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Friday, 25 January 2013

Sepia Saturday: Men and Hats

Each week, Sepia Saturday, provides an opportunity for genealogy bloggers to share their family history through photographs.

This week's prompt showed a shop frontage with awnings, signs and display of fruit and veg.  But I decided to continue the theme from my last  Sepia Saturday posting on "Forward with Flat Caps" and focus on  the men's hats.   Thank you to Mike Brubaker for suggesting in his comment that a feature of men's hats could be a logical follow on.  
Women have lots of  hat styles but apart from cloches, berets  and the current fashion for fascinators, I cannot think of many given a distinct  name.  Very different for men,   as I soon discovered

  • Fedora and trilby came  on the scene in the1890's and were made popular by   20th century movie stars such as Frank Sinatra and Humphrey Bogart.
  • Homburg -  named after Bad Homburg (‘Homburg Baths’), a town in  Hesse in Germany, where it was created.Think of Edward VII, Winston Churchill  and on screen Hercule Poirot.
  • Pork Pie - another mid 19th century development  and associated with the man about town and jazz musicians,  
  • Straw Boater -  traditionally associated with Venetian gondoliers.
  • Panama  - another popular light hat for summer wear, though actually oringinated in Ecuador.
  • Beret - associated with peasant wear in France (think Onion Johnny) and Spain.  Adapted in Scotland to become a Tammie - Tam O'Shanter.   
  • Deer Stalker - think of Sherlock Holmes and upper class country wear.
  • Bowler  - think of the typical London businessman of the 20th century with rolled umbrella, briefcase and bowler hat;  also movie comedians Charlie Chaplin and Laurel & Hardy.
  • Top hats - think of romance and swirling capes - the symbol of the 19th century gentleman, now more associated with  Ascot Races and weddings.

Below are some men's hats from my family collection of photographs, though I can't always identify the style by name. 

Here is master mariner John Robert Moffet (c.1814-1881) in a Napoleonic pose - my husband's great great grandfather. In the earlier  census returns John was living in Stepney, and LImehouse,  London. but by 1871 he and his family had moved back to his roots in  South Shields on the north east coast. 
 This dubious looking character, I am pleased to say,  is no relation, as far as I know, but he featured on the right  in the photograph below of my great grandfather James Danson, sitting merry in the ancient stocks in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.  And are those berets worn by the two men seated on the left?  


Wearing a straw boater  is John Mason of New Jersey, USA who married my great great aunt Alice Rawcliffe. of Hambleton,  Lancahsire. They had six children in England, before emigrating in 1886-7  to Brooklyn, New York where they had a further five - three not surviving infancy. This photograph came from my third cousin Bonnie - finding her was a great blog success story and I am grateful to her for filling a gap in my family history.  

The three men in the front of this wedding picture area all carrying hats - panamas or trilbys?    My father (on the left) is looking very solemn at the wedding of this eldest brother Fred Weston at Leicester in 1929.  
And what about the style for young boys?  The hatwearing fashion started early.  Below is my uncle Fred Weston c,1909.  This hat looks more like a sombrero,  it is so huge for a wee boy.  I wondered at first if  it was meant to reflect the popular fashion of sailor outfits for children , but have not seen a coat like this before  in old photographs,


I remember my brother wearing a school cap like this, often perched on the  back of his head, Here is my husband' brother c.1936. 
A photograph below  from 1948 shows my husband in his school cap  with his father sporting a beret. They were on his motor bike, so such a headgear would be frowned upon in this health and safety era. 
I could not end a feature on men's hats without recollecting  themen's  hats seen on our holidays in southern Germany and Austria.   Here is a fun representation!  Enjoy!
Click  HEREE to find out what other bloggers have found
in this week's prompt photograph. 
Copyright © 2013 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved


  1. Sue, I am glad you stayed with the caps and hats, such a well researched theme; Fedoras, even the name suggests glitz, straw boaters a whiff of holidays, always liked berets. Top hats make men look ridiculous, like baseball caps worn backwards!
    Enjoyed your hat research.

  2. What a fun post. So many hats. It is weird that men's have names and women's don't (at least not as much). A friend of mine just returned from a trip to South America and had an authentic Panama hat. Turns out they're made in Ecuador, not Panama!

  3. That is interesting that women's hats don't have names, wait, I just thought of another one that does "picture hats".

  4. Great post! My grandfather died when I was quite young, but one of the things I remember best about him was his hat (similar to those in the wedding photo) - he never left the house without it.

  5. Loved reading this blog. I'll have to have another look at my family's photos now, to check out what hats they're wearing.

  6. Had those two just come out of the Pub before climbing into the stocks. Just love the Old Fella's side-whiskers. The fellow in the Bowler with the cheesy grin looks like a dirty postcard seller and the Victorian equivalent of the Double-Glazing salesman

    1. Thank, Mike, for your comment. You could be well be right about the characters in the photo. My mother and aunt made the comment that "Granny had some trouble with her husband" and I gather he was rather a ne'er do well. The "Old Fella" was my great grandfather.

  7. Hats off to Sue! Very interesting that your family had so much variety in their hats. I must revisit my family photos to see how my guys compare.

  8. Wonderful hat pictures, but the ones of the children are especially endearing.

  9. Did you know that the German word for a top hat is a "Zylinder" or a "cylinder"? I enjoyed reading your post, nice recap.

  10. There was a "Stocks Hill" in the village where I was born, I don't think there were ever any stocks there. Do those in Poulton still exist?
    Interesting round up of hats. As I am currently being treated for sun damage to my head, I wish I had worn hats more often when I had the chance.

    1. Thanks, Bob, for your comment. Yes the stocks in Poulton-le-Fylde are still there in the Market Square along with the whipping post and stone slab table for market days. Poulton is a few miles east of Blackpool, but amuch odler settlement.

  11. You have a great selection of hats in family photos. I enjoyed them all, but your brother was so cute in his school hat.

    Thanks for sharing all of these with us.

    Kathy M.

  12. The boys look really cute in their school caps.

  13. You also prompted me to revisit my family photos for different hats - strangely there seem to be a wide assortment of hats on my mother's side photos but very few on my father's side.
    I loved the stocks photo

  14. I have spend most of my life waiting for hats to come back into fashion, but they never quite make it. Such a shame as I am a great buyer and wearer of hats. Great post - it's a topper.

  15. I must admit that as a resident of sunnier climes I'm a wearer of functional, rather than decorative, hats. However, I do appreciate a good homburg/trilby/fedora in the right setting e.g. Captain von Trapp (if that means anything to anyone).

  16. What an interesting way to take us on this theme! Cool photos!

  17. What a great collection you have here.
    You have enough to open your own vintage shop!!
    I love hats and have worn many types.

  18. Thank you again to everyone for their comments on my posting - it was great fun to pull together.

  19. I'm very flattered that I inspired you to write such a great post on men's hats. Like Alan I have been waiting for them to return in style. Back in the 80s when I first visited England (and stayed for over 2 years) I arrived in May wearing a sporty straw fedora. I had some odd notion that all British men wore hats. I soon discovered that not only was I grossly mistaken but my hat marked me as a tourist, or worse as some kind of colonial rube. After about a week it went into the closet and there it stayed until I left.

    But I did observe that hats in Britain were very class oriented. Soft caps were for working class men of a vintage age. Bowlers were very rare but might be spotted on bankers and only in the City. This past summer my wife and I went to Glynbourne opera for the first time where the pastoral gardens are the perfect place to wear a Panama, but with dinner jacket of course!


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