Histories of hat styles

Discussion in 'Hats' started by Nathaniel Finley, Sep 2, 2017.

  1. Nathaniel Finley

    Nathaniel Finley A-List Customer

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    I know there are many threads here that discuss the origins of specific hat makers, but I’d like to do something a bit different with this thread. If this is not a worthwhile contribution than I trust the administrators to catalogue this post in an appropriate thread. I do feel a thread dedicated to the history of all hat styles would be a good knowledge base for our community, and I didn't see anything like that in my search.

    I’ll start this thread with my argument for the origin of “the Poet” hat, which as many of us know has evolved in popular culture into the 4th Doctor Who’s hat as well as the Indiana Jones hat. It seems that Herbert Johnson is one of the earliest hat makers to produce a hat called “the Poet,” but I have yet to see evidence that they originated the name or the style. In fact, I present here evidence that this hat was very much known prior to Herbert Johnson’s introduction of the style sometime in the 1890s.

    My story begins with the following image of Goethe, who is something like the German equivalent of Shakespeare and exerted an enormous influence in all of Europe in the 19th century (not just in the German-speaking lands):

    IMG_1387.jpg

    In this image, we see (possibly for the first time?) a poet with a wide brimmed, high-crowned hat. This particular hat style, it seems, was popular among literary tourists in Italy (on the so-called “Grand Tour”) during the early 19th century, so his choice was not unconventional. What was unconventional was to depict a literary celebrity in a hat of any kind (the classical period only saw literary figures in wigs). Only visual artists (think Rembrandt) had been allowed such immodesty until that time, since a hat was an outdoors accessory and not designed for literary pursuits, which were indoors.

    However, Goethe and his romantic followers changed that. Particularly after Wordsworth, the poet was seen as a hiker, a wanderer, and a keen observer of nature, and Goethe in his wide-brimmed hat is making exactly that statement. He carries literary convention out of the parlors and libraries and into the wide world.

    This shift, I argue, is key to “the Poet” hat as a cultural trope. In 1850, Wordsworth died and Alfred, Lord Tennyson became the poet laureate of Great Britain for the next four decades. In at least two different points in his life, Tennyson was depicted in photos in a wide-brimmed, high crown hat. At a time when photos were very precious, it is curious that he would insist on such a fashion statement.

    IMG_1380.jpg

    IMG_1381.jpg


    Here is Dante Gabriel Rossetti with a similar hat (and there are other similar photos of him). Again, why make such a fashion statement?

    IMG_1382.jpg

    And finally, here is one of the famous shots of Oscar Wilde, taken in 1882 – 7 years before Herbert Johnson was founded as an enterprise – in a similarly wide-brimmed, high-crowned hat:

    IMG_1388.jpg


    What is important is to bear in mind is that at this time wide-brimmed hats were not associated with gentlemen, and that literary figures of that age in Britain came mostly from educated, middle- or upper-class families (with few exceptions). These were families who wanted their children to become successful in life, and a poet is not exactly a successful career path. Here is an add for “correct hats” of that era (notice that all of them are small brimmed):

    IMG_1386.jpg

    And here is an interesting blog post about late-Victorian men’s fashion that discusses the dress of the dandy and gentleman:
    http://1890swriters.blogspot.my/2013/07/isnt-that-dandy.html

    These, in contrast to this shot of child “slumdog” from that period, who is wearing exactly the type of hat we would associate with the poet:

    IMG_1378.JPG


    To wear a “poet” hat as a middle- or upper-class gentleman, was to throw it in the face of convention, to say poetry was more important than success. It was also to say, “I am going out into the world to record in verse my experiences there, and the ‘gentlemanly hats’ do not satisfy my needs in that regard.”

    Here is a painting of a middle-aged John Masefield, who became poet laureate of England in 1930. I couldn’t find when this was painted, but it looks to be about the time of his appointment to the post of poet laureate at the age of 52 (or possibly even before). Again, wide-brimmed, high crowned hat except this time married to a sharp suit of clothes:

    IMG_1374.JPG


    Finally, here is a shot of a crowd at a football match. This was taken in 1913, sometime after Herbert Johnson first introduced the Poet, though I don’t suppose fashion had changed very much. I do not see a single wide-brimmed hat in the crowd. Not even the average working-class Englander would wear such a hat. It was only for slumdogs and bohemians.

    IMG_1376.JPG

    It is interesting to me that Walt Whitman, on the other side of the pond in 1855, opted not to include his name on his original self-published edition of LEAVES OF GRASS. Rather, he shows himself in a wide-brimmed, high-crowned hat. Perhaps this is coincidence, but literary historians are quick to point out what a genius Whitman was at self-promotion and therefore I am inclined to believe that even in America Whitman was aware of this style of hat as marking a specific type of individual, namely “the poet.”

    IMG_1336.JPG

    That’s my thesis for the origin of the Poet hat. I might be totally wrong, but it was certainly fun to research. I wonder if others have similar stories of their favorite hat style they would care to share?

    Cheers,
    Nathan
     
  2. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom Call Me a Cab

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    Thank you. I very much enjoyed your article and found it plausible, although I am no expert on the subject.
     
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  3. steur

    steur

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    Very enjoyable read. The poet hat as an expression of artistic ambitions was not universal though. Or other artist just did not consider dress or hat styles relevant for their artistic expression. Here's a picture of the artists of the Vienna Secession movement, artistic revolutionaries of their time, of which Gustav Klimt was a member (seen sitting second from the left). They seem to favour the homburg style hat.

    vienna secession movement_resize.jpeg
     
  4. Nathaniel Finley

    Nathaniel Finley A-List Customer

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    I should specify: this is a story about fin-de-siecle English literary society, since it is sometime in the 1890s (I don't exactly when) that Herbert Johnson introduces and markets "the Poet" hat. The question is, why did they call it that?

    But not even in England is this hat universal for poets. What was happening on the Continent certainly had an impact (especially on the Aesthetic Movement, of which Wilde was the foremost celebrity) and as somebody on another thread pointed out, the Austrian Velour bears a striking resemblance to the Poet hat.

    Great photo. I'm a fan of Klimt and Egor Schiele especially.
     
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  5. Nathaniel Finley

    Nathaniel Finley A-List Customer

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    Danke sehr, das freut mich!
     
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  6. steur

    steur

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    So the question is whether or not they hat someone specific in mind when they called it the Poet and who that was. The English at the time probably would not have looked at a foreigner like Goethe to name a hat style after. If one person was the inspiration my money would be on Tennyson.
     
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  7. Nathaniel Finley

    Nathaniel Finley A-List Customer

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    I absolutely agree about Tennyson. I searched for evidence of him, or of Wilde, or even of Whitman (who I'm now sure is quite improbable) as the namesake, but not finding anything developed this more generic theory.

    The Goethe painting was created in the 1820s (I don't remember exactly when) and I include it as a possible starting point for the tradition of the poet's hat. Although it is unlikely any English hat maker in the 1890s named their product after a German hero (I might be wrong on that, but international politics at the time lead me to that conclusion), the influence of Goethe on the 19th Century was massive all over Europe. Shakespeare's reputation was not even resuscitated until Coleridge's lectures of 1808-1819, and then only slowly during the Victorian era. Here's a brief article about those lectures (it only hints at the decline of Shakespeare's reputation in the 1700s, but it does do so. I could search harder to find a better discussion but it's late here and I'm lazy. :( ):

    http://theshakespeareblog.com/2015/10/samuel-taylor-coleridge-and-shakespeare/

    I am suggesting that the absence of any poet of Shakespeare's stature opened a vacuum filled by Goethe (among others) in the early 19th Century. Whether that influence was strong enough to start a trend in England is debateable (as is most of my story), but certainly I find it striking that Tennyson decided to be photographed in just such a hat.
     
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  8. mayserwegener

    mayserwegener

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    The Goethe painting is from (1787) the time of Goethe's "Italian Journey". Tischbein the painter was his good friend and artist mentor (Goethe went to Italy to learn to draw / paint and study art). As I mentioned in the other thread the hat was purchased specifically for his travel through Italy. He actually mentions it in the book.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2017
  9. mayserwegener

    mayserwegener

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    I have no information on the H.J. Poet but if it was originally a Velour hat it might be related to the Bohemians of the early 20th Century. The H.J. Poet from the 1960s you posted in the other thread is a Velour hat. Austrian Velour hats with large brims and tall crowns were popular with the Bohemians (even the ladies).
     
  10. Nathaniel Finley

    Nathaniel Finley A-List Customer

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    Yes, you are right (except the typo) the painting is from 1787. I believe that correction strengthens my thesis since this was Goethe's period of initial success following "The Sorrows of Young Werner" and the painting might therefore have an even more dynamic impact. The influence of Goethe's "Young Werner" on Europe is hard to overstate. In modern terms it might be something like Michael Jackson's THRILLER album - and the hat something like MJ's one glove phenomenon except even more impactful.

    Here is German Wikipedia's description of the painting's influence:
    "Goethe in the Campagna" was copied many times and was widely distributed in engravings. ...The image was perceived...as the first representation of a world citizen. Thereafter, the pose of Goethe is that of a powerful man and, in the spirit of the Enlightenment, education perceived as power. (my translation)

    (Goethe in der Campagna wurde vielfach kopiert und fand in Stichen weite Verbreitung...Das Bild wurde...als erste Darstellung eines Weltbürgers wahrgenommen. Die Pose Goethes ist hiernach diejenige eines Mächtigen, im Geiste der Aufklärung wird Bildung als Macht empfunden.)

    And here about the hat:
    The great hat resembles a sacred light; the clouds breaking out around the hat intensify this effect and transfigure the poet to a form of light. His loneliness raises him above the multitude of men. (mine again)

    (Der große Hut gleicht einem Heiligenschein; die um den Hut herum aufbrechenden Wolken verstärken diese Wirkung und verklären den Dichter zur Lichtgestalt. Seine Einsamkeit hebt ihn über die Menge der Menschen empor.)
     
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  11. Nathaniel Finley

    Nathaniel Finley A-List Customer

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    I also have zero information about the original HJ Poet - not even the exact year it was first introduced (sometime in the 1890s is all I've found). If it was an Austrian Velour-style hat then I agree that it would be worthwhile to search for its origins in the Aesthetic Movement rather than in mainstream English literary culture (I believe that's what you're hinting at, and i agree it does seem a viable explanation and I would LOVE to hear that story. However, Herbert Johnson was a hatter to princes - I find it hard to believe they would market to Decadents):

    (From their website):
    The story recounts that one day when the Prince of Wales was riding in the park, his top hat blew off, damaging it. The young Herbert Johnson who happened to be 'to hand', picked up the Royal topper and offered his professional services. The hat was duly repaired. The Prince was pleased and subsequently suggested to the young hero that he set himself up in business. All this came to pass and Herbert Johnson soon became well known for all forms of headwear for the well-dressed gentleman including Royal patronage.

    Unfortunately, until we find an image of an original HJ "the Poet" I'm not sure how to resolve this question. A hat from the 1960s is in no way indicative of something from the 1890s - I only posted that because it was the image of the earliest HJ Poet I could find.

    Do you possibly have a source for the popularity of the Velour among bohemians in fin-de-siecle England? I totally believe it, I'd just like to see if it produces any further leads for this mystery. I would ask, however, that they be of English bohemians in England (not on the Continent) since, ostensibly, England was the market for the HJ Poet.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2017
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  12. Bob Roberts

    Bob Roberts I'll Lock Up

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    Mostly caps. A several bowlers/derbys and one or 2 fedoras.
     
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  13. Nathaniel Finley

    Nathaniel Finley A-List Customer

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    Yup. Nothing wide-brimmed at all.
     
  14. mayserwegener

    mayserwegener

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    Austrian Velour Dress Hats were popular worldwide from the early 1900s up to WWII. In England they were popular until the early to mid 1950s. Pre WWII German and Austrian Velour Dress Hats are my main focus. My web site is full of information.

    http://germanaustrianhats.invisionzone.com/

    In the late 1800s Edward VII brought a Soft Felt Dress Hat back from Bad Homburg that would later be named the Homburg Hat (in Germany it was just a Fashion Hat / Mode Hut). This article is probably more accurate than what has been reported else where.

    http://germanaustrianhats.invisionzone.com/index.php?/topic/294-homburger-hat-story-from-gut-behutet-hat-museum-of-bad-homburg-v-d-höhe-1985/

    The Austrians and Germans made the finest Velour (Hot Wet Brushed) and it was prized throughout the world. I would recommend reading this article.

    http://germanaustrianhats.invisionzone.com/index.php?/topic/216-hair-velour-real-echter-velour-prime-prima-velour-fabrikation-von-damen-und-herren-filzhüten-der-deustchen-hutmacher-zeitung-1933/

    I am focused on the German and Austrian Hat Industries (see my website). I haven't come across anyone that is focused on the English Hat Industry. I do know from looking through some copies of "The Hatters Gazette" (English Hat Industry Newspaper) from the late 1800s / early 1900s that the English Hat Industry was very resistant to the rise of Continental European Soft Felt Hat styles (it was the same in America). You might be able to find information on the H.J. Poet in "The "Hatters Gazette". The U.S. Library of Congress has copies of "The "Hatters Gazette" and you can do a search for other libraries. Last time I checked there were no digital copies available online.

    http://germanaustrianhats.invisionz...ernational-hat-trade-papers-1898-99/#entry640
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2017
  15. Nathaniel Finley

    Nathaniel Finley A-List Customer

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    Yes, danke danke danke, these are some fantastic leads! I look forward to digging into this information.

    "I do know from looking through some copies of "The Hatters Gazette" ... that the English Hat Industry was very resistant to the rise of Continental European Soft Felt Hat styles (it was the same in America)."

    This is my suspicion about men's fashion in general given the fierce rivalry between England and the Second Reich, though the Homburg certainly seems to be an exception. Bohemians/decadents of the era might have been quite a different story since it is my impression that they were largely international in scope, but I still maintain that the typical bohemian was probably not the target audience for any HJ hat. That leads me back to Tennyson, who was as mainstream a poet as any ever was.
     
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  16. mayserwegener

    mayserwegener

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    Thanks! Yes I meant to type 1787. I guess it's possible the painting had such an influence. My statements were based on what Goethe wrote about the hat and painting in "Italian Journey".

    As I mentioned above you might find some information on the H.J. Poet in English Hat Industry Newspaper "The Hatters Gazette" (check copies from the late 1800s up to 1940s). The last time I checked there aren't any copies available online. I know the U.S. Library of Congress has some copies, also a few libraries in the UK.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2017
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  17. mayserwegener

    mayserwegener

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    There were similar style Soft Felt Hats as the Homburg throughout Continental Europe (they eventually became fashionable in England and America). My focus is on production so that is why I mostly reference Hat Industry publications and use Hat Industry terms. The English Hat Companies were behind in Soft Felt production processes. They were not able to match what was being produced in Continental Europe so they went on the attack (it was the same in America).
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2017
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  18. Daniele Tanto

    Daniele Tanto My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    In the portrait of Goethe in Italy there are all the neoclassical styles (J.H.W. Tischbein converted on this side around the around 1783) that represent the Grand Tour. From the background with the "Roman Capriccio" to Goethe's clothing style, including the hat.
    Extremely useful, indeed fundamental, accessory for long-term trips that often provided long walking trails.
    We also pay close attention to Goethe's wish to be represented as a "new" icon in the landscape of the tourists in Italy, but also the consecration of the Grand Tour as an indispensable and initiatory rite for a generation of ancient cultures followers.
    He, one of the first "modern" writers, is represented in a very different way from his contemporary fellow poets and writers of time.
    I believe the origin of the "poet" hat is an English way of interpreting the hat outside the traditional patterns of the island where more than everyone in Europe has remained firmly in the tradition of wearing formal hats (bowlers and top hats) to the present day .
    Is it perhaps a matter of fashion?
     
  19. do we know when a hat began being marketed as 'the poet'? I mean was it called that from its release in say the 1890s (HJs version) or earlier or did the hat adopt that name later?
     
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  20. Nathaniel Finley

    Nathaniel Finley A-List Customer

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    This is a great question. Here's what Herbert Johnson says on their website:

    Our classic oldest hat shape was the Herbert Johnson wide brim fur felt hat called 'The Poet' with its tall crown and this was the style chosen. The 'Poet' had been made by Herbert Johnson since the 1890's and has always been deemed ageless. The hat was modified for the character Indiana Jones in a number of ways. and the perfect shade of brown called sable was chosen.

    http://www.swaineadeneybrigg.com/store/herbert-johnson/fedora-hats/the-poet-hat

    To me, this says that the hat has been made by Hebert Johnson AND called "the Poet" since the 1890s, but that last bit is more implicated than explicated. Could it be it was produced first and named later? This seems like a very important question that I have no idea how to answer!
     
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