Hats - and other clothes

                                                                    If you want to get ahead, get a hat

Advertising slogan allegedly invented by Charles Sydney Catlin in 1934
http://www.adslogans.co.uk/site/pages/gallery/if-you-want-to-get-ahead-get-a-hat.8400.php - Accessed 29-07-2017

The Cappers Act, 1571. This Act, designed to support the trade of cap-making, made it compulsory for all English males over the age of six and below the rank of 'gentleman' to wear a wool cap on Sundays and holidays. The cap had to be made of wool, made within England and only dressed and finished by those in the trade. The penalty for not wearing the cap was a fine of 3s 4d per day.

https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O107794/cap-unknown/ - Accessed 25-10-2018
Above: A cap found in a house in Worship Street, East London. Knitted in stocking stitch, it is made from thick red-brown wool which has then been felted. It has been cut and re-sewn to make two overlapping brims.
https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O107794/cap-unknown/ - Accessed 25-10-2018
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

'Hats or bonnets made of plaited whalebone are now much worn; they are either white or coloured, lined with corresponding coloured satin, and adorned with plumes of feathers.
The O'Neill bonnet is the last novelty.'
The Globe, 4 July 1815, p4

At one of our meetings we were looking at photographs from the 1930s, which included one of a man, outdoors, not wearing a hat. We wondered how unusual this was, and set ourselves the challenge of discovering what we could about the topic. We used,  almost exclusively, primary sources in the form of pictures from the time, many from our own families.

Above: Unemployed people in front of a workhouse in London, 1930. Most (all?) of the men are wearing hats: caps, homburgs and bowlers.
Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-10246 / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
Above: Neville Chamberlain, the Prime Minister, announces 'Peace in our time' after meeting Hitler in Munich in 1938. He had just stepped off a plane, which could explain his lack of a hat - but many other men in the photograph are also bare-headed.
http://www.iwm.org.uk Part of the Ministry of Information Second World War official collection.

© IWM (D 2239) Shared and re-used under the terms of the IWM non-commercial licence

From Barbara Rowland: 'I looked at photos in "Things my mother should have told me", a compilation of articles, photos and advertisements from Good Housekeeping 1922-1940. The few photos of men outdoors all had them in hats.
My grandfather always wore a hat until his death in 1954, so would have worn one through the 1930s. My brother got his old ones to play with, and we had the last one in the dressing-up box for years...'

Although the majority of men seemed to wear hats throughout the decade, it did depend on a number of factors:
Whether the men were in the country or the town.
How formal the occasion was.
Social class.
Whether it was early or later in the decade.
The increasing use of cars rather than public transport may have affected hat-wearing - people were not out in the elements so much.
Once the Second World War started, hat-wearing declined: possibly partly as a reaction to wearing uniform, and partly because of the shortage of materials to make hats.

Some US men's hats from the 1930s.
Many thanks to Vintage Dancer for permission to use this image

Unknown group - of builders? The man in the centre is holding some sort of hammer, and there is also a cart, ladder and pot in the photograph. Most of the men are wearing waistcoats, and all are wearing caps. Probably taken in Devon, date unknown.
Anne Bligh collection
                                                             Looking your best

What else can we find out about the people depicted in old photographs?

Left: This photo from the latter part of the 1920s, or 1931 at the latest, shows John and Emily Harris from Torquay, Devon. The Harris family were builders and undertakers in St Marychurch.
John is wearing a three-piece suit with a shirt and tie, and has a fob watch tucked into his waistcoat. His hat is a trilby.
Although the couple look prosperous, Emily's long, flared skirt, fitted jacket and elaborate hat are more reminiscent of Edwardian dress than fashions of the 1920s. She would have been in her 60s by the time this photograph was taken, and perhaps is wearing the style of clothes that she felt happy in when she was a younger woman.
Vanessa Griffith collection

Evelyn June Gully (the child in the centre of the photograph) with her mother and great aunt on the seafront at Torquay, 1935. These ladies had done well for themselves, and the picture suggests that they are showing as much to the world. Evelyn is dressed for town, and is wearing a fitted coat with (probably) matching hat. She had on long socks and gloves.
As with Evelyn, the adults are wearing hats and gloves. Both women appear to be wearing fur - Evelyn's mother, Mercia Alfrida Gully, may be wearing a coat that is all fur, and great aunt Nellie Harris is wearing a tippet. A tippet is basically a scarf-like piece of clothing, and comes in various forms - in this instance it is an animal skin. Fur tippets were often complete with head, tail and paws.
Vanessa Griffith collection

Left felt spat, by Luxomni at English Wikipedia. See text below
Left: 1938, opposite the Palm Court Hotel, the sea front, Torquay.
The photograph is by Remingtons - one of many companies that took photographs of people in the street in popular towns and resorts. The photographs would be processed and sent on to the purchasers.

Again, both women are wearing tippets. The man appears to be wearing spats - originally a protective accessory (known as spatterdash) for officers' boots in the 19th century military.
Widely worn in the early 20th century, by the 1920s white spats were a symbol of wealth and style in America and Europe.
Vanessa Griffith collection

                                                                         Dressing appropriately
The following are extracts from The Habits of Good Society: a Handbook of Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen, first published in 1859.
'I remember going to church in a remote little village on the borders of Wales, and being surprised to see enter, among the clodhoppers and simple folk of the place, a couple of young men dressed in the height of fashion, and wearing yellow kid gloves and patent-leather boots. On inquiry I found them to be the sons of a rich manufacturere, who had himself once been a working man, and was residing in the neighbourhood. I was not surprised, for vulgar pretension was here carried out to the worst extreme. Better-bred men would have known that, whatever their London costume, a difference must be made in the country....

...It is almost peculiar to the country to unite the amusements of the daytime with those of the evening; of the open air with those of the drawing-room. Thus, in the summer, when the days are long, you will be asked to a pic-nic or an archery party, which will wind up with dancing in-doors, and may even assume the character of a ball. If you are aware of this beforehand, it will always be safe to send your evening dress to your host's house, and you will learn from the servants whether others have done the same, and whether, therefore, you will not be singular in asking leave to change your costume. But if you are ignorant how the day is to end, you must be guided partly by the hour of invitation, and partly by the extent of your intimacy with the family. I have actually known gentlemen arrive at a large pic-nic at mid-day in complete evening dress, and pitied them with all my heart, compelled as they were to suffer, in tight black clothes, under a hot sun for eight hours, and dance after all in the same dress.'

'Can anything be more painfully ridiculous than an Englishman wearing a black silk hat and frock-coat of cloth under the sun of the equator?'
ibid, p138

The book is available to read at https://archive.org/details/habitsofgoodsoci00unse/page/n8 - Accessed 30-06-2019

Huckaback. A strong, coarse absorbent linen or cotton fabric used for eg. towels

Moire or Moiré. Cloth, silk in particular, with a pattern resembling waves on water.

Unmentionables (also Inexpressibles). Trousers or breeches - articles of  clothing not to be mentioned in polite society. Attested from 1823. Used as word for Underwear from 1910.
'The slow man...carries bundles of letters and other papers in his waistcoat pockets, while the pockets of his unmentionables are a receptacle for apples, pears, figs, nuts or any other edibles...'
The Wykehamist, No. 14, April 1868, p3