Shirtless and Pantless, but with a Hat

Continuing with this series of posts about salt and pepper shaker sets that represent animals and the clothing that they do and do not wear, there is this set, which trumps the various pantless and/or shirtless sets I have been describing by depicting creatures wearing nothing but hats (and glasses):


They are, I assume, owls, I assume that in part because they have bird-like beaks and claws and wings (albeit wings that can also act like arms and hands and hold packages–or are those things that they are holding labelled “salt” and “pepper” meant to be academic degrees? Degrees in salt-and-pepper-ology, perhaps? Or doctorates in the seasoning arts?). I also assume these two are owls in part because of their hats and glasses. The hats look something like academic mortar boards, although without the tassels. That, and the fact that this pair are wearing glasses, an evocation of the stereotype that only smart nerdish people–“four-eyes,” as people used to say in my long-ago youth– need glasses, almost automatically identifies them as wise professors–as wise, as the saying goes, as owls.

Curiously, therefore, the few visually-represented human wardrobe items of this pair can identify them as being representations of a specific kind of human being because their visual representation of these particular items of clothing evokes a verbal phrase, and therefore a language-based stereotype. They are owls because owls are representatives of wisdom in folk culture. They can be identified as especially wise (or marked with the visual signs of wisdom) because they have the hats of professors and because professors are, of course, wise. As a former professor myself I can readily confirm that professors generally exhibit a truly terrifying degree of wisdom. All it takes is a hat and pair of glasses, and two mere birds become two humanly wise ones.

Or perhaps it goes the other way. Perhaps it takes only a hat and a pair of glasses to change two birds from being just birds to becoming symbolic representations of a certain kind of human. It’s this latter possibility that might drive someone to give the gift of a shaker set like this one to a professorial (or merely brainy) friend as a symbolic representation of that friend. “Here’s some owlish representations of your high IQ, smartie-pants. Enjoy.” Well, in the absence thereof, I guess not “smartie-pants.” Smartie-hat, maybe.

The other odd feature of this set is the fact that the eyes inside the frames of the glasses are not made of the ceramic material that the rest of the pieces consist of. Instead, they appear to be rhinestone or some other form of fake diamond, glued on to the surface. They are, therefore, especially sparkly, and give the two owly professors an entirely suitable look of zoned-out derangement.

The bottom of one of these pieces identifies them as coming from Japan, and there is also a glued-on label saying, “Napco Originals by Giftcraft.” According to this website,

The Napco Company, or National Potteries Corporation, began production in 1938 and their products were extremely popular in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Napco produced figurines, collectibles, decorative glass and porcelain ceramics. Napco is still one of the most famous names for porcelain ceramics, antique pottery, vintage products and other collectibles. As collectors’ items, it is important to identify NAPCO Ceramics by their marks and numbers.

In the light of that importance, I therefore also record here that my owls are identified on the bottom of the pepper shaker as Napco no. 2T2927.

And incidentally: I am finding it very odd that a company named “Giftcraft” exists, with its announced purpose being to produce objects exactly and only intended to be gifts, and apparently, with no other specific use or purpose. Isn’t that just a teensy bit weird? Gifts of giftware? And were “giftcraft” sets like these owls ever actually intended to be salt and pepper dispensers or anything else but just plain gifts?

Published by pernodel

Children’s literature critic and author of books for children

2 thoughts on “Shirtless and Pantless, but with a Hat

  1. It occurs to me, after posting this, that perhaps I need to offer a small clarification. The two owls are not recognizable representations of professorial wisdom because they are devoid of shirts and pants. In fact, very few of the professors I have encountered in my many years of life in academe have given lectures or attended classes while being either shirtless or pantless.

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