It's a strange phrase indeed. It's from a foreign phrase. There's a period where a slogan "hats lead the society to become a superpower" was in effect.

*Edit I think I should have given historical background. The producer of the slogan wanted to modernize the society in order to make it more powerful, and thought that wearing hats was one way to modernize it. Of course, the slogan was absurd and doesn't make much sense. This absurdity makes people give the period a nickname to mock it, using a part of the slogan and the idea: "society which is led by hats" era - "hats-led society" era.

I'm not sure if "hats-led society era" or the variation is grammatically correct, or if there are other phrases that better convey the meaning.

  • Both the full-version of the saying and the phrase confuse me. If you just use the phrase like that I doubt anyone will understand what you're trying to get across. Searching that saying in Google yields nothing, in fact. – user3109672 Oct 18 '15 at 5:48
  • @user3109672 Thank you for pointing that out. I fixed the question and added more context. – Confusedbyhats Oct 18 '15 at 6:52
  • This is one scenario where consistently using "hats-led society" in quotes (with some sort of explanation when the term is first introduced) might be appropriate. – Hot Licks Oct 18 '15 at 21:18

The construct looks grammatical, but not all grammatical constructs are meaningful. A translator's job includes translating idioms into their closest equivalents in the target language, and my intuition tells me that the idiomatic usage of hats in the source language should be translated to the idiomatic usage of suits in (Standard American?) English.

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