Regular U.S. School Headwear: Types--Hats


Figure 1.--This is a wonderful old cabinet card portrait of the children at the primary school in Blackburn, Missouri. It was probably known as the Blackburn School. There are 49 children of all ages and a man who we assume is the head techer at the far right. It is possible that he was the only teacher, if so he must have had his hands full. The children in the back row are the older students and in the center are two girls who may be twins and who are wearing identical dresses. While the cabinet card is not dated, we believe it was taken in the 1870s because of the clothing and style of the mount. Notice that most of the boys in the front have rounded-crown hats. We think we see a few caps, although it is not real clear. We suspect that many of the boys with out hats actually had them. It is likely that the older boys in the back had basically the same headwear. The girls for some reason are not holding their hats. The photographer was G. L. Collier of Blackburn, Missouri. Put your cursor on the image to see the rest of the school.

The popularity of hats as a school garment has varied over time. We see several different styles. The hat commonly associated with the 18th century was the tri-corner hat, but this was an expensive garment and we doubt that it was commonly worn by outside of affluent families in a urban areas. Remember that America was not heavily urbanized in the 18th century. Most people live in rural areas. Another issue is that many children did not have formal education ot at least much of it and thus school attendance was limited, again especially in rural areas. Of course this is in comparison to modern times. America even in the 18th century was a leader in public education, meaning a greater percentage of the population went to school than vurtually any other country, except for some of the German states. All of this is difficult to follow before the advent of photography. There are of course some paintings, but remember that only the well-to-do could afford a painted portrait which in relative terms were much more expensive than photgraphs would be in the 19th century. So again we are left wondering what boys wore to school. Perhaps something like stocking caps. Here readers may have some insights. We know more about the 19th century. We see caps early in the 19th. Military styles commonly influence men and boys fashions and the Napoleonic Wars dominated the first two decades of the 19th century. Some military styles were unsuitavle for civilian wear, but one style that came out of the Napoleonic war was the soft peaked cap, often worn with tassels. This cap enter boys's fashions as the Oliver Twist cap, often worn with skeleton suits. This was, however, another largely urban style worn by boys not neceasrily from well-to-do families, but at least families in reasonably comfortable circumstances. Another military style whch boys began to wear was the French kepi at mid-century. While caps appeared in the early-19th century, it was hats that dominated most of the 19th century, and the dominated style was what is often call a preacher's hat--a rounded crown felt hat with a medium brim. We see entire classes and small schools with the boys all wearing the same hat style--the classic rounded-crown hat. And with the advent of photography (1839) we are able to follow this in some details, especially with the appearance of the CDV (1860s). The rounded-crown hat was not the only hat boys wore, there were also flat-crown hats, straw hats, and wide brimmed hats. Caps were worn throughout the century, but not nearly as commonly as hats--escpecially the basic rounded-crown hat. The alternatives to the rounded-crown hat tended to be more of a city tyle for children from afflunt families. A few younger boys wore wide-brimmed hat. This also was more of a style for affluent children. Hats declined in popularity toward the end of the century. We see this to some extent in the 880s, but it was ot until the 1890s that we begin to see really large numbers of boys wearing caps. And we note quite a range of styles. We see relatively few boys wearing hats to school after the turn-of-the 20th century. Hats did not disappear for boys. We see them as late as the 1950s. They from the early-20th century became much less common and we do not see boys wearing them to school.

Boater

The boater was a flat-topped straw hat worn in the late-19th and early-20th century. It was primarily an adult style, but we see some younger boys wearing them when dressed up in the photographic record. We do not see, however, boys wearing them to school to any extent. We suspet that durability and practicality were factors here. Some older highschool boys might have worn them, but we see very few younge boys t school with boaters.

Fedora

We see some boys and not just teenagers wearing fedoras in the 1950s when they dressed up in suits. We do not, however, see boys wearing these hats to school. This was at a time when boys no longer dressed up in suiys for school. This presumbbly the fedoras were seen as unsuitable.

Flat-Crown Hat

The rounded-crown hat was not the only hat boys wore, there were also flat-crown hats, straw hats, and wide brimmed hats. Caps were worn throughout the century, but not nearly as commonly as hats--escpecially the basic rounded-crown hat. The alternatives to the rounded-crown hat tended to be more of a city tyle for children from afflunt families. A few younger boys wore wide-brimmed hat. This also was more of a style for affluent children. Hats declined in popularity toward the end of the century. We see this to some extent in the 880s, but it was ot until the 1890s that we begin to see really large numbers of boys wearing caps. And we note quite a range of styles. We see relatively few boys wearing hats to school after the turn-of-the 20th century. Hats did not disappear for boys. We see them as late as the 1950s. They from the early-20th century became much less common and we do not see boys wearing them to school.

Rounded Crown / Preachers Hat

Caps appeared and were dominant in the early-19th century, probably because of the Napoleonic Wars. It was hats that dominated most of the 19th century, and the dominated style was what is often called the a preacher's hat--a rounded crown felt hat with a medium brim. No other headwear has so dominated American boys; wear and for so long a period. The only other headwear that was so dominant was the flat-cap (1910s-20s), but for a much shorter period. We see entire classes and small schools with the boys all wearing the same hat style--the classic rounded-crown hat. And with the advent of photography (1839) we are able to follow this in some details, especially with the appearance of the CDV (1860s). This was the standard headwear of American boys for most of the 19th century. It is thus what most boys wore to school which is amply demostrated in the photigraphic record. The school portait here is a good exanple (figure 1). We at first thought that straw hats would have been the most common hat, but the photographic record clearly shows that this was not the case. It was the felt rounded-crown hat that we see most commonly. nd for the most part they look very well worn, suggesting tht th boys commonly wore them annd not just to school. We suspect that durability may have been a factor. Straw hats may have been more common in the summer when warm weather was common. What ever the case, we rarely see straw hats at school in the photographic record.

Tri-corner Hat

The hat commonly associated with the 18th century was the tri-corner hat, but this was an expensive garment and we doubt that it was commonly worn by outside of affluent families in a urban areas. Remember that America was not heavily urbanized in the 18th century. Most people live in rural areas. Another issue is that many children did not have formal education ot at least much of it and thus school attendance was limited, again especially in rural areas. Of course this is in comparison to modern times. America even in the 18th century was a leader in public education, meaning a greater percentage of the population went to school than vurtually any other country, except for some of the German states. All of this is difficult to follow before the advent of photography. There are of course some paintings, but remember that only the well-to-do could afford a painted portrait which in relative terms were much more expensive than photographs would be in the 19th century. So again we are left wondering what 18th century boys wore to school. Perhaps something like stocking caps. Here readers may have some insights.

Straw Hats

We see paintings wih straw hats, but not at school. The only straw hat we see commonly in the photographic record, at least studio photography, is the wide-brimmed hat and boater. Neither were, however, very common at school. The wide-brimmed hat was most common for pre-school boys although the age range for girls was wider. We see some early-primary boys wearing them to school, but not very commonly. Here practicality was presumably a factor. Also the younger boys probably did not want to wear hats that the okder boys were not wearing, but the girls were.

Ten-Gallon Hat

The ten-gallon or cow boy hat is a fixture in Hollywood movies. It was actually worn beginning in the mid-19th century, especilly after Americans began to cross the Missisppi River and in the south come in contact with Mexicans. This forst occurred in Mexico. The wide-brimmed hat worn by the Mexicans evolved into the ten-gallon hat. It was, howeber, not a style worn to aby extent to school or by boys in general, even in Texas. We suspect that cost was primary reason.

Wide-brimmed Hats

We see a lot of younger boys wearing wide-brimmed hats in the la=te-19th and early-20 century. Theu were commonly worn with skirted garments, Little Lord Fauntleroy, and sailor suits. While commonly see these hts in the photographic record, we rarely see them at school. This is very evident in the photographic record. Age trends are a factor here as well as practacality. The wide-brimmed hat is pivrureqqe and mothers seemed to have lovec them for younger children, theyv were anything bt practical, espcially for younger boys.







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Created: 6:19 PM 11/17/2016
Last updated: 11:36 PM 7/27/2017