Hats Off

Drawing of male face wearing fedora hat.

Men wore hats, as illustrated in this 1945 ad.

Do you remember when men wore hats? The Dickies From Gunton: Canadian Brothers in Two World Wars literally wore many hats in their lifetime. Because in those days, men wore hats.

Early in the 20th century, young boys and young men working around the farm or heading off to work at their trade jobs, wore caps or flat caps (newsboy caps). These round flat hats had a stiff front brim. The boys fondly remembered their own father sporting his own flat cap. Later they would also wear caps much more like the sports or baseball caps of today, but of different material and without mesh or logos.

During their military service, there was no need to fret about hats because they were provided for them as part of the uniforms. In service, the boys wore the various caps and helmets Percy affectionately called sunhats with their uniforms. Among them, there was the service cap, the wedge cap (side cap), the Yukon cap (winter cap), and of course the Brodie helmet to protect not only from the sun but also in battle.

For the boys, and other men of their era, wearing a hat was about more than keeping your head warm in winter and cool in summer. It was something you did. You wore a hat when you went out, and in public places. You tipped it in greeting. You took your hat off indoors and in private places and personal conversations, holding it by the brim with the rim towards you. Near the entry of most homes and other places, there was a coat and hat rack where guests could hang their hat.

For going out and about, men wore hats. On his wedding day, Percy wore a homburg hat, similar to a fedora but with a gutter crown and curled up brim. To work, he wore a flat cap. In the winter, he wore a Yukon cap.

Shopping for a men’s hat was not as simple as it might seem. There were many variations with a variety of shapes and brims, all worn above the ears and eyebrows.  Most people remember the fedora like actor Humphrey Bogart wore with his overcoat. This classic hat style has a snap brim (down in front and up in the back), with a crease and a pinch in the top (crown) to shape it just right.

During the Second World War, hats were advertised in the newspapers as important fashion items. Fedoras of fur and felt, ready to wear with no need to shape and crease them. Snap brims. The latest colours of blue, green, grey, brown, teal and steel. Wool felt hats with a permanent crease. Straw hats with coloured bands to keep your head cool on a hot day. Warm winter band caps. You could get a good deal on a new hat in the basement at Eaton’s.



4 Comments Hats Off

  1. Irene Gordon

    My dad always wore a hat. I used to comment that if the house caught fire at meal time there were two things Dad would do before he left the house. First he would brush his teeth. Second he would put on his hat. Since we didn’t have a telephone until I was in my later teens, he would not have been able to call for help but would have had to fight the fire with only whoever else was home at the time.

  2. Wallace

    I wore hats quite a lot in my day. I still wear hats with a wide brim to shade my head from sunlight. In winter I wear Winnipeg hat for warmth, but if its sunny, I change to a more complete head cover for sun protection from the sun. Ball hats with a small ad on them . A company hat like the police wear was another.
    You are right on about hats in vogue in years gone by. Well

    I have taken up your time so I’m off for other duties.
    Good to hear from you. Your book told me some things Dad did not. Anyway take care and enjoy.

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