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Wearing hats: Then vs. now

Discussion in 'Hats' started by John the Swede, Oct 12, 2017.

  1. John the Swede

    John the Swede New in Town

    Watched "Out of the Past" last night--an excellent, late-40s noir thriller. I paid especial attention to the hats. Here's what I noticed:

    1) The hats were almost always cocked--but to various degrees. Mitchum's = very pronounced.

    2) Fedoras were worn by Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglass, mostly but even others, farther back and higher than what I've seen "recommended" today. Mitchum's fed was mostly around four fingers from his eyebrows, three on the the cocked side (down on his ear on the other side). Most were up on their forehead fairly high most times.

    3) Most fedoras, though not all, were in various states of disfigurement. This isn't to say they were completely crushed: they weren't. I'm talking minor crushed areas on the crown, brim misaligned, etc. This is to say that they were far from perfect, something that might bother hat wearers today (some I've come across get a little nervous when, say, a spot appears on their fedora).

    4) These were mostly teardrop and diamond creased.

    5) Most fellas didn't seem to be overly conscious of their lids, meaning, they sort of popped them on their heads and didn't really worry about "placement" too much (granted, this was really old hat for them anyway, pun there but not really intended...)

    So those are my observations. Other than that, a great film, and one of the most "smoky" noirs I've seen. Had me missing cigaretts after 10 years (for a second). At one point, Kirk Douglass offers Mitchum a cigarette, and Mitchum holds his hand out with cig and says, "Smoking." Priceless.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017
  2. Well now I have to see it. Is this movie available on any of the streaming services?

    Your observations in the film gel with what I've noticed too:

    1. Men usued to be comfortable in hats and other attire and wore them with more ease.

    2. We currently wear our hats lower on the head then in the past. I believe this is part of the reason so many of us wear larger sizes than men did only 60 years ago.
    steur likes this.
  3. John the Swede

    John the Swede New in Town

    Good points. You can watch online @Amazon for a fee. If you do, enjoy--
  4. moontheloon

    moontheloon I'll Lock Up

    1) they still are ... almost everyone here does it ... it is not on purpose ... if you are right handed and throw your hat on with your right hand your hat will most likely have a right side slant
    ... unless you look in the mirror and fuss about is which is kinda silly

    2) all personal preference ... you can find plenty of examples from then and now where some are high and some are low

    3) this has to do mostly with the type of felt these hats were made from ... if you have ever handled a hat from that era you know that it is not this awful stiff stuff you get when you buy an Akubra or modern Stetson ... it is thin and dense and when poked with your finger that dent stays ... zero steam needed or necessary at all .
    that was and is part of the charm ... how easily the shape sometimes changes and how the felt will take on the shape of your hand grabbing the pinch.
    this is why I hate these blocked in creases ... they look awful with zero personality ... no personal touch ... like you bought it at Party City to wear with a costume

    4) coming out of decades of nothing but center creases in the mid to late 30s diamonds and tear drops became highly desired crease choices... and remain that way today ...

    5) these were not precious vintage lids that they paid $500 for on eBay ... these were hats that they picked up at the local mens store for $10 or $15 dollars for the most part ... sometimes less ... not that this was not a large sum of money then ... especially since the common weekly income was something like $42.00 ... but these hats were not the coveted pieces of history that they are today and they were worn the way a hat is supposed to be worn ... like a pair of shoes
    ... all but just a few of my hats get worn and worn hard ... that's not to say I'm going to grab the pinch with fingers full of Buffalo wing sauce ... but I'm also not putting on white gloves to handle them and I may toss it on the couch when I get home or plop it on my sons head as if he is a coat rack.

    it might be something like someone watching a movie 70 something years from now and saying ... "oh my look at how they are treating that iPhone ... just tossing it on the passenger seat of the car when they get in..."
    ... they are everywhere now and everyone has one ... but one day when and if they are collectable merely shoving it in your pocket or giving it to the kids in the backseat to get lollipop fingers all over it might seem like blasphemy
    Zombie_61, -30-, Rockwater and 7 others like this.
  5. For the movies, the hats are often worn back so you can see the actors' faces. Most "candid" shots from that era show men wearing them more like us.

    Sent directly from my mind to yours.
  6. I like old documentaries (or new ones with old footage) for hat watching as it tends to show the hats "in the wild" rather than ones attended to by the costume department in movies. I recently watched a 3 part piece on PBS about WW1that had lots of hats, some nicely creased, some that looked like the wearer sat on it before putting it on. Of course, the ones in movies are nice to admire too!
    -30-, Bugguy, M Hatman and 2 others like this.
  7. moontheloon

    moontheloon I'll Lock Up

    unless it as a period piece where costumes were necessary the majority of actors in movies of that era actually wore their own clothes and hats

    I was actually shocked to learn this when speaking with some folks who worked on the old movie lots in Culver City
    Zombie_61, -30-, Redfokker and 2 others like this.
  8. I never thought if that but it makes perfect sense. My education continues
    Zombie_61, M Hatman and Redfokker like this.
  9. Didn't think that the actors would provide their own wardrobe. But then, that reminds me of an episode of American Pickers I saw recently where they found some Western costume pieces ( I think it was a hat, gun belt and prop gun among other pieces) owned and worn by a guy who was an extra in a lot of old oat operas. I guess it was common vack then if you weren't one if the top actors to bring your own gear to the set.
    Zombie_61 and -30- like this.
  10. I do know John Wayne wore the same cowboy hat in more than one movie. Jimmy Stewart, I think, too.

    Sent directly from my mind to yours.
  11. If I were a wardrobe guy, I sure wouldn't want to be the one to have to tell John Wayne that he couldn't wear whatever hat he wanted...
  12. +1
    -30- and M Hatman like this.
  13. Plus 1......true for still photographs too.........you want to see their face. In true candid shots and period documentaries every one wears their hat much like today......especially workers.....who wanted the wind, sun, and "elements" out of their face............the whole reason to wear a hat......
    Ps the comments about the old felts and the hats taking on a new shape each time they were handled is so true.....especially after the hat is broken in and the shellac is softened up ...I have a few like that.....even a couple of well worn "new ones"......
  14. I've been lucky enough to work on a few sets during shoots for HBO's Deadwood back a few years ago. My personal experience is that a lot depends on the actor and what the director wanted to go with. I'm not going to drop names but several of the "primary" cast members I worked with used their own hats. They yanked my personal hat that I wore the first day I was on set and stuck me with a hat from wardrobe for my FSITB (fuzzy stuff in the background) shots. A good friend of mine who played a substantial role in both Deadwood and Tombstone used his own hats and most of his own clothing in both.
  15. I don't know that you can equate hats on actors in GE movies with real life.

    In the GE, just like today, show biz folks want to look desirable and cool. And if a dramatically creased hat cocked just so helps that effect, then that's what was done, often with a visual check by any number of folks behind the camera, for consistency as well as coolness. Everyone wore hats, and stars had to look extra special in them.

    Edit: right now I'm looking at Mickey Rooney in Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938) wearing a light-colored fedora with an upturned 2 inch brim, slanted just so. Don't think that he just put it on his head without at least a couple of people checking it to see that it looks 'right.'

    In addition to what has been stated here, take a look at the Non-Shorpy All Star thread, for example, for photos of men in the GE wearing hats. Most of them are less than glamorous - iow, real life folks - wearing hats many different ways. And most didn't give it a second thought once they put them on.
  16. John, Eric the Finn here; Wearing a hat then and now: Wearing a hat then was all the time-everyday. My grandfather had a work hat and a special hat. Twice a year the special hat would become the work hat. Pics show him having just about the same crease over the years.

    After immigrating from Finland he owned a lumber and iron ore transport company and then headed off to WWII. After WWII he grew his business. The pics before and after WWII had him wearing a gray hat with a contrasting ribbon all the time. Never have I discovered a pic with him wearing a homburg or "fancy colored felt." My Grandmother said after he died that Walther believed that his hats should be gray and have a brim that could be tugged down in front. My conversations were before I too was interested in wearing fedoras. I do know that my Grandfather had owned Stetsons before and owned Whippets and other models. My Grandmother's fav hat, she remarked as such, was the hat he had before heading to Europe in WWII which was a Stetson Avenue in a green. (I have been very fortunate to have stumbled upon this model hat in a size to fit my head. I agree - I love the hat, not withstanding that liking it must be in the family). She said he took off a whole day and traveled down to the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/ St.Paul) and purchased the hat and a top coat at a haberdashery. A very special occasion for a new immigrant and business owner and as told in family stories.

    As to the details of crease and how the distance above the ear - the hats he wore in pics show them level in casual or at work pics and slightly tipped back for portraits with family or at gatherings. Crease - no way to know at this point.

    I hope I have contributed to the conversation. I will follow and listen to others comment.

    Best, Eric -
    Zombie_61, M Hatman, -30- and 4 others like this.
  17. What a wonderful legacy Eric. You definitely have hats in your blood, and it shows. Loved this story.
    Zombie_61, M Hatman, -30- and 3 others like this.
  18. -30-

    -30- A-List Customer

    "At one point, Kirk Douglass offers Mitchum a cigarette, and Mitchum holds his hand out with cig and says, "Smoking." Priceless."
    John the Swede.

    A cigarette is a cigarette, but a CAMEL is a SMOKE.

    J T
  19. I did have a great article on Stewart and his hat....but it is now lost to me.
    But I did run across this.
    [the best scan I could get]

    Zombie_61, -30-, Frunobulax and 3 others like this.
  20. Pretty common for extras in the UK to provide their own clothes, especially on smaller budget shoots. Actually, a lot of them are sought out because they own particular wardrobe - reenactors, and such. I was a 'background artiste' in an episode of soap opera Doctors about a dozen years ago. A friend was the wardrobe mistress then, and they needed a bunch of goth wedding guests, with no budget to costume them, so she drafted in a bunch of us who already had the stuff hanging in our closets.

    I wonder sometimes whether folks like Bogart and such wearing their own clothes was partly down to the studio system: was a new suit or two for a picture considered a benefit in kind, which they them got to keep as part of the pakcage - preserving the image the studio wanted them to have when out and about?

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