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Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Sepia Saturday - Hats Off To Men

Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity to share their family history through photograph.

No fair maidens, wall mirrors  or Halloween (a non-event here until fairly recently) feature in my photographic collection.  That leaves,  not just that unprepossessing man, but his hat - my theme for this week.

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 Agatha Christie's detective  Hercule Poirot.
  • Pork Pie - another mid 19th century development  and one associated with the man about town and jazz musicians.

  • Straw Boater -  traditionally associated with Venetian gondoliers that became a popular choice for summer wear. 

  • Panama  - another popular light hat, thoughit actually originated in Ecuador.

  • Beret - associated with peasant wear in France (think Onion Johnny) and Spain.  Adapted in Scotland to become a "Tammie" -  after the Robbie Burns hero 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 society gentleman, and now more associated with  Ascot Races and weddings.
Below are some men's hats from my family photographic collection,   though I can't always identify the style by name.

Master Mariner John Robert Moffet (c.1814-1881) was my husband's great great grandfather.  In the early census returns he was living in Stepney and Limehouse,  London, but by 1871, he and his family returned to his roots in South Shields on England's north  east coast. 

This dubious looking character, I am pleased to say,  is no relation, as far as I know, but he features 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  who married my great great aunt Alice Rawcliffe. of Hambleton,  Lancashire. They had six children in England, before emigrating in 1886-7  to the teeming tenements of   Brooklyn, New York where they had a further five children, 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.

Here is a charming photograph of the marriage of Beatrice Oldham and Jack Clark  on 26th December 1919.  I feel the significance of the date after the First World War is not lost in this photograph,  where there is a certain air of informality with a shorter skirt and the groom carrying a trilby hat.   It contrasts with the very formal opulent dress at  Beatrice's sister Sarah's wedding nine years earlier in 1910,  The photograph comes from Stuart, another cousinly contact through my blog. 

The three men in the front of this wedding picture are all carrying hats - panamas or trilbys?    My father, John Weston (on the left) is looking very solemn at the wedding of this eldest brother Fred Weston at Leicester in 1929.  

I remember Dad  wearing a trilby and when he climbed up the business ladder he often went down to London on the train, carrying his "badge of status" - bowler hat and briefcase.   Nobody ever thought, though,  to take a photograph of him.  

The flat cap brigade!    A photograph of my grandfather William Danson seated with a group of workers at the ICI factory at Thornton, near Fleetwood, Lancashire.  Was this some special occasion with Grandad given the pride of place at the front.  He would have had his 50th birthday in 1935. 

In Britain flat caps were generally associated with workers in the industrial north . Think of old photographs and newsreels  of men streaming from the mills, or cheering from the football terraces or enlisting for the First World War.

I think of them too as worn by coster-mongers in London - memories of Eliza Doolittle's father in the film of "My Fair Lady";  or Del Boy in the TV comedy  "Only Fools  and Horses".

At the other end of the social scale,  the Duke of Windsor as Edward Prince of Wales, was photographed in a flat cap as part of a golfing outfit.  Nowadays finer versions are popular rural wear at farming events, countryside fairs, horse race meetings etc. And if you have the youth  and looks to get away with it, flat caps are  being worn  as fashion statements by "celebrities".   

My own father would not be seen dead in one!

And what about the style for young boys?  The hat-wearing fashion started early.  Below is my uncle Fred Weston again - this time in  c,1909.  His  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,  It is only photograph I have of my father';s side of the family as children and came to me through  a distant contact of my cousin. 

I remember my brother wearing a school cap like this, often perched on the  back of his head, when it wasn't being used as a football.  Here is my husband' brother c.1936. 


On ten years  to a  photograph below  of my  my husband in his school cap  with his father sporting a beret. They were on his motor bike, so such a headgear would be very much frowned upon in today''s health and safety era. 

 Nowadays men wearing hats are either sporting the ubiquitous baseball cap, or in more wintry weather  a warm knitted beanie - where did that name come from? oggle has a variety of answers.  In Britain it gained popularity from a  character  in soap opera "Crossroads" where the well liked Benny wore a knitted version of the hat. 
 Husband in his beanie,  with daughter doing their "Hills Are Alive" act  from  "The ~Sound of Music".

 I could not end a feature on men's hats without recollecting  the men's  hats seen on our holidays in southern Germany and Austria.  

 Here is a fun representation!  Enjoy! 

Click  HERE  to find out what other bloggers have spotted
in this week's prompt photograph.  

Copyright © 2015 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved


  1. Now this sparked my interest to see what kinds of hats the men in my family photos wore through the years. I will have to look into that.

  2. My heavens, but you did your homework! If there's a man's hat you missed, I can't think what it would be? You covered all the bases, I think. Kudos for a neat post 'outside the box' !!! :)

  3. I'm inspired too to look for hats on my family's men. I didn't know the correct name for many of them. The deer stalker is a super name. I'm more than a little tired of the baseball caps - I hope something takes their place. Berets would be nice for a change.

  4. A great variety of hat styles for men and boys. Here in Aus a wide brimmed style like the Akubra is essential for sun protection of neck and ears, but baseball caps are often worn, despite having no protective properties at all!

  5. Thanks for reminding us of how smart a hat could look on a man. These days it’s all baseball caps - worn back to front!

  6. Raymond Reddington in "The Blacklist" tv series wears a fedora. Quite sharp.

  7. Those hats certainly made a man look very dashing'. Can't say the same of the present day baseball cap.. I was lovely when a man would raise his hat in greeting - he dips his lid.

    The Australian poet C.J.Dennis said

    An' me ? I 'ope I know 'ow to be'ave
    In 'igh-toned company, for ain't I been
    Instructed careful by me wife, Doreen ?
    "Sing small," she sez. An' that's jist wot I did.
    I sounds me haitches, an' I dips me lid.

    I would love to have seen Mr Moffat and Mr Dawson dip their lid to me !!

  8. Great post, great hats! We had a man in town who wore a Deer Stalker hat all the time...he looked absolutely ridiculous, especially when he added one of those curvy pipes....still, Deerstalkers might be better than baseball caps!

  9. I am fond of hats and have a small variety of mostly caps that I wear for different seasons or occasions. I'm fascinated with how men in earlier decades chose a hat style and when they decided to change from winter to summer fashions. For most of the 19th and 20th century, men and women are almost never photographed outdoors without a hat.

  10. Loved the hat photos - especially your husband and his father on the motorbike.

  11. Excellent post. I am a "hat" man myself and I saw a few here that I haven't tried on. Now I'm inspired to go hat shopping.

  12. Thank you to everyone for their comments. The topic of men's hats seemed to resonate with so many of you. Perhaps a campaign to bring them back - other than the ubiquitous baseball cap!!

  13. It is interesting how much hat styles vary from time to time and place to place.

  14. I like the photo with the 'flat hat brigade'. The guy on the left must have forgotten that he had a cigarette in his mouth!

  15. This is a wonderful collection of family photos - my Dad rarely wore a hat himself, apart from the beret that was part of his pipe-band uniform.

  16. This is such a fun and fascinating post, and I absolutely love all your photos! Thank you so much for sharing.


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