News On the Record Opinion Church Special Sections

I'm thinking about starting a new business. I might go into the sun bonnet business. Since people these days are concerned about overexposure to the sun's harmful rays, this may be my opportunity to make my first million dollars. People sometimes go for the "retro" look. I could advertise sun bonnets as the new retro-sunblocker that doesn't come from a bottle. My ad could say, "You never have to wrestle with hard to open bottle caps. The sun bonnet is so easy to apply;

no messy oils; just set it over your head and tie the lovely bow beneath your chin!" What do you think?

Ladies' sun bonnets were from so long ago that probably not everyone remembers them. My grandmother wore a sun bonnet at times, and my mother had one that she wore for working in the garden during my early years. But there was a time when sun bonnets were very common and very widely used. I'm wondering if anyone today wears a sun bonnet?

Does anyone have sun bonnets saved away in a drawer somewhere? I'd like to see a sun bonnet display in the Pea Ridge Historical Museum.

The first purpose of a sun bonnet was to shield the faceand neck from the fierce rays of the sun. A good sun bonnet, even a very plain one, could prevent sunburn when a lady had outside work to do. Sunburn is so much easier to prevent than to treat or to recover from. Ladies in the old days liked to avoid sunburn, and a sun bonnet was just the thing.

A sun bonnet also prevented tanning of the skin. In those earlier days avoiding tanning was a much-prized beauty strategy. How the styles have changed! A few years ago it became quite common in the U.S.

for ladies to go to tanning salons, or to sun on the beach or by the pool. Tanning came to be regarded as a beauty treatment.

It is amazing and incomprehensible to me that styles change so, not only clothing styles, or hair styles, or shoe styles, but even skin tone styles.

Today, the tanned look is often regarded as beautiful and attractive. But it has not always been so. Over many, many years of human history, fairskin has been regarded as the ideal of beauty. Rather than being considered a beauty treatment, the strong summer sunlight was seen as an enemy of the fair complexion, a serious problem to the lady who sought to maintain a beautiful untarnished skin tone. So, sun bonnets were not just for preventing sunburn, they were to help my lady achieve that lovely fair complexion. It is not strange that a popular longrunning show from years ago was called "My Fair Lady." It also is not strange that poets of earlier days rhapsodized and sang songs of their lady fair. Attaining and maintaining the fair complexion was the ideal of feminine beauty.

Actually we may be seeing a shift in thinking about beauty and the tanned look. As I remember the 1980s, that was probably the height of the tanning craze. In more recent years we have been hearing about the dangers of overexposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays, dangers of cancer, dangers of drying the skin and dangers of premature aging of the skin. Even my own doctor has told me I should wear a wide hat when working in the sun, and I should wear a shirt with sleeves to avoid overexposure to the sun when I mow the lawn.

Having heard the dangers of overexposure to the sun, quite commonly people turn to chemical sun-blockers and various skin lotions. Sun-blocker potions come in various strengths, and with complicated directions about when to apply, which to apply, how much to apply. Wouldn't it be simpler if we reinvented a sunshield that covers the skin with a thin cloth shade?

In the old days, not all sun bonnets were plain and homely. Many were quite colorful, beautiful and stylish. Many sun bonnets were of colors and designs which coordinated with and complimented beautiful dresses. Some sun bonnets were fashion statements in their own right. It doesn't bother me much when something is called old-fashioned. To me "old-fashioned" is not a bad word. It just means that something was fashionable in an earlier day, and it might just become fashionable again. Since fashions come and go and return in reshaped forms, maybe even sun bonnets could come back in a new blaze of glory!

Contact Jerry Nichols by email at, or call 621-1621.

Community, Pages 5 on 08/12/2009

Sponsor Content