Boys' Hats


Figure 1.--Joan and John Hay Whitney in elaborate hats at a dog show in 1910. The hats are somewhat similar, except that Joan's is decorated with flowers. John's hat is a style of sailor hat which was popular in the first two decades of the 20th century. Note the elastic chin strap.

Boys and men wore hats and caps much more commonly in the past. No well dressed boy's outfit in the 19th and first half of the 20th century would fail to include a hat or cap. Today headgear is less commionly worn. The difference being a cap is a close-fitting head covering resembling a hat, but differing principally because of the absence of a brim or by having a brim that only partially circumvents the crown. 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. There are some hat that are specifically associated with certain countries. These include the American Stetson (cowboy hat), Austrian/German Alpine hat, English boater, and others. Some of the hats have been adopted in other countries, such as the boater. Other have remained destibcively national styles. Most popular hat styles are worn in many different countries. We are develeoping headwaar pages for many different countries. We also plan to eventually create country hat pages. At this time we only have specific hat pages on a few differebnt countries.

Definition

The hat is a shaped head covering with a crown and brim. Hats were common made with shaped material while more supple material was commonly used for caps. Thus more care was needed for hats while a boy might stuff his cap in a pocket. Some definitions suggest that the hat often or usually had a brim. We are not sure, however, just what kind of hat did not have a brim extending all around the crown. Without a brim or with only a partial brim, we would classify it vas a cap. The term hat and caps are sometimes used interchangably, but there are differences. The essential difference being a cap is a close-fitting head covering resembling a hat, but differing principally because of the absence of a brim or by having a brim that only partially circumvents the crown. These partia brims are called bills, peaks, or visers. Generally speaking, a cap is a more formal garment than a cap. Thus caps came to be more commonly by boys than hats, but in the 19th century, boys very commonly wore hats. It is the brim, however, that differentiates the hat from the cap and other headwear with out any form of brim.

Chronology

We have not yet developed detailed chronolgical information on hat styles. We have little information on the medieval ersa, but do not know of any hat type that was worn specifically by boys. Tri-cornered hats were popular in the 18th century, but were worn by men and boys. Headwear especially for boys became very common in the 19th century, although caps were more common than hats for boys. The first specifically boy's style was the sailor hat which became popular in the mid-19th century. The brims of sailor hats became wide in the late 19th century. There were mant different styles with both flat and rounded crowns. In the early 20th century wide-brimmed caps were still common, but by the 1910s, the brims were often turned up or down. The boy here is wearing a wide-brimmed sailor hat with the brim turned down (figure 1). Note the chin strap. After World War I hats became increasingly less common for boys who mostly wore various types of caps. There were some fun hats like cowboy hats. We also notice some boys wearing adult hat styles. Some boys wore boaters as parts of school uniforms. After World War II in became increasingly less common for boys to wear hats when dressing up. Caps were worn cassually but hats became very uncommon.

Declining Usage

Photograps taken of any large group as late as the 1950s show most boys and men wearing caps and hats. Beginning in the 1960s head gear quickly passed from the male fashion scene. President Kennedy who assumed office in 1961 played a key role in the decline of the hat. President Kennedy may ave single-handedly killed the hat. When he walked down Pennsylvania Avenue that cold January day with no hat on his head, he ended the era of the dress hat for men. The inauguration parade was watched by millions and confirmed the decline of the hat that had already began. And it was not just men. John-John alsp rarely appeared in a hat, but like his father had a copious head of hair. One American mother remembers how it was for men's fashions in those pre-Kennedy days.

Even at an afternoon baseball game. the guys were decked out in their finest fedoras. Not that we want to dress up all the time far from it but people looked better in pajamas back then than they do in the leisure wear of today. I remember the first time I flew on a plane. It was 1976. I was eleven years old and it was a BIG to-do. We laid out our outfits the night before and made sure our shoes were polished and our fingernails clean. While comfort was an issue for the long transcontinental flight, neatness and propriety were even more so. Ripped jeans, sneakers, and sweatshirts were out of the question. All us kids, and my parents too, were dressed in our nearly Sunday best. We weren't the only ones either. The plane was full of people decked out in their finest, ironed attire. Even those folks who looked like they might ordinarily be garbed in a sloppier fashion sucked it up for the fact that they were traveling. Coach class doesn't mean no class. A couple of weeks ago I flew from Texas to Newark. While I'm not one for ironing, I did lay out my clothes and made sure they were neat and clean for the voyage. That's more than I can say for some of the other passengers. Oh, some of the men were wearing hats alright filthy, mangy baseball caps topping off their faded t-shirts and holey jeans. I'm not against jeans I practically live in them myself but can't people make sure they're hole-free, or at least CLEAN, when going out into the world? Even the people in first class, who obviously can afford a new pair of pants once in a while, were not exempt from looking unkempt. I may sound like your mother, but I don't see why cleanliness and intentional tidiness is considered so taboo by today's fashion standards. It seems to me just a matter of respect, both for yourself and for your fellow man, to not look as if you just rolled out of bed. I'm all over overalls and t-shirts, but is it too much to ask to try to look nice once in a while?

The extent to which men and boys once wore hats and caps is a little difficult to understand as currently caps and hats are rarely worn, except for the ubiquitous baseball caps. While caps are common during the winter, for the rest of the year it is rare to see boys wearing caps other than base ball caps. It was very different only a few years ago. Boys wore very formal caps and hats in the late 19th Century, many variations of sailor hats. In addition to these formals hats, many more informal caps have been worn by boys.

I have just begun collecting information on this subject, but some of the head gear to be covered include:

Specific Hat 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.

Country Trends

There are some hat that are specifically associated with certain countries. These include the American Stetson (cowboy hat), Austrian/German Alpine hat, English boater, and others. Some of the hats have been adopted in other countries, such as the boater. Other have remained destincively national styles. Most popular hat styles are worn in many different countries. We are develeoping headwear pages for many different countries. We also plan to eventually create country hat pages. At this time we only have specific hat pages on a few different countries: America, England, and Germany.

Photography

One of our major sources of information about boys' hats, especially the second half of the 19th century, are period phptographic portraits. Some boys wore them in the portrait. This was, however, not the most common convention, presumably because it would cover the hair. It was fairly common for the boy to hold his ha because headwear was such an important component of dressat the time. Another alternative was to place the hat on an adjacent table or chair or even to lay them out on the ground. If the portrait included the whole family, it was not always readily apparent who each hat belonged. A good example is an unidentified American family about 1890.

Hats

We notice decorative and practical fatures used with boys' hats. Decorative items included tallies and streamers were used on hsts. One more practical item was chinstraps or chinstays. Chinstraps help hold the headwear on a child in windy weather. We think that they were most common on children's headwear, but they were on some adult headwear as well. We note variations over time and among different countries. They were used in sailor hats. We also notice them used in cowboy hats. Cowboy hats often had a kind of tgoggle to tighten the chin strap. They were practical because while riding, hsts might be blown off. We also notice themn being used in Japsnese school hsts.





HBC






Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web Headwear Pages:
[Return to the Main headwear page]
[Caps] [Hats] [Berets] [Hair]



Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web Site:
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Bibliographies] [Chronologies] [Style Index] [Countries]
[Contributions] [Frequently Asked Questions] [Links] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]



Created: March 5, 1999
Last updated: 7:25 AM 9/2/2010