This article explores a set of marginal characters of topmost importance: hats. The study of hats may, of course, appear to smack of esoteric trivia. I argue that such a commonsensical assumption is at odds with Joseph Conrad's fictional hats: their variety, number, and position in the texts. From the bowler to the Bersagliere, there are more than twenty-five types of hats in his fiction. Conrad shows us not just what hats do but also how to do things with hats. He leaves us with the idea that while we may think that we wear hats, hats are clothed in meaning and may even wear us; there is no clear boundary between object and person; an everyday material object can be a key to understanding a complex individual and vice versa. Finally, the hats are not just a crowning achievement of the literary enterprise; they are symptomatic of Conrad's radical and persistent focus on details.

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