If the American media is to be believed, just about every television in the country will be tuned to a certain football (football-football, not soccer) championshipgameon Sunday night. Yet even amidst all the hoopla, we keep our NHG antennae tuned for nifty historical facts to share.
Take this example, drawn from the seventeenth century. Europe in the 1600s was exceptionally cold, a time when the Thames often froze over so completely that month-long Frost Fairs could be held on its surface. Even kings and noblemen shivered in their vast but drafty palaces.
Fashion answered with the gentleman's muff, slug low over the hips with the same debonair nonchalance as a sword. When made from costly imported furs like beaver or sable, a gentleman's muff was also one more showy example of conspicuous consumption in an era that loved display. For this group of late 17th c. courtiers, aboveleft, their muffs are rivaled only by their wigs.
While muffs for men fell from style (though not for ladies: see here and here), they seem to have come back in a big way on the modern football field. It doesn't matter whether a guy is making a statement in the corridors of Whitehall or Versailles, or on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field: he still has to keep his hands warm for peak performance.
As the weather has grown colder, both of this Sunday's star quarterbacks – Tom Brady of the Boston Patriots, right, and Eli Manning of the New York Giants, left – have been wearing certain open-ended, insulated accessories tied around their hips. True, today they're made from high-tech thermal sports fabrics, not fur, and they're self-consciously called hand-warmers – but don't you agree that they sure look like muffs?
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.