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Vintage Hats from 1920's - 40's Ireland Question

Christopher Smith

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So kind of an odd question and I'm not entirely sure of the terminology in some cases so apologies if I use wrong terms here and there in this post. Also because this is such a specific kind of niche question I also wasn't sure if it fell under an already existing thread. Ok, here it goes! Ireland prior to 1922 was a colony of England. I have a vintage Lock and Co. hat that resembles one I saw in a photo of the Abbey Theatre Company on Grafton street in Dublin in 1930. So my question was, when Ireland was just a young up and coming Free State on its way to nationhood what hats would Irish members of society have worn? Would the Irish have boycotted British clothes/merchandise/hats even after the signing of the treaty that ended the War of Independence? Or would someone like an actor, or diplomat, or banker perhaps have worn something like Lock and Co. Basically to boil down my question to the bare basics, would an Irish member of middle to high society have worn something imported from England like a Lock and Co. hat or would they have worn something made domestically and if so does anyone know the names of some vintage Irish hat makers (top hats, fedoras, etc. not the Irish caps we're all so familiar with)? Trust me I know this is kind of an odd question, but it's been eating at me since I bought this vintage Lock and Co.
 

Christopher Smith

New in Town
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39
Here's the original pic of the Abbey Theatre Company in the 1930's. The specific gentleman whose hat I'm looking at is second from the left with most of the hat in shadows. But I can see enough of the crown and brim to get and idea of what it looks like.

Abbey Theatre Group Photo Credit:
(c) Shields Family Archive, University of Galway Library Archives
 

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Here's the original pic of the Abbey Theatre Company in the 1930's. The specific gentleman whose hat I'm looking at is second from the left with most of the hat in shadows. But I can see enough of the crown and brim to get and idea of what it looks like.

Abbey Theatre Group Photo Credit:
(c) Shields Family Archive, University of Galway Library Archives

Are you looking at the working class or at the more affluent? I’m sure there was some variety. I usually think of caps not hats in Ireland, but that has more to do with stereotypes than known facts.

The US sure didn’t eschew British goods before, during, or after the revolutionary war. Consumers are usually practical folks who care more about value and quality even if the goods come from “enemies.”

We need @KarlCrow to make an appearance. :)
 
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So kind of an odd question and I'm not entirely sure of the terminology in some cases so apologies if I use wrong terms here and there in this post. Also because this is such a specific kind of niche question I also wasn't sure if it fell under an already existing thread. Ok, here it goes! Ireland prior to 1922 was a colony of England. I have a vintage Lock and Co. hat that resembles one I saw in a photo of the Abbey Theatre Company on Grafton street in Dublin in 1930. So my question was, when Ireland was just a young up and coming Free State on its way to nationhood what hats would Irish members of society have worn? Would the Irish have boycotted British clothes/merchandise/hats even after the signing of the treaty that ended the War of Independence? Or would someone like an actor, or diplomat, or banker perhaps have worn something like Lock and Co. Basically to boil down my question to the bare basics, would an Irish member of middle to high society have worn something imported from England like a Lock and Co. hat or would they have worn something made domestically and if so does anyone know the names of some vintage Irish hat makers (top hats, fedoras, etc. not the Irish caps we're all so familiar with)? Trust me I know this is kind of an odd question, but it's been eating at me since I bought this vintage Lock and Co.
In my years collecting vintage I have yet to come across a fedora with any 'Made in Ireland' markings. So I suspect the Irish would have, out of necessity, purchased British made hats. And there were a few Protestants living in the Republic and they would have had no problem purchasing British made items.
 
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Certainly an interesting question. As has been pointed out above, there is a difference between the classes. Highly likely the working classes would have worn caps made from Irish tweeds and wool. Cheap and readily available locally. For the middle and higher classes market setting up their own fur felt factories wouldn't have made much sense for the Irish though. The country wasn't densely populated with just above 4 million people in the twenties and most of them weren't furfelt hat buyers. Just across the Irish sea there was the hub of British hatmaking, located in the greater Manchester area (Stockport and Denton). So importing them would be the far more economical option. And fur felt hats last a long time as we all know, so I don't think there would have been a viable business case to be made to set up their own large scale hatting industry. For those opposed to anything English at the time there likely was the possibility to get their hats from France, which had a large hatting industry at the time as well.
 
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Edward

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So kind of an odd question and I'm not entirely sure of the terminology in some cases so apologies if I use wrong terms here and there in this post. Also because this is such a specific kind of niche question I also wasn't sure if it fell under an already existing thread. Ok, here it goes! Ireland prior to 1922 was a colony of England. I have a vintage Lock and Co. hat that resembles one I saw in a photo of the Abbey Theatre Company on Grafton street in Dublin in 1930. So my question was, when Ireland was just a young up and coming Free State on its way to nationhood what hats would Irish members of society have worn? Would the Irish have boycotted British clothes/merchandise/hats even after the signing of the treaty that ended the War of Independence? Or would someone like an actor, or diplomat, or banker perhaps have worn something like Lock and Co. Basically to boil down my question to the bare basics, would an Irish member of middle to high society have worn something imported from England like a Lock and Co. hat or would they have worn something made domestically and if so does anyone know the names of some vintage Irish hat makers (top hats, fedoras, etc. not the Irish caps we're all so familiar with)? Trust me I know this is kind of an odd question, but it's been eating at me since I bought this vintage Lock and Co.


I'm not sure colony was the technical delineation. After the Acts of Union in 1800 & 1801, the Parliament of Ireland (as established in 1297) was dissolved. Ireland was ruled directly from Westminster in London. Irish MPs were elected in Ireland (using the same rules for the franchise as in England, with the various revisions thereof across the 9th century and up to the Representation of the People Act 1918). Of course, they were only a small minority within Westminster, given there were 105 Irish seats out of 707 Westminster seats at the time, so de facto the English MPs had much greater influence over Ireland than vice versa. Anyhow....

Arguably speaking, modern Ireland goes back to the first proper unification of the island into a single kingdom in 1542, and from then on, the history of Irish clothing became very much interwined with that of our neighbouring island. The upshot for men's clothing is that while we did have our tweeds and our aran knits, an Irishman was not significantly different in dress from an Englishman by the late nineteenth century. This extended to hats. Around the time of the Gaelic revival, there was significant interest in the development of an Irish national costume. There being, in the eyes of many of those most interested, nothing historically suitable, some indulged in a touch of cultural appropriation from our Scottish cousins and began wearing kilts. (On the other side of the political wire, pipers in Irish regiments of the British army at the time were also wearing saffron kilts, a tradition which was retained when the regiments were dissolved and replaced by the Free State Army in 1922.) The idea was for the kilt to provide a distinctly Irish(ified) alternative to the English trouser. For those in the Gaelic Revival and nationalist movements who did adopt it (one Irish MP at the time, whose name escapes my old memory, caused a stir by wearing a saffron kilt in Westminster on more than one occasion), the kilt was accompanied by outfits that would not have looked out of place in parts of Scotland at a certain point in time. The few photos I've seen of the handful of (generally well off) individuals who adopted this style generally shows them wearing bonnets very much akin to a Scottish tam o'shanter. This photo from the period is of Cormac O'Cadhlaigh, an academic who taught Irish language studies, I believe, at the time:

1675876648190.png


Despite the best efforts of these few (and Padraig Pearse making the kilt part of the uniform of St Enda's Boys School when he established it in 1910 in order to encourage education via the Irish language medium), it never really caught on. The Irish kilt - and the hats that went with it - as we see it today is really much more of a diaspora tradition, albeit that it's not entirely uncommon to see kilts worn at weddings in Ireland (though almost exclusively by wedding party rather than guests, unless a Scottish family is involved).

There were also those in the cultural movements who went in other sartorial directions. Noted Dublin character and academic Francis Sheehy-Skeffington (quite the character, with a tragic end; his headstone in Glasnevin Cemetery is the only one which bears the inscription "murdered") instead of the kilt chose plus fours as his standard daily wear in Dublin City:

1675877928854.png


The rest of his typical outfit was standard Irish tweed and didn't especially stand out at the period (albeit that he'd have been better off than the average labourer, and that would certainly have shown).


By the kick-off of the modern revolutionary period in Ireland (c.1912 - Home Rule, formation of the Irish Volunteers and the rest, leading up to the 16 Rising), things hat-wise for Irish men were very similar to those in England. The observations above that class played a part in it all are very much on-point. More middle class and well to do men would often - at least in the city (up on the windy hills it might be a different matter) be seen in felt hats, while working class men were, by and large, much more likely to be in a cap.

Michael Collins, later General Collins of the Free State Army prior to his death in the Civil War, when seen in civilian clothing is commonly pictured in a felt hat with an upturned brim:

1675878246785.png


I think this one is a Lord's Hat; in 20s Ireland, Lord's Hats and Homburgs - as seen on Collins, below - were as I understand it as in England more common than the American-style fedora:

1675878391405.png


Eamon de Valera always seemed to favour a more American-style, uncurled fedora type felt hat; of course, dev spent quite a lot of time in the US, and had an American mother, so that may have been an influence:

1675878634474.png


As can be seen from the above, and the image below (which given that it shows General Collins in his Free State Army uniform, could only have been taken in the first eight months of 1922), the bowler hats was not uncommon in Ireland at the time:

1675878783409.png


In 2023, the bowler hat in Ireland would be more readily associated with the Orange Order than anything else, but the reason the Order wears them is because they were a common hat when it was formed, not that they had any actual political / tribal association one way or the other back when.

Here's a couple of images of Skeffy again, this time with hats:

1675879014464.png


1675879045540.png



Working class men commonly wore caps of a distinct kind, with a flat top - the US-style eight panel caps were, to the best of my knowledge, very, very rare in Ireland in that period. Although these photos date from much later in his life, this is a very good example of what was a very common Irish working-man's cap that would not have been out of place at any time from c.1916 until well into the fifties:

1675879385158.png


1675879403755.png


The main difference would have been that from the earlier 50s, I think, onwards, the body of the cap would commonly have gotten smaller, and of course from the 50s onwards they were not as commonly seen on younger men.
 
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Edward

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There was little difference across the island as a whole. This image dates back to c.1914 and was staged as an Ulster Volunteer Force propaganda image, when they were formed (in 1912) and then armed (via the Larne Gun Running in 1914) with the declared intent to fight the British Army in order to resist the establishment of a limited form of Dublin-based devolution for Ireland ("Home Rule"), preferring to remain under direct rule from Westminster.

1675879735121.png


Although earlier than the period you specify, the caps seen in this photo were quite typical of those worn by working men on both sides of the border well into the sixties. Men of my grandparents' generation who would have been in their sixties in the 1980s commonly wore caps like these.

A UVF inspection in the same period:

1675879916159.png


As noted above re bowler hats, these caps also were simply common menswear across Ireland in the period, and no more political or sided than would be a pair of flared blue jeans in 1973.


Photos taken of various IRA units in 1917-21 during the Irish War of Independence show a range of typical men's hats in both that period and what they would be like for sometime to come:

Flat cap and tweed bucket hat here:

1675880161647.png


1675880181112.png


This last one is Michael Collins' "Cairo Gang"; number 3 looks like he's styling himself after James Joyce to my eye:

1675880211830.png



I should make clear that there's no political commentary intended or to be interpreted from the images in this post - it simply remains the fact that, for better or ill, the best hat images of what the average Irishman wore in that era that are readily accessible online happen to be from those involved in the sadly more violent parts of our history. I suppose in part that reflects the nature of photography back then as being something that wasn't yet just so readily available to the masses: photos were of the well known, the wealthy, and those intent on communicating a message through the medium.

The sort of hats we see here were commonly worn across all of Ireland in the following decades. The 30s would have seen British hats becoming a lot more expensive (and perhaps out of the reach of the average man), as an economic dispute over land repayments kicked off in 1932 when deValera, out of power for most of the previous decade (having fought on the losing side in the Civil War), won the general election and came back into power. This stemmed from the British land acts going back to the turn of the century, and repayments on loans granted to Irish farmers by the British government at the time. Following the establishment of the Free State in 1922 and thereby at least a measure of Independence (which would later evolve into full sovereignty), opposition in Ireland to paying out money to a British government grew from the grassroots level. In 1932, deValera's government ceased the repayments, leading to the "Economic War" between the two. Primarily this involved the introduction by the British government of a 20% import tax on all Irish argricultural produce, which hurt the Free State economy significantly, 90% of its exports at the time being in that category, and Britain being its major market for same. This, combined with a protectionist economic policy in Ireland led to a long period of economic hardship. Protectionist Irish economic policies were a norm right up until the 50s, long after the trade war ended in 1938, with war looming and Churchill and deValera coming to an understanding between them. I don't have any knowledge of how this directly impacted the hat trade, but it would appear likely that the import of felt hats from Britain became much more expensive and, combined with the other hardships of the period, meant that there was a smaller market for them. The hat trade between Britain and the six counties that by this point constituted Northern Ireland was not so affected, of course, as NI remained part of the UK. Locally made flat caps and tweed bucket hats remained common across the island for some decades; hat-wise, the photos above would not have looked out of place for some time to come.

I did mention James Joyce above.., he was often pictured in a hat during his period of fame from the 10s up to his death in 1941. Most famously this image:

1675881412656.png


But also:

1675881442398.png


And

1675881464518.png
 
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Edward

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Lastly, there are some great youtube clips of Belfast in the 40s and early fifties, which are great images of the kind of caps commonly seen worn by working men from the teens onwards. Again, you'll see nothing much in the eight-panel style (I *think* those became more popular as a retro look over this side of the Atlantic into the sixties? Not that they weren't around before, but definitely not common):




John Wayne's cap in The Quiet Man is pretty much on point (I can't comment on much else of that picture, never having seen it):

1675882079064.png



Both Cathcart London and Sussex Tweed (the former 'made in the EU', the latter made in England, by a company headed up by a guy who went to school with my cousin in Larne way back in the day) make excellent caps in the style of something that would have been seen on a working man in Ireland in the period of OP's interest.

EDIT: The Youtube embeds aren't showing up for me here, so in case that's the same for everyone, for those interested here are some links:

Harland & Wolf Shipyard workers, late 1940s:

Leaving Work - Belfast Harbour 1954

Leaving Work 1954 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNcMPfITNgs&t=22s

Belfast Street footage, 1953 (around Belfast City Hall) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_oNNaNSEs8

Some good colour footage of Bangor, Co Down, 1950s - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mn2TaKfnhNg Note the relative lack of hats among younger men and in more casual situations; there's a civic ceremony of some sort here which is the only one you'll see many of the women in hats.

Economically, for much of the mid 20th century the Northern six counties were better off than the rest of Ireland (very relatively speaking - there were then, and still are today, pockets of terrible poverty in cities like Belfast), and absent the trade restrictions and tariffs of the Anglo-Irish economic war in the 30s, Belfast hatters would have found it much easier to import hats at a saleable price. Overall, though, I don't think there was an enormous difference in fashions on the ground. And, of course, those who had disposable spending cash in the Free State / Republic could and did often cross the border to shop. In the century since the border became a reality, it has long been the norm for people, especially those living nearby, to travel to shop in one direction or the other, depending on what happens to be a better price where. For those who don't live in a town very close to the border, such shopping trips might be less often, but for major purchases and big things like Christmas, often worth the trip.
 
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Edward

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In my years collecting vintage I have yet to come across a fedora with any 'Made in Ireland' markings. So I suspect the Irish would have, out of necessity, purchased British made hats. And there were a few Protestants living in the Republic and they would have had no problem purchasing British made items.

In modern parlance, yes - though of course there were plenty of theological protestants on both sides of the territorial dispute.
 

Edward

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Jayzus, I just found this thread when moderately inebriated, late at night. Yes anyone could have been wearing that hat then, some bloke well dressed for the day. I mean we kept drinking Guinness, google that history.

(-:

K

Well, all done and said both the Big Fella and Mr Churchill wore a homburg, so I think we can definitely declare hats neutral. ;)
 

NorthernBloke

Familiar Face
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Lastly, there are some great youtube clips of Belfast in the 40s and early fifties, which are great images of the kind of caps commonly seen worn by working men from the teens onwards. Again, you'll see nothing much in the eight-panel style (I *think* those became more popular as a retro look over this side of the Atlantic into the sixties? Not that they weren't around before, but definitely not common):


John Wayne's cap in The Quiet Man is pretty much on point (I can't comment on much else of that picture, never having seen it):

Both Cathcart London and Sussex Tweed (the former 'made in the EU', the latter made in England, by a company headed up by a guy who went to school with my cousin in Larne way back in the day) make excellent caps in the style of something that would have been seen on a working man in Ireland in the period of OP's interest.
I think newsboy caps were more late 1800s and early 20th century on the British isles and Europe, as far as i know flat caps become the norm in the 1910's. There is a style of flat cap called ''bond'' caps what are produced now and existed in the the thirties what very much resemble early to mid 20th century caps. I don't know if these cap's were worn in ireland, but it wouldn't surprise me if they were.
 

Jon Crow

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Certainly an interesting question. As has been pointed out above, there is a difference between the classes. Highly likely the working classes would have worn caps made from Irish tweeds and wool. Cheap and readily available locally. For the middle and higher classes market setting up their own fur felt factories wouldn't have made much sense for the Irish though. The country wasn't densely populated with just above 4 million people in the twenties and most of them weren't furfelt hat buyers. Just across the Irish sea there was the hub of British hatmaking, located in the greater Manchester area (Stockport and Denton). So importing them would be the far more economical option. And fur felt hats last a long time as we all know, so I don't think there would have been a viable business case to be made to set up their own large scale hatting industry. For those opposed to anything English at the time there likely was the possibility to get their hats from France, which had a large hatting industry at the time as well.
Same as store bought pants with the obvious creases of folding for the working classes
 

dkstott

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I think newsboy caps were more late 1800s and early 20th century on the British isles and Europe, as far as i know flat caps become the norm in the 1910's. There is a style of flat cap called ''bond'' caps what are produced now and existed in the the thirties what very much resemble early to mid 20th century caps. I don't know if these cap's were worn in ireland, but it wouldn't surprise me if they were.

My understanding is that cap wearing was a hold over from the 1571 Act of the English Parliament that was enacted to stimulate domestic wool consumption and general trade. It decreed that on Sundays and holidays, all males over 6 years of age, except for the nobility and "persons of degree", were to wear woolen caps or pay a fine.

The act was repealed many years later , but cap wearing continued for hundreds of years
 

Edward

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My understanding is that cap wearing was a hold over from the 1571 Act of the English Parliament that was enacted to stimulate domestic wool consumption and general trade. It decreed that on Sundays and holidays, all males over 6 years of age, except for the nobility and "persons of degree", were to wear woolen caps or pay a fine.

The act was repealed many years later , but cap wearing continued for hundreds of years

Certainly in England (and Wales, which was effectively dissolved into England in 1542), though that Act obviously did not extend to Scotland or Ireland (see also the Bonfire Night 5th November tradition, which took great root in England, celebrations having been mandated by statute for the first century and a half from 1606 onwards; it's not so much a thing in NI or Scotland which were still independent when it was passed).
 

Granville

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I'll tag in here a little late, but you're in my wheelhouse with the Irish Revolution stuff. In the early twenties over in London the bowler was the hat of the business man, and was common enough in Dublin among the middle-class. But 90% of the people were working class and wore the tweed caps. The Lord's hats and fedoras were also prevalent, but again, only among the top ten percent, and so even rarer in the country-side. Fun Fact: fedoras were called trilbys, with no distinction of brim-size.

Which leads to my best tid-bit: British Intelligence had very little info on Michael Collins, who was able to go about his business in Dublin without being recognized. But one of the few descriptions the cops had of him stated, "favors a trilby".
 
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