Men in Hats: Stylish Shadow People and Fashionable Men in Black
American philosopher and naturalist Henry David Thoreau once said, “Live your life, do your work, then take your hat”, a remarkably pithy and profound recommendation for a quiet, productive existence with the fortunate, unintended consequence of emphasizing the relative importance of hats. This fact clearly has not gone unnoticed among the inter-dimensional set, more commonly known as the “Shadow People”, spooky apparitions that are one of the most commonly reported paranormal phenomena. The name says it all. They are shadowy figures that flicker in and out of sight, walk through walls, and generally hang about being as menacing as something insubstantial can be. Sightings of shadow people are so frequent in the supernatural lore that a wide range of explanations have been offered for their existence (or non-existence, such as it is) – they are evil manifestations that feed off fear, they are inhabitants of another universe that occasionally slip over into ours, that they are associated with the Islamic Djinn or mythological characters from Cherokee legends, government agents using a secret cloaking device, drug/sleep deprivation induced hallucinations, or simply optical illusions. There are those of us out there that prefer the existentially weird to the just plain weird, and they will be happy to know that there is a sartorial subcategory of the shadow people, themselves not infrequently seen, which are The Men In Hats (or “The Hat Man”, if we were to assume there wasn’t more than one).
The Men in Hats share the common characteristics of their less fashionable counterparts among the shadow people, that is, they basically appear only as some sort of phantasmagoric shadow, barely seen in peripheral vision, hanging about inexplicably in bedrooms, deserted streets, and lurking in the poorly lit corners of our universe doing suspiciously shadowy things, as shadow people are wont to do, with one important and somewhat bizarre difference. The Men in Hats are peculiarly, specifically, and anachronistically dressed in a standard issue uniform of a long trench coat, three piece suit, and broad-rimmed fedora or gaucho-style hat (fedoras pretty much have fallen out of favor since the 1950’s after a heyday starting around 1920 – associations with Indiana Jones and the modern popularity of prohibition-era gangsters notwithstanding, since the resurgence of the fedora associated with these elements of popular culture was relatively short lived). Even more oddly, despite the clear cultural reference to a particular period of American history, Men in Hats appear to be seen cross-culturally in the same regalia. There is very little actual behavior associated with the Men in Hats, except that they loiter, observe (they seem to stare intently at a person who sees them), and vanish with a grin or tip of the hat. Let me just remark, that few paranormal personages encountered are this polite, either running away from you, trying to eat your intestines, conducting experiments on you, or taking little to no notice of your existence. Not the Men in Hats. These guys have manners. If you catch them in the act, they charmingly give you props before disappearing. They appear to have the slightly voyeuristic tendency of watching people while they sleep, especially people that have had some sort of previous paranormal experience (not uncommonly, alien abduction). Very film noir, like some sort of cross-dimensional detective agency. As English actor Richard O’Brien commented, “There’s something about shadows because you make your own mind up about what’s lurking in them,” which correctly suggests that the sense of dread or menace often associated with these gentlemanly specters may only be our own projection. Next time you encounter the Men in Hats, bid them a good day, invite them to tea, or offer to show them around town. Oh, and take your hat.
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