Boys' Headwear


Figure 1.--We had thought that this postcard Dutch shows a schoolboy on his first day of school. The text, however, is in German offering "congratulations for first day of school. Of course the language of the text does not always indicate the country where the postcard was made. (A postcard expert could probably tell by the logo in the lower-left hand corner. I believe a Dutch reader sent us this image. A German reader believes him to be German. The boy wears a large wide-brimmed sailor hat. The postcard is undated, but probably was printed about 1910.

Boys have worn many types of hats and caps over the yars as well as many other types of headgear like berets. In fact man and boys used to always wear some type of headwear. It was an esentially part of dressing up, in sharp contrast to modern trends where boys rarely wear any headwear except baseball caps--except for cold weather. One fashion analyst speaking on BBC radio explained, "Once, you knew a man by what he wore on his head. A hat was like a flag is to a ship: it denoted an origin, a home port. Nobody - as Sir Neville Cardus said - would have dreamed of going out without a hat when he was a lad. Now, few go out with a hat. And modern males are as anonymous as chips without vinegar." [Mather] While caps and hats are today much less common, historically, they were a very important aspect of fashion. We are not sure yet just why headwear began to go out of style in the 1950s.

Chronology

Headwear is probably as old as clothing. Both warm and shielding from the sun and weather argue for the creatiin of headwear from an early point. We do not have a lot of information on headwear, but ancint sculpture suggests from very destinctive styles. Curiously, Egypt was a rare ancunt culture where headwear does nit seem importanht. This is strange for a country where the sun can be oppressive. The ancient Greek wore hats called the petasos and the pilos. They could be hung round the neck with a string to prevent losing them in the wind. These hats were worn by the Romans and into the Middle Ages. We do not know at this time of headwear that was specifically worn by children either in ancient or medieval times, but our information on ancient and medieval dress is still quite limited. As best we can tell, children wore headwear similr to that worn by their parents. Here status confering headwear may have age differences. Hoods in the ancient world were worn as a practical cold weather head covering. The Romans wore the cucullus which was later adopted by medieval monastic orders. The hood was also worn as a secular garment in Medieval Europe. Hats were very common in the 19th century. and it is inly in the 19th cebtury that we begin to see headwear specifucally made for children. Wide-brimed sailor hats were popular for younger boys and boaters for older boys. A good example of hat styles are the hats worn by the Clark boys in 1897. Caps became increasingly popular in the late 19th century and became the dominant style for boys in the 20th century. Headwear in general became much less common after World War II, especially in the 1960s. You almost never see children wearing hats anymore.

Types

Men and boys over time have worn a wide variety of headgear. The major headwear types are hats and caps. 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. 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. While most Western boys have mostly worn caps or hats, there are several other headwear type such as berets. Hoods are not a garment normally associated with boys's wear. Sone boy's jackets and coats do come with hoods. The most common is the duffle coat, but other garments such as anoraks. The beret has to be the most versitle head gear in history. What other head gear has been worn by little boys and girls, elite soldiers, scruffy Cuban revolutionariers, boy and girl scouts, shepards, a president's nemesis, and many others more. Widely worn in the Middle East and South Asia.

Styles

We note boys wearing different headwear styles. One of the most importnt were sailor styles. They were worn for about a century and included both caps and hats. Sailor styles were not just worn with sailor suits. we see them worn with many other outfits. They were popular, for example, with Fauntleroy outfits. Therewere a range of other styles. Interestingly there were no actual Fauntleroy headwear. There were many sailor styles withsome ovelap of different styles.

Countries

Headwear for the most part crossed mational borders. There have been national styles (alpine caps, baseball caps, berets, school caps, tams, and other styles). Some of these have remained national styles. Others have gradually spread beyond national borders. A primarly example of this prpcess are sailor styles and the baseball cap. There are only a few destinct national styles. Most popular headwear styles are largely international in character. There have, however, been differences over time as to the popularity of different styles from country to country. There are many HBC country headwear pages, but only a few actual national headwear pages. We are working on this. We are in the process of linking them here so that we have a headwear page for each country. One of the pages are Belgium. We also have a page on the United States.

Chinstraps

We notice decorative and other items used with boys' headwear such as tallies and streamers. One more practical item was chin straps or chinstays. Chinstraps help hold the headwear on a child in windy weather. We also see cold weather chin straps to keep ears covered. We think thhat 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 differenht tyes of headwear. Chinstraps were common on sailor headwear, both caps and hats. We note chinstraps being used with Japanese school headwear. American boys had peaked caps with earflaps and chin straps. We see Italian boys with baseball caps that had chin straps.

Streamers

We note boys wearing streamers on both caps and hats. Here the photogreaphic record is not very helpful. Most 19th century photographs are studio portraits. They wsere mostly shot without the boys wearing headwear. And even when they did wear them, the normal head-on poses do not show the streamers on the back of the cap or hat. Streamers They were most common on sailor-styled headwear. We see them on both sailor caps and sailor hats. We also streamers on Scottish-style headwear. We also see streamers on roubded-crown hats. A good example is an unidentified New York boy about 1865. This was not a sailor hat, although the basic style was influenced by sailor styling. The wide-brimmed hats were a sailor suit that was worn with many other outfits such as Funtleroy suits. Many of these hats also had streamers. We note the streamers done in various ways, There were different lengths and widths. They were often, but not alkways done in pairs.

Sources

Mather, Geoffrey. "Capped for England" BBC Radio 4, 2001.







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Created: October 17, 2003
Last updated: 1:47 AM 1/13/2015