Alternately, a have been amused and felt sentimental at the display of the sola hats in The Jewel in the Crown.
My father used to wear one. A khaki sola hat, and I think he wore it all his life, till near the end when they were no longer available. And all his colleagues used to wear them, English and Indian. Some of the English used to wear white sola hats, though I do not think they signified anything.
Train drivers and guards used to wear white sola hats, and ticket inspectors. For the latter, it was a part of their uniform. And BEST ticket inspectors used to wear them till very recently.
When we went to a boarding school, among the list of things the boys were asked to bring were sola haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas. It was a nice khaki hat, small sized to fit a boy's head. Occasionally, I wore it with the strap down, under the chin. But for some reason that I have still not understood, this was not permitted by the teachers.
Felts were considered as rakish, and straw hats only fred Astaire wore in certain scenes in his films, god bless his dancing feet. For another odd reason that I have not been able to figure out, a felt hat was considered as very English and appropriate only for Englishmen, but a sola, hat was appropriate for Indians. It only came to have a colonial status when the Congress invented the Gandhi cap.
But, even after the independence, the sola hat continued. Cricketers wore them, Jehangir Khot, the great Parsi all rounder of the Pentangular days, had a white sola hat. And Lala Amarnath wore one till he retired, sometimes with the strap down. Khaki sola hat on the head, a white handkerchief in his pocket, he was the complete cricketer. They all wore sola hats then, Vijay Hazare and C.Y. Gopinath.
Years later, Mohinder Amarnath brought out his father's old hat and wore it partly to protect his skull partly to change his luck. The hat unfortunately, fell on his wicker. Which goes to prove that certain things are meant for certain times only.
Now the sola hat has become a prop in The Jewel In The Crown, and what a perfect prop it makes. Even the Gandhi cap has become a sort of a symbol. You may count how many of the 2,00,000 Congressmen coming to town will be wearing it.