The Road to Mordor: A conspiracy of hats

The hat, as they say, makes the man. Or the woman. Or the Dwarf.

Unfortunately, in Lord of the Rings Online, the hat often makes the man completely silly. I'm not quite sure how it happened, but the hats in LotRO have garnered the reputation as being goofy as all get out. Sure, this is hardly a fresh observation, but I've wanted to address it in this column for a while now, so it might as well be today!

Rumor has it that Turbine's artists drew upon actual medieval outfits to lend an authentic, renaissance faire vibe to the game. This is perhaps why there is such a distinct fashion style in LotRO that you don't see in other MMOs. Our modern sensibilities, with such fashion achievements as tank tops and crocs, make hauberks and codpieces seem quaint and ridiculous. Truly, we are seeing the height of human civilization in 2010.

So while it's laudable that Turbine tried to give us the real deal, that doesn't quite excuse the fact that many of the hats -- especially the light armor versions -- are unbearably weird. It's as if, as The Pix'led Life speculated, there's a conspiracy of hats afoot: "Let's see what we can make them swallow!" one artist cackles. "Ooh, I know -- how about 16 varieties of dunce hats?" laughs another.

I kid, I kid. There are 17.

Hit the jump and let's take a terrifying journey through headgear that seeks to conquer Sauron by making the Enemy laugh himself to death.

Inspiration

Without proper hair products, few could blame the medieval crowd for wanting to cover up their greasy locks with attractive hats. (Not featured: attractive hats.)

Turn on the light

Courtesy of Pix'led Life is this stunning... lampshade? Perhaps a 1970's-era wastebasket that somehow traveled in both time and dimension to land in Middle-earth and become the latest craze?

Either way, wearing this has the effect of telling the world around you that you have nothing to lose, and if anyone messes with you, it's entirely likely that you can and will pull a hellspawn out of the dark portal that you keep within the hat's nether reaches.

Fowl-weather protection

Chickens are a much put-upon animal, dealing with the indignities of being tasty, having wings but being flightless, having their young harvested for our breakfasts, and being a synonym for "coward." Oddly enough, LotRO gives honor to the bird by featuring it as the star of its own heroic saga with Chicken Play (Note: Do NOT Google "chicken play") as well as the inspiration behind this hat, which I'll simply dub "Cheering Chicken."

Huzzah! I'm a happy bird! Cluck cluck!

The hat that sunk a thousand ships

Here we go -- the most notorious hat in LotRO. Seriously, just look at that thing (but be careful to only do so in brief glimpses, else you go blind)! I'm not quite sure what this hat is even trying to go for. Demented bunny rabbit? Stunted goat? Non-threatening devil?

And it's not as if you can justify it with practicality, either. What purpose could those horns serve? Maybe you could store a few carrots or a handful of radishes in them, but then you're just asking for a starving Hobbit to mug you. Those Hobbits, they stop at nothing when their stomachs are in play.

The triple-dog-dare

Here we showcase two egregious examples of spiteful gift-giving. Oh, that's the excuse I've thought up for why anyone would willingly throw on these travesties: that a kindly-yet-deranged grandmother or great-aunt crafted these hats and gave them to the characters on their birthdays. It's kind of like how you're contractually obligated to wear that hideous poodle sweater you get for Christmas whenever the maker shows up for a visit.

"Oh yes, grandma! I totally wear this all the time!" you say over the loud snickers of your brothers and sisters. "In fact, I don't think anyone else in my school wears a modified plaid sock on their head!"

The protagonist of Saw XII

This charming mask is courtesy of the Fall Festival and has the distinction of being the one thing in the game that terrifies me to my very soul. Mistakenly fashioned by Hobbits (of course), this mask is obviously going for a bit of a bumpkin vibe, but it misses the mark and sails all the way into the Uncanny Valley. Whenever I see someone wearing this, I feel as if he's the protagonist of The Man in the Iron Mask and that those eyes are silently screaming for release.

Go to the head of the class!

I guess pointy hats had their place in history, but today they're either associated with stupid people or chess pieces. Unless you have a very specific type of fetish or are feeling insecure about your height, there's no reason to be seen in public wearing this. Trust me, you're fooling no one.

Fierce feathers

OK, without the feathers, this would already be a substandard helmet, but with them it becomes inexplicable. Why are those feathers there? Are they going for some sort of native look? And if they have to be there, could we upgrade them to be larger and more majestic, like peacock or Big Bird feathers?

So many questions, so many abandoned answers.

Boxy yet smart

This hat reminds me of two things. First, it reminds me of those ugly cars that probably get great gas mileage and have terrific safety ratings yet look as though they were designed by a third grader's crayon doodle. Second, it makes me think of Captain Panaka from the Star Wars prequels -- you know, Amidala's bodyguard? The dude with the hat that complemented his wooden acting?

If you want to mingle with such distinguished company, by all means, go ahead.

Have it your way

Finally, LotRO abandons all pretenses of being neutral in the fast food franchise wars to side with Burger King and its iconic mascot. Sure, you may feel like royalty when you put this on, but trust me -- nobody is going to be bowing down before you unless he's doubled over in laughter. But if you feed him Whoppers, he will serve you forever!

Of course, I jest because I love. There are several terrific hats in the game (and plenty more that are decidedly in the middle), and to pick on the lame ones reveals a petty side of me that I try to keep hidden. If you're one of the daring souls who eschew decent fashion to go with one of these abominations, then I salute your bravery, if not your common sense.

Many thanks to The Pix'led Life, A Casual Stroll to Mordor, Thorildin, Harperella and Kiarane for inspiring me to waste time looking up funny hats!

When not enjoying second breakfast and a pint of ale, Justin "Syp" Olivetti jaws about hobbits in his Lord of the Rings Online column, The Road to Mordor. You can contact him via email at justin@massively.com or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.

This article was originally published on Massively.