Introduction to Men’s Headwear – The Hat

Gentlemen have been covering their heads since, well, since the first gentleman figured out he could keep his head warm and look sharp doing so.

The modern hat comes from a long tradition of using headwear not only to protect one’s head form the elements, but also to communicate status and rank. Various professions used a distinctive hat to show their occupation. Various hats were worn by clergy, soldiers, scholars, tradesmen and nobility throughout ancient times and the medieval era. The modern gentleman’s hat springs out of these traditions, specifically the use of felt hats in the military and the clergy.

Richard Hooker wearing the Canterbury cap of British Clergy

Richard Hooker wearing the Canterbury cap of British Clergy

Sailors from Elizabethan times are known to have adopted the Monmouth cap as their hat. They were mentioned by Shakespeare in his play Henry V, Act 4, Scene 7,

“the Welshmen did good service in garden where leeks did grow, wearing leeks in their Monmouth caps; which your Majesty know to this hour is an honourable badge of the service”.

Original 16th Century Monmouth Cap from Wales

Original 16th Century Monmouth Cap from Wales sans Leek

The hats for men in the 20th century evolved from their predecessors in the 18th and 19th century. I will detail more on the specific histories of the various styles of hats we now call ‘formal’ men’s hats in their own separate posts. Here is a short list of some of the more stylish men’s hats still worn, in no particular order:

  • the Fedora
  • the Top Hat
  • the Bowler
  • the Boater
  • the Panama
  • the Ascot Cap
  • the Beret
  • the Deerstalker
  • the Fez
  • the Flat Cap
  • the Homburg
  • the Glengarry
  • the Porkpie
  • the Tam o’Shanter
  • the Trilby

According to wikipedia, “A hat consists of four main parts:

Crown – The portion of a hat covering the top of the head

Peak (British English), visor (American English), or bill, a stiff projection at the front, to shade or shield the eyes from sun and rain

Brim, an optional projection of stiff material from the bottom of the hat’s crown horizontally all around the circumference of the hat

Puggaree (British) or sweatband or hatband (American), a ribbon or band that runs around the bottom of the torso of the hat. The sweatband may be adjustable with a cord or rope at the top and is on the inside of the hat touching the skin while the hatband and puggaree are around the outside.

There is also an excellent introduction to hat terminology in the Fedora Lounge forum threads – An Intro to Hat Terminology.

And I would be remiss if I ended the post without including some excellent examples of stylish men wearing their hats, so here you are:

Frank Sinatra wearing a fedora

Frank Sinatra Wearing a Short Brimmed Fedora

Cary Grant in a Bowler

Cary Grant in a Bowler

Fred Astaire in a Boater

Fred Astaire in a Straw Boater

 

Benedict Cumberbatch Doffing His Top Hat

Benedict Cumberbatch Doffing His Top Hat

 

Ryan Gosling in a Wide Brimmed Fedora

Ryan Gosling in a Wide Brimmed Fedora

 

Edward, Prince of Wales in a Soft Cap

Edward, Prince of Wales in a Flat Cap

 

Edward, the Prince of Wales, Sporting His Homburg

Edward, the Prince of Wales, Sporting His Homburg

Kingpin’s Hideaway Featured in Men’s Fashion Blog, “The Key of He”

A new post written by Leah Morrigan on “The Key of He” blog features vintage Kingpin’s Hideaway items from the 1930s. Ms. Morrigan’s article discusses the key role that wardrobe played in the movie “The Sting” and you may read it here.

Among the Kingpin items featured are:

1930-era silk tie available at Kingpin's Hideaway.

1930-era silk tie available at Kingpin’s Hideaway.

Snap-together composite and mother-of-pearl cuff links available at Kingpin's Hideaway.

Snap-together composite and mother-of-pearl cuff links available at Kingpin’s Hideaway.

Dove grey beaver fur fedora.

Dove grey beaver fur fedora.

Two-tone leather spectator / correspondents shoes.

Two-tone leather spectator / correspondents shoes.

Grey double breasted wool jacket with oxblood pinstripe.

Grey double-breasted wool jacket with oxblood pinstripe.

Summer in Vintage Style

1d977136c52211e2918122000a9f0a12_7.jpg

view full image

Blue tint Victorian sunglasses with an Edwardian straw boater. Summer has arrived!

 

Kingpin’s Hideaway Ladypin Pin Up for January – Ms. Mamy

The first of our tributes to the incredible talents of Alberto Vargas  in the New Year, Kingpin’s Hideaway is proud to present the Ladypin pin up for January – Ms. Mamy!

Mamy - Ms. January Ladypin Pin Up for Kingpin's Hideaway

Would you prefer Park Place or Boardwalk?

Ms. Mamy now graces the Kingpin’s Hideaway Queen Street West window display. Ms. Mamy is modeling a smashing 1920’s silk top hat, 1940’s formal white tie, elegant 1930’s dress coat, and 1890’s gold handled walking can.

Photograph by Jennifer Toole

Hair by Amber Fairlie

Make-up by Bronwen Weiderick

 

The Birth of a Hat – Stetson

Birth-of-a-hat-1920-image-normal

When this film was made around 1920, hats were an essential item of everyday dress and few people ventured outside without one. Birth of a Hat: The Art and Mystery of Making Fur Felt Hats gives an insider’s tour of what was then the largest hat-making operation in the world, the John B. Stetson Company. The company’s founder and namesake John B. Stetson (1830-1906) was best known as the inventor of the cowboy hat — the wide-brimmed waterproof-felt “Boss of the Plains” classic introduced in 1865. As the legend goes, the young man went to Colorado for his health and there developed the prototype from beaver pelts collected on a hunting trip. A hatter by training, Stetson set up shop in Philadelphia and, with unerring marketing savvy, sent samples to merchants throughout the Southwest, demanding a minimum order of a dozen. He also branded his hats, embossing his name on every sweatband. The “Boss” became an overnight success.

Humphrey Bogart wearing a Royal Stetson Fedora

Humphrey Bogart wearing a Royal Stetson Fedora

Stetson expanded into other styles — bowlers, derbies, top hats, boaters, cavalry hats, and woolen caps. At its peak, the nine-acre Stetson facility in the Philadelphia outskirts annually processed 16 million animal pelts into felt and churned out 3.3 million hats. The factory employed 5,400 people and send product around the world. After the United States, the firm’s largest markets were Argentina, Mexico, Canada, and South Africa. In true Western fashion, each felt hat, although carefully styled, could be steamed and reshaped by its owner. Among the more famous customizers was Buster Keaton, who restyled Stetson’s fedora into his trademark porkpie hat.

Vintage Stetson Fedora Hat Advertisement

Vintage Stetson Fedora Hat Advertisement

The Stetson plant was a model of industrial efficiency, with men cutting, shaping, and dying the hats and women weaving straw, finishing, and making boxes. To command worker loyalty — and fight off unionization — the company offered a hospital, school, park, and housing as well as a panoply of employee services, from paid vacations, life insurance, and pension plans to Americanization classes, holiday turkeys, and baseball leagues. In the 1950s, as demand for headgear began to falter, production waned. The complex closed in 1971.

Birth of a Hat showcases the production-line methods that Stetson brought to the ancient craft of hatmaking. After a brief history of headgear through the ages, the film moves step by step through the modern process, showing how the felt is made, shaped, styled, and finished into a dress hat. The Stetson factory still relied at this time on a good deal of handwork but dramatically increased efficiency and delivered a consistently high-quality product.

While the company’s founder is said to have claimed, “there’s no advertisement equal to a well-pleased customer,” this film comes mighty close. Birth of a Hat was circulated to distributors and merchants to drum up sales and was also released as a longer two-reeler, giving more information about the raw materials, factory, and distribution. The updated video The Making of a Stetson Hat is still viewable on the firm’s website today.

(Many thanks to Jessica Getman, a graduate student of Caryl Flinn at the University of Michigan — Ann Arbor, for her informative paper about this film.)

About the Preservation
Birth of a Hat was preserved under the direction of UCLA Film & Television Archive from a 35mm tinted nitrate print discovered in 2010 at the New Zealand Film Archive. The source material was scanned at a high resolution and output to 35mm polyester film stock at Colorlab. The work was funded through the support of a Save America’s Treasures Grant secured by the NFPF in 2011.

Like many American industrial giants, Stetson made films to sell its products and edited major titles for different markets. Birth of a Hat was the perennial favorite for Stetson. We know that some version screened at the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco and was promoted in a 1918 advertising flyer. Although the New Zealand copy carries no release date, we can date the film from around 1920, when the nitrate filmstock was manufactured.

Further Reading
The Philadelphia Historical Society gives a history of the Stetson plant site at www.philaplace.org/story/326/