I realize it’s been too long (as usual) since I’ve posted anything to justify the “hat” portion of the blog’s title, but this should make up for it: Diana Crane’s The Social Meanings of Hats and T-shirts (excerpted from her book Fashion and Its Social Agendas: Class, Gender, and Identity in Clothing). I’ve long wanted this kind of succinct description of the history of various kinds of hats:
The top hat, which appeared in England at the beginning of the nineteenth century, was worn first by the middle and upper classes. During the century, it spread downward, possibly because it was adopted by coachmen in the 1820s and for policemen’s uniforms in the same period…. In the 1840s and 1850s, unskilled laborers and fishermen were photographed wearing these hats …. At mid-century, they were being worn by all social classes…
The bowler was invented in England in 1850 as an occupational hat for gamekeepers and hunters but was rapidly adopted by the upper class for sports…. Within a decade it had spread to the city, where it was widely adopted by the middle and lower-middle classes … and by members of the working class, particularly in cities. … The working-class man’s attempt to blur class boundaries by wearing the bowler was satirized in the early films of Charlie Chaplin. Eventually, the bowler became an icon of the bourgeoisie, as immortalized in Magritte’s famous painting of a middle-class man wearing a bowler … and, after the Second World War, was worn mainly by middle-class businessmen.
The cap with visor, which, like the top hat, appeared at the beginning of the nineteenth century, was first worn by military officers …. By mid-century, the peaked cap was identified with the working class; it was “the most usual head covering for the working man” …. At the beginning of the twentieth century, cloth caps, without visors, were mainly worn by the working class and particularly by younger workers …, while members of the middle and upper classes wore peaked or cloth caps only for sports or in the countryside …. When worn by politicians, cloth caps were thought to indicate “radical tendencies”….
I love this stuff, and there’s much more of it at the link (including comparisons between France and the U.S.). Oh, and there’s a section on T-shirts, too.
Addendum. The Growling Wolf was inspired by this post to put up a whole gallery of photos of people lookin’ good in hats. Don’t miss it.