• Welcome to The Fedora Lounge!

Akubra "Slouch"

Discussion in 'Hats' started by NonEntity, Jan 11, 2008.

  1. I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but bear with me.

    First off, I didn't even know until a couple years ago that the famous hat with one brim turned up on the side was called the "slouch," and I own one! I've never heard them referred to by that name; in fact, I thought "slouch" was another term for a soft, wide-brimmed fedora. In fact, I’m almost sure I’ve heard old-time newspaper reporters refer to their signature hats by that name.

    I've always heard the jaunty Australian military hat called "Aussie Bush Hat" or "Campaign Hat," not to be confused with the “other” campaign hat worn by America's WW I GIs, Smokey the Bear, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and tough U.S. Marine Corp drill sergeants. Nevertheless, I called my turned-up-on-the-side kind a campaign hat.

    My slouch--it's really hard for me to call it that after all these years--I got on a trip to the Gulf Coast when I was only 10 or 11. It was hanging up high in one of those ma-and-pa stores that sells a bit of everything beach related--beer, inflatable rafts, “icees,” snacks, film, suntan lotion, but mostly beer. And hats. Don’t ask me what a heavy felt Akubra was doing in that kind of place, but I knew I HAD to have it. It was not because it was an Akubra, because that name meant nothing to me then. Rather, I was in my “safari phase”—loving all things having to do with Africa—and had seen actors donning such hats in films about the dark continent.

    We went to that store almost every day for something, and, though I was not a whiney, gotta-have-it type kid, I literally begged Dad for the coveted campaign hat. They only had one, and it fit. Please, buy me that hat! I don’t remember why he wouldn’t--probably the price--but Dad would not give in. Finally, Granddad sprung for it. Hallelujah, I had me a campaign hat! I’ve never felt happier. Grand to the rescue!

    In those days, “bash” was something I did to another guy’s face if he said something nasty about my mother, and “dent” was a thing she denied knowing anything about when Dad questioned her about a new wrinkle in the Pontiac’s fender. I would have guessed “open crown” either had something to do with Miss America or was some kind of dental apparatus.

    Point is, had I heard these terms used in connection with a hat, I would have had no clue what you were talking about. Good thing, because the open crown campaign hat I got that day had already been bashed and dented, impeccably so, I would learn many years later, with a prominent center bash and dents flanking the front of the crown.

    I kept it meticulously shaped in this “original” configuration, and it looked as good with the brim turned up on the side, the way I usually wore it, as it did with the brim turned down all around, in Great White Hunter style.

    I wore that thing practically constantly. Teachers wouldn’t let me wear it at school, but come 3 o’clock, on my head it went and there it stayed until dinner, when my mom made me remove it. I inhaled my food just to put it back on as quickly as possible. I LOVED that hat.

    I wore it so much and sweated so profusely that the puggaree—a word I learned decades later—became permanently stained with mildew. The white stuff on the hat itself would come off when vigorously brushed, but not the pug. I’d had the hat quite a while before I discovered that the pug was affixed to the felt with tiny hooks and would come off. My mom wanted to wash it, but I knew that would destroy the pleating and probably unravel the unbound edges, so, at my insistence, back on the hat it went, mildew and all. No matter, I wore it anyway, despite that I and my whole family are extremists when it comes to neat and clean.

    Then I saw a campaign hat in a movie or TV show—it might have been Daktari—with a leopard band. Wow, that was super-cool, so I got some faux fur at a fabric store and made a hat band out of it. It was so obviously fake that I soon took it off and put the original and ultra-mildewed puggaree back on. All this, of course, did not go unnoticed by my mother.

    Then one day I saw the stairs pulled down and heard her rummaging around up in the attic. She never went up there. What the heck was she looking for? I went up there to find out. Out from a cedar chest reeking of mothballs she pulled a hanging clothes bag, saying she had something she knew I was going to like, but wasn’t sure if it would work.

    As we climbed down the stairs to escape the oppressive attic heat, I could not imagine what I could possibly like among her old clothes, though those old mega-brassieres with pointy, football-shaped cups were intriguing. Still beautiful, my mom had been a drop-dead gorgeous fashion model in her younger days, and so adored clothes that she kept them all even though they were long out of style. Downstairs, she removed the bag, and there, strung around a dated black dress, was a leopard belt, REAL leopard.

    Well, she didn’t have a chance to utter a word before I shrieked, “Campaign hat band!” and snatched the hat off my head to try it out. It could not have fit the hat any better had it been custom-made for it. The dress and belt were from the early 1950s when my mom had a wasp-waist, and one end of the belt had two brass hooks to fasten into one of several pairs of holes notched in the thin leather extension at the other end. I took the pug off the hat and in its place wrapped the belt snuggly around the base of the crown. The two hooks lined up with one pair of holes perfectly!

    And not only was it genuine leopard, but the highest, haute couture quality fur, at that. I was just a kid but had the coolest safari hat in the entire world! I was ecstatic!!!

    And my mom was happy, too, because that leopard hat band was the one and only thing that could displace the dreaded mildewed puggaree she so despised. Summertime, there were no teachers to tell me to take the hat off, and so I wore it, save for at the table, all the time. Accordingly, that campaign hat became, for all intents and purposes, a permanent part of my head. I even slept in it.

    I wore it for years, and the hat shrunk. You get hot and sweaty, wear it in the rain, and that’s to be expected. Dad took it to a hatter to have it stretched. The guy owed him a favor, so Dad didn’t have to pay; otherwise, he would have never done it. The stretching helped, but it shrunk again. I came up with a trick to stretch it myself. I’d found a manikin discarded in a dumpster behind a fancy department store and had him standing in the corner of my room. When the hat was wet with sweat or rain water, I’d force it down over the manikin’s head and leave it there until it dried. It worked—at first.

    However, the hat gradually shrunk more and more until it was not just really tight but downright painful to wear. My granddad finally pointed out what should have been obvious: The hat wasn’t shrinking; my head was growing. By the time I was in senior high school, I could no longer wear it at all. I’ve measured a 7 1/8 (57) for most of my adult life, and I don’t know exactly what size the old campaign hat is, as I knew nothing about that as a kid and the size tag is long gone, but I’d estimate a 6 ¾ (54) or 6 7/8 (55).

    I eventually took the leopard belt off, gave it back to my mother (she still has it), and put the original pug back on, mildew and all. The hat resides on the top shelf of my closet, but I get it down from time to time to look at it, handle it, reflect. Though it’s almost 40 years old, but for the pug, it’s in remarkably good condition: the texture and color of the felt, leather headband fully intact and smooth, only slight wear along the brim binding, and the chin strap is perfect, having been replaced with a new one identical to the original shortly before the hat went to rest on the top shelf.

    That campaign hat was a significant part of my young life. You might say I grew from a boy into a man while it was on my head. Though I cannot wear it, it’s still one of my most treasured possessions. Sometimes the value in a thing is not what it can do, but what it represents. Don’t insult me by asking if it’s for sale.

    I’ve considered getting a new one, but, in truth, I think I’d rarely have a place to wear it these days. It’s pretty over the top, almost extreme as a pith helmet, which at least I can wear doing summer yard work. Perhaps, it could be my cool-weather yard hat, raking leaves, like a I need a brand new hat for that!

    Who else here has had an Akubra—I’m forcing myself to say it—Slouch, and how has it held up? Tell us your story.
  2. HamletJSD

    HamletJSD A-List Customer

    Great story!
  3. MrFusion

    MrFusion One of the Regulars

    I had a fedora that I wore growing up as well (until it was destroyed by a pet :mad: )
    But your story is better than mine! :eusa_clap
  4. hats off

    Nice yarn, the slouch hat is known colloquially here as a 'digger's' hat, and a thorough history is here
    I still have my old one from school cadets when I was 14 or so, and it's a bit motheaten, but worth having on the wall.
  5. The slouch hat was a common hat for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, particularly amoung the soldiers serving in the western theater.:)
  6. drop-dead gorgeous women

    You Mum was maybe an earlier Lounger? Or were you actually describing our Loungerettes?lol lol :p :p:D :D
  7. Prairie Shade

    Prairie Shade A-List Customer

    Not an ANZAC but----

    I own an Akubra slouch hat myself. The brim was turned up on one side to accomodate a rifle at shoulder arms I believe. I just leave mine down flat like a well "slouch hat". In the other former penal colony (US) a hat that is turned down all around and "casual" is referred to as a slouch hat I believe. Anyway, if anyone owns one, your not alone. I like the Purg and the hat in general. Good job, wish the U S Military would adopt the campaign hat back similar to the current cav hat.
  8. Nice yarn, the slouch hat is known colloquially here as a 'digger's' hat, and a thorough history is here
    I still have my old one from school cadets when I was 14 or so, and it's a bit motheaten, but worth having on the wall.

    Thanks for that link, dr greg, very informative.

    There, I learned that: "Slouch" refers to any felt hat with a wide brim that droops down, and therefore the officer's hat worn by both Union and Rebel forces in the Civil war was one, as was the campaign (AKA Smokey the Bear) hat worn by U.S, troops in WW I, though it's brim is starched and ironed to stand straight out. Maybe that's a clue as to why I was taught to call the Australian military hat a "campaign" hat.

    And I always wondered whether the left or right was the proper side to turn the brim up. Answer: Neither, it depends on the regiment and the period of history.

    I own an Akubra slouch hat myself. The brim was turned up on one side to accomodate a rifle at shoulder arms I believe.

    Yes, Prairie Shade, according to this source, the hat was probably turned up on the side so the brim would clear, originally, and lance or sword, and later, a rifle with bayonet, though no one is sure. The turn-up dates to several hundred years before the Aussies adopted the style for the military.

    Woe--those giant hat plumes! Now I don't think a regular slouch is so over the top.

    Cookie wrote:

    Originally Posted by NonEntity
    Still beautiful, my mom had been a drop-dead gorgeous fashion model in her younger days, and so adored clothes that she kept them all even though they were long out of style.

    You Mum was maybe an earlier Lounger? Or were you actually describing our Loungerettes

    Ha! No, my mom is a technological Luddite and wouldn't have a clue as how to get on the Internet, but I have a sudden and strong interest in these Loungerettes. Tell me more!

    I'd still like to hear about y'alls' Akubra slouches--how it's held up, if quality has changed over the years, how you remove mildew from the puggaree, anything at all, really.

Share This Page