Jenny Gilbert presents our seasonal head-scratching blockbuster...

Hats off, ladies and gentlemen! You're not wearing one? Of course not. Of the many changes in men's and women's everyday attire over the past 500 years, the wholesale abandoning of hats and headgear is perhaps the most radical, as well as the most recent.

Even as late as the early 1970s, the bowler was a common sight in our financial centres, and some form of felt hat a regular component of school uniform. Less than a century earlier, neither a lady nor her lowliest housemaid would consider herself fit to be seen bare-headed, either indoors or out, and a man's occupation would be obvious to all from the form and fabric of his hat or cap.

Headgear as social identifier was still more pronounced in the time of Shakespeare, when hat-wearing was compulsory by law and a crucial component of social control (roughly speaking, the higher the status, the higher the hat). It's no surprise, then, that a gestural language developed around hats: doffing a cap was as significant as wearing it, and a member of the lower orders would throw his cap in the air to signal agreement or support.

Each of the 24 clues to this year's Christmas Details Competition is a form of headgear, or partial glimpse thereof, featured in a well-known painting. The works range from the 15th century to the 20th, and all are in public collections.

To enter, write both the title and artist of the 24 works on a postcard marked Christmas Details 2014, to arrive by Tuesday 6 January, and send to The New Review, The Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF. Alternatively, email details@independent.co.uk. The sender of the first fully correct entry to be picked at random – or the most correct entry – wins six bottles of prosecco; a bottle each will go to two runners-up.

The solutions will be published on 25 January. Please allow 28 days for delivery.

A full set of terms and conditions can be found at independent.co.uk/rules.

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