is not unusual to see fuzzy hat-wearers mingling with more junior beret-wearers. This leads us to suspect that hierarchical lines become more blurred in cities, although this has yet to be confirmed by empirical study.

The details of the handing-over ceremony, or Wuschelüberreichung, are concealed from the uninitiated. We can only surmise that many hats are exchanged on significant birthdays, from 45 onwards. Wearers younger than this have not yet been spotted in the wild.



  1. O, how I ALOLed like I have never ALOLed before. Did you take all those photos yourself? I love that you were on a brilliant Kopfgefieder-Mission. AWESOMENESS

  2. O I had to read again and ALOL more. I hope you ALOLed plenty as you wrote

  3. OHYES there was even public ALOLing. I chased one woman down the street! I pretty much felt like I had won wimbledon when I got shots of the most premium fuzzy hats. I still find them endlessly fascinating. I very much enjoy that you ALOLed.

  4. I laughed until I cried… and then I laughed again, and again, and again, and… you get the point.

    My ribs hurt.

    I am so delighted by this story. I have no more words except – encore.

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