Classic Wide-Brimmed Sailor Hats: Country Trends

Figure 1.--This American boy was from Harlem, a fashionable New York neighborhood in the 19th century. The portrait was taken at the turn-of-the-20th centuyry. He wears a wide-brimmed sailor hat with a sailor tunic suit.

Broad brimmed sailor hats were widely worn in Europe and America. I have noted this style in America, England, France, Italy, Russia and many other countries. The style appears to have been fairly standard in all of these countries. They first appeared in England as did the sailor style, but gradually spread yto couyntries around the world. Conventions for wearing these hats seem fairly similar from country to country. We notice quite a few photographs showing German boys wearing broad-brimmed saiolor hats, mostly with sailor suits.


While the wide-brimmed sailor hat may have originated in England and appeared later in America, it was very popular in the 1880s-1900s. We notice many American boys wearing sailor hats. It was a hat style specifically for children. Both boys and girls wore them. No other hat style was especially common for younger boys. There were many cap styles specifically for boys, but hat styles wee somewhay less common. Several hat styles were worn over time, but the most common was a wide-brimmed style mostly worn by younger boys. There were variations in styles of these sailor hats, both the brim and the crown. Some of the brims were very large. For some reason the younger boys seem to have had the hats with the lrgest brims. They were commonly made with chin straps abnd streamers. They were often worn with sailor suits, but were also worn with mny other juvenile styles.


We believe the fashion of the wide-brimmed sailor hat for boys originated in England along with the sailor suit for boys. The style also influenced women's millenery. The hat was first worn by a British boys in the 1840s when the young princes wore them. Queen Victoria and Prinnce Albert saw it as a way of popularizing the monarchy. I do not think it became a widely popular style, however, until later, possibly the 1860s. This is difficult to assess because we have o few English photographs from mid-century. We do note that it launched a major children's fadhion style. The wide-brimmed ailor hat was not as common as the sailor suit itself, but it was a major stule in the late-19th and early-20th century. It was not hyst worn sith sailor suits, but becme associated with the Fauntleroy craze. The heyday for the wide-brimmed hts was more limited than the sailor suit. They were primarily wotn by younger boys, pre-school and early primary school children. Some of the hats seem to almost engulf the small boys who wore them. Many had elastic chin straps and hats bands with trailing streamers of various lengths


The wide brimmed sailor hat was also popular in France, but we have fewer details. We do see large nimbers of imasges, especially in French post cards. This masy suggest it was more of an idea with French mothers than widely worn. We suspect that it was much more popular with wealthy and middle-clsss boys than working-class boys. Some of the wide-brimmed hats were not solid colors. Some seemn to have had bands of color wowven into the wide brim. As the photographs showing this are black and white, I am not entirely sure just what colors were involved.


We notice quite a few photographs showing German boys wearing broad-brimmed saiolor hats, mostly with sailor suits. A good example is a unidentified German boy in the late 19th century. The wide-brimmed sailor caps seem quite similar to those worn in other European countries and America. Sailor hats were especially popular in the 19th century. German boys in th late 19th and early 20th century wore a variety of sailor hats. The straw hats we see first or more like boaters with fairly narrow brims. Wide-brimmed hats had becom quite popular by the 1890s. Wide-brimmed sailor hats were especially popular. They were normally straw hats. Most were light colored straw hat.


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Created: 5:46 AM 7/3/2007
Last updated: 5:21 PM 11/8/2014