According to this excerpt from the press materials accompanying the exhibit, the good doctor (who died in 1991) was a hat fancier himself:
"Dr. Seuss was an avid hat collector known to wear one of his crazy hats for inspiration while writing, and at dinner parties, it was often a tradition for each guest to wear a hat.
In his artwork, as in his personal life, Dr. Seuss saw hats as transformational. From the time he was a small boy in Springfield, Massachusetts, he was aware of the inherent magic in hats."
Thanks to the confluence of New York Fashion Week, I managed to catch the exhibit at the New York Public Library in February -- the first stop of its nationwide tour.
In addition to the hats, which I'll get to in a moment, I was astonished to find that the writer and illustrator of 44 books for children also was the proud owner of an honest-to-goodness man cave -- a secret closet-like space hidden behind a bookcase in his home where he stashed his hats!
At first glance the display seems almost like a lid let-down; it's essentially a steamer trunk the size of a walk-in closet -- although one so filled to overflowing with hats, the Seuss estate, the staff of the Children's Reading Room and the dozen children in the room should consider themselves lucky there was a layer of protective display glass between me and the mother lode of millinery.
And for this hat-loving fan of the master young Cubbins (who lived near a cranberry bog in the Kingdom of Didd) to see it on display so many years removed from childhood was a wonderful, powerful surprise.
The Fingerhut Gallery of Laguna Beach will host the hat exhibit (which is not for sale) alongside a selection of estate-authorized artworks adapted from the author's drawings, paintings and sculptures (which are) until June 2.
If you happen to miss checking out the cat's many hats close-up this time around, the touring exhibit will be returning to Southern California for stops in La Jolla and San Diego in July and August (the full schedule can be found at the Hats Off to Dr. Seuss! website.)
"Hats Off to Dr. Seuss!" at Fingerhut Gallery of Laguna Beach, 210 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, Thursday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., May 17 to June 2.