Boys' Hats: Specific Styles

Children were equally bound by the elaborate social rules governing headgear. A youngster might experience several "rites of passage" as she or he moved from infancy with its fancy, frilly lace caps and bonnets to toddler- and child-hood with simple caps for boys and little dressmaker bonnets for girls. Lucky the youngster who acquired the status symbol of a "real" hat just like Mother's or Father's. There are a great variety of styles for hats and caps. Until the mid-18th century boys simply wore the same hats wore by adults. When the style of dressing boys in sailor suits developed, sailor hats became the first specialized hats for boys. A great variety of hat and cap styles for boys developed in the 19th century. Some styles like the classic sailor hat lasted for generations. Other styles were more short lived. Some styles were fanciful creations purchased by mothers, but not well received by the boys and never became popular. HBC has collected information on the following hat styles commonly worn by boys. In several instances we are not sure about the proper names. Several of the categories overlap.

Alpine

Sport hat of soft felt or tweed. The crown slants upward to a lengthwise crease. The narrow brim is rolled up at the back and turned down in front . Brush or feather trim in the headband. Adapted from hats worn by people in the Swiss Alps. Also referred to as the Tyrolean hat. This hat is often worn with lederhosen.


Figure 2.--These boys are prodly modeling their school headgear. The younger boy wears the traditional peaked cap, the older boy the now largely ceremonial boater hat. Schools caps by the mid-1960s had become unpoular with the boys and are now rarely seen at British schools.

Boaters

A boater is essentially nothing more than a regular pillbox with a straight brim. A boater always has a straight brim, never a draped one and a crown with a flat, or "square" tip. Straw boater hats appeared before the turn of the century. They appear to have evolved from flat topped sailor caps. Some British schools adopted boaters, or straw hats with circular brims, as part of the school uniform. This was primarily for secondary age boys. The style was a little impractical for the rough usage that clothes are subjected to by active boys. It is now rarely seen, but some schools, mostly English, still use them for special occasions. Some girls' schools also adopted the boater, for both elementary and secondary age girls. Several English girls' schools still use them as part of the uniform, mostly for younger girls.

Bowler

The first bowler hat was created for English landowner, William Coke, in order to protect his head from low branches while out shooting on his Norfolk estate. In 1849, in the St James shop of London hatters, he tested its durability by stamping his foot on it twice--when the hat remained undamaged he happily bought it for 12 shillings. The bowler was considered very stylish in the late 19th century. It was primarily a man's style. Wprkers in their flat caps came to see the bowler hat, or billycock as it was called, as a sign of aithority. One English fashion historian writes, "On Liverpool docks ... a bowler represented authority, and this particular bowler had an eye beneath it which peered around corners. When the dockers brewed up illicitly in their cans, the hat leapt from its hiding place and a foot beneath it kicked the cans to kingdom come." [Mather] The bowler was not just worn by men. While it was not a major boys' style, some boys did wear it. Some American boys as young as 12 years in the eraly 20th century might wear one. More commonly the bowler was worn beginning about 14 years of age. Usually with their first long pants suit. We are lest sure aout trends in other countries.

Cone Hats

I'm not sure what the proper name for this hat was. It is a kind of cone-shaped hat. They were popular at the turn-of-the-20th century. It was more of an adult style, but some boys may have worn them. We note an American boy, Carl P. Weber, with one of these hats with a Fauntleroy dress. I don't think they were very common at the time.

Cowboy

The cowboy hat as we know it today seems to have appeared in the 1860s. This is the same time as the Civil War and may have evolved out of the uniforms of calvary units. I plan to pursue this topic in greater detail. This American classic is now rarely seen except in some of the Western states. The classic cowboy hat was made by the Stetson company.

Fedoras

The fedora is a soft felt hat with a relatively narrow brim. The crown is creased lengthwise and pinched in the front on both sides. There were various styles of fdora, noemally involving variayions in the width of the brim and how it was worn and the height and pincing of the crown. Similar hats with a C-crown (with an indentation for the head in the top of the crown) are occasionally called fedoras. The term fedora began to be used in the 1890s, although few boys wore them at the time. The fedora came into use as an upper-class clothing accessory. Hats that resemble the soft felt version are often called fedoras even if they are made of straw or twill. We note some boys wearing them in the first half of the 20th century. We have little country information. We do have a page on American fedoras.


Figure 3.--This photograph was taken in 1894. The boy was 8 years old. Notice the flat topped straw hat he wears.

Flat-top Hats

The flat topped hat appeared in the 1860s. There were several different styles. It was essential a sailor hat with a flattened crown. The brims could vary widely. Younger boys might wear wide brims. Older boys juddged too old for the classic sailor hat with the wide brim would wear a more narrow brim. The classic boater was another flat-top hat. The width of the brim appears to have been the key factor. The wider brimmed hat were worn by the younger children. Older boys wore the more narrow brim hats. The wide beims were worn by pre-school and younger primary children. These flat top hats with more narrow bfrims were commonly worn by boys from about 8 to 12 or 14 years of age. The flat top hats were commonly worn until the turn of the century. They were mostly made from straw. They were worn with different outfts, fepending on the age of the bow, often reflected with the width of the brim. Boys with wide brims might wear Fauntleroy suits. Boys with more narrow brims mostly worn with the more mature looking suits boys wore after emerging from Fauntleroy and sailor suits. Boaters were popular with a wide age range.

High-side Hats

We notice a few boys wearing high-side hats. These are not really high side like top hats, but the hats have destinct verical sides. Thet are something between top hats and boaters. The hats have varied, but usually not very wide brims. The sides vary in height. Some are vertical while others re slightly conical. We do not think that this was a paricularly common style, but we do notice it. They seem to have been most common in the mod-19th century. So far we have only found examples from America during the 1860s. We think that they were most common earlier.

Homberg

The homberg is a formal, stiff felt dress hat, only slightly less formal than a top hat. The homberg can be done in fur. The basic feature of the homburg is a crease running down the full length of the crown--the center dent. The hats varied, both th crown and brim. The crowns varied in height. The brims varied in size and some were sharply curled and bownd. The slightly turned up brim all the way around is a another feature that can distunguish the homberg from the fedora. heir commonly was a leather sweat band. The homberg is similar to the fedora, but lacks the pinces commonly associated with the fedora. The homberg as the name implied originated in Germany. The homberg was popularized in the 19th Century when the future Edward VII when he brought the hat back to England after a visit from Bad Homburg in Hessen (Germany). The homberg can be done in various colors, especially black, grey, and brown. In Britin hombergs, especially black ones, are sometimes Called an Anthony Eden because the Foreign Minister and Primeminister commonly wore one. Some Americans see the homberg as gangter hat--the Godfather hat. These hats tend to have an especially wide brim with the brim more sharply turned up at the sides. This may be more of a Hollywood style than an actual gangster hat. This is not a style we very often see boys wearing.

Indented-crown Hats

We note some round hats with indented rather than rounded crowns. We are not sure what these hats would have been called at the time. They were done in both round and elongated styles. The elongated styles seem t have specific names, but I'm not sure how to call the round ones. It is possible that some were rounded crown hats, but have been indented by the boy or parents, but I think most were mde to be worn as shown in the portrait. Some seem to have streamrs. An American example is C. Stewart in 1865.

Panama Hats

We do not see many boys wearing Panama hats which are actually mostly made in Ecuador. One early example is Elish Dickerman, an American boy about 1850.

Pith Helmets

Pith helmets are most associated with adult men, usually Europeans living and working in tropical countries. They were worn by both soldiers and civilians. The style appeared in the late 19th century and was worn through World War II (1939-45). Itakian soldiers in particular wore pith helmets during the War. While primarily an adult style, we have also noted boys swrearing them.

Round-top Hats

One of the most poular style of hat for boys through much of the 19th century was the round top or rounded crown hat. This style was particularly dominate in the early and mid-19th century. It appears to be realted to dailor hats, especially narrow brimmed sailor hats, although HBC at this time has little information on the origins of this style. Many paintings from the early 19th century show large numbers of boys wearing this style of hat.

Sailor Hats

One of the most enduring styles for boy's hats were sailor hats. At first the broad-brimmed hats worn by British sailors in the late 18th Century were the most common. Gradually toward the end of the 19th Century, sailor caps appeared modeled on the more current caps worn by sailors in the modern navies. The original sailor hats worn by boys were the broad brimmed hat with rounded crowns worn by British seamen in the early 19th Century. The hats evolved into a wide variety of styles with both flat and rounded crowns. Boys also wore the different styles of sailor caps that were adopted by national navies in ther late 19th Century.

Sun Hats

We do not fully understand the history of the sun hat at this time. We believe it is a basically a 20th century hat. Of course any brimmed hat could be a sun hat. A wide-brimmed sailor hat would provide protection from the sun, but they were not very practical for play. Sun hats became popular as outings to beaches became more popular at the turn-of-the 20th century. We know now that protection is important for children who enjoy outdoor activities. At the time not a lot was known aboout the harmful affects of solar radiation. It seems more of a fashion convention to avoid tanning. The same styles was worn by both boys and girls. Sun hats declined in popularity as hats became less popular and tanning began to be seen more positevly. There were many different styles, but a kind of floppy style is generally seen as the basic sun hat. We are not sure about different country conventions. They seem to have been especially popular in Britain. There are several examples archived on HBC. One such example are two English children in 1916.

Straw Hats

Straw is a material that is used to make hats in several different styles. We notice several different types of straw hats. Wide-brimmed sailor hats were commonly made of straw. Boaters weere also made of sr=traw. We notice straw hats done in a variety of other styles as well. One style we have noted is a kind of hat similar to a cowboy hat.

Top Hat

The top hat is hat style normally associated with adult men. It was worn from the mid-19th century into the early 20th century. It was an expensive hat and thus wirn by men of some affluence. It fact it became virtually a symbol of wealthy capitalists. While the top hat was normally associated with men, boys did wear them. This would normally be boys from wealthy families. We are not sure just what would be the conventions involved here. Perhaps it was just for special occassions. Some boys may have worn these hats as part of an elaborate costume, but we think that boys from wealthy families actually did wear them on occassion. They were also worn by English boys at public schools like Eton and Harrow.


Figure 4.--Boys throughout Europe and America, like their farhers, commonly wore tri-colored hats throughout the 18th Century.

Tricornered Hats

Men and boys wore tri-corned hats throughout the 18th Century. I'm not sure precisely when the style first appeared, but I do not believe that they were extensively worn in the 17th Century. This was not a specialized child's style, but through most of the Century, boys once breeched simply wore small versions of their father's clothes. Only late in the 19th Century did destinctive juvenile clothing and hats fashions become widely worn by children. Children in the 18th Century just wore scaled down versions of their father's hats.

Trilby

I am not precisely sure how to precisely define a trilby. It is a full brimmed hat. The brim can be shaped in many different ways. It was a favorite of the old line Mafioso who liked to turn the brim down. One fashion writer saw the tilby as arrogant. It was not a style commonly worn bu boys, but we have noted European boys wearing wide brimed caps with the brims manipulated like trilbys. This was especially common in the early 20th century.






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Created: March 5, 1999
Last updated: 4:49 PM 5/15/2009