Prior to the 1950s, most men dressed in a uniform fashion. Your appearance might vary depending on your class, but within social classes, one man looked pretty much the same as the next. A neatly trimmed haircut and a suit were standard everyday wear, and a hat to go with it.
After WWII, the 1950s saw the invention of the teenager. Youth culture was more prominent than ever before, thanks to many factors, both social and technological. As those teenagers entered the workforce, they were filled with new ideas about individuality and style. Along with the Baby Boomers ideas about style also came changing ideas about hats.
The change didn't come overnight, of course, but by the time JFK became president in 1961, you could see a definite trend away from hats and suits and every man's hair cut well above the collar. It would take another decade or more for hats to really fade out, more or less along with the decline of suits in general.
Take a look at this film from 1967, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJgaaAfhR5I
Watch for the crowd scenes in Manhattan at the beginning. You'll see a lot of hats, just not as many as you would have seen on the street ten years earlier, but far more than you'd see in a crowd scene from the same area in 1977.
There was no single cause for the decline in men's hats, and it didn't happen all at once. Stories like "it was Ike with the interstates" are appealing and make good cocktail party conversation (although I suppose the cocktail party died along with the hat, now that I think of it), but reality is usually not that discreet and simple.
Clothing used to be really expensive. Studies of retail pricing indicate that, after correcting for inflation, a good pair of workmans' trousers -- jeans, in other words -- would have cost the equivalent of roughly $400 in 2001 dollars in 1901. A reasonable quality man's suit would have cost the equivalent of $2-3000. Clothing (and food) accounted for a much higher percentage of household budgets than they do today. Women's attire was similarly expensive. Prior to the 20th century, poorer working people had to make do with second and third hand garments and patch them until they fell apart; even in the 20th century, being able to afford new clothing on an annual basis was seen as a luxury.
There are a couple of corollaries of this. One is that fashions were far more conventional, than they are today -- you didn't want to pay the equivalent of a modern automobile's price for an outfit that would be seen as weird or outlandish within 1-2 years. Another is that they were much slower to change because people needed to get their full value out of such an expensive asset.
In fact, if you look at automotive fashion today, you see much the same constraints. Cars are expensive enough that sensible people don't generally change their vehicle every year; they get some miles out of them, and they tend to buy vehicles on the basis of perceived utility. Which is why the boring silver saloon or SUV is more common than the bright pink, retro-styled sports convertible, or the monster truck with jacked-up suspension and six foot diameter tires.
This uniform only started to die during the 70s, and was pretty much killed by 80s excess. (Although Lock & Co still sell around 5000 bowler hats each year mostly to city workers.)
Watches? I am not wearing any since I started to carry phones.
I suspect watches may diminish but will always be around because they signal status in a way that hats don't.
I don't want to overstate the point, but I definitely notice a nice timepiece, just like I notice well cut clothes, cufflinks, good shoes, neat hair, an elegant piece of jewellery, any number of things people can do to make an effort. It's signalling, and it does make a difference, for better or worse.
But suits will never die, and neither will ties. They, frankly, make men look better. A suit that fits well makes a man look slimmer, taller and more broader-shouldered. It accentuates his chest. It hides fat and bad composure in ways that T-shirts and polos never can. Ties also make you look taller, and add fantastic unity to the collar.
The main reason hats are dead, still, is because there's no gray area for them to come back. Fashion cycles: you have wider ties, then skinnier ties, then wider ties again. But if you stop wearing an accessory completely, it's harder to bring it back. Say, for a second, that no one wore two-piece suits. But people would still wear oxford cloth shirts, khakis, and blazers, which is only a few hops away from a suit. You can wear varying degrees of formal wear, but there are two options for hats: wearing one, or not wearing one. Which means that the man who wears one suddenly finds himself in a start minority...unlike someone who wears a suit in a room full of khakis and oxfords, which is slightly different, but not THAT different.
Watches get secluded from utilitarian+jewelry to purely jewelry. Rolex sounds like Dior, Prada or Louis Vuitton. Swatch on the other hand struggles in the lower segment (but they're pivoting into jewelry and higher end more and more). For youngsters, the cheap McGyver watch is dead, while Rolex still make (some) people dream.
Elvis Presleys hairstyle was iconic. He couldn't wear a hat like eg. Frank Sinatra did.
An interesting point about the uniform fashion. A few years ago, The Washington Post Sunday magazine carried an article about the civil-rights era riots in Cambridge, Maryland, ca. 1965. Everyone was dressed alike--the local men and the out-of-town students, all wore white shirts, dark trousers, and leather shoes.
The 1920s, in fact; that's when the word was coined, and that's when a lot of the culture developed.
Then why did the change occur world wide where mass transport was still the major transportation source?
One word: Hollywood. If you check out the movies of the time in an eighteen month period men stopped wearing hats. Those American movies spread the fashion change world wide. Sorry, but Eisenhower had nothing to do with it.
With the rise of movies then TV, you had more people seeing men on screen without hats. Why? Because it's difficult to properly light a man's face while he is wearing a hat. The lights must be somewhat above the actors, so a hat causes a shadow across his face. If you want to see the man's face, then he can't wear a hat on camera. So, once you have the trend setters removing hats, then people get more used to the idea of seeing a man's head sans chapeau. News anchors still dress nicely in suits, so they would still be somewhat formal, even without the hat.
If this were the case, it would probably start to show the decline of hats earlier than the rise of automobiles, in the 1930's or so, so this theory could be tested separately from the rise of the automobile.
I doubt this is the case: if you look at non US cinematography, hats had been strongly in decline already in movies from the 50s', and from a few mass events' pics I can google it seems hats were still common but not overwhelmingly so.
If Barack Obama decided tomorrow to stop wearing pants, would this become a new trend? Or would we be very quickly getting used to the words "President Biden"? The time is not ripe for Presidents to stop wearing pants.
On the other hand, Obama has frequently been photographed with a suit and no tie; as far as I know he's the first President to attempt that look. But it's been a fairly common look among youngish men for well over a decade.
Also popular with Monk from the eponymous tv series.
Outside of occupational hats (hard hats, etc.), the military is probably the last real holdout of hat use in the US.
I mean, sure, it creates a bit of an instinctual reminder to put something on your head when you go outside, so it's helpful, but that doesn't mean that was the original rationale, especially when the same regulations apply to guys who spend their days staring at a radar scope in CIC or something. And let's be honest, lots of military traditions are kind of arbitrary (like the part where if you're walking with someone, the senior ranking person is on the right hand side--what, do you get shot at more often from the left hand side?) Having to adapt to a bunch of arbitrary traditions might have some benefit in discipline or something, but each individual tradition isn't necessarily there for a practical reason. Especially when a bunch of those traditions are actively dropped in combat zones--i.e. you don't salute so they don't know who to shoot at.
It is dubious, but I wouldn't absolutely rule out the hat edict as having a purpose. Remembering to wear something on your head is definitely an acquirable muscle memory.
> like the part where if you're walking with someone, the senior ranking person is on the right hand side--what, do you get shot at more often from the left hand side?
This example, on the other hand, probably is the result of conscious, practical decision making. You are better positioned with your sword arm free. It seems reasonable that the senior ranking person would insist on walking on the side that allowed them to have their sword arm (pistol arm) free in case of attack.
You can build a ramp around a tower in two ways. One direction puts your right hand on the side open to the air. The other pins it against the tower wall. Towers were built so that the direction of the ramps encircling them allowed defenders at the top to have their sword arms free to the open air. Attackers coming up with the ramp would have their sword arms inhibited by the face of the tower. You can verify this by inspecting the construction of the towers.
At least in my country it's been tradition to take your hat of inside, because it's disrespectful to the house owner. Like a statement that your roof is leaking. Nowadays this culture has faded, but personally I don't like to wear a hat partly because of this.
I would say the ball cap is pretty common among farmers. Suppliers hand out their branded hats like candy. Not to mention baseball players themselves, who pretty much also wear the style of hat while in a professional setting.
Ask any former Navy officer about what was the most inaccurate part of Crimson Tide. Nine times out of ten, they won't mention the submarine's mutiny that almost leads to nuclear armageddon or the underwater gunplay or the electronics technician soldering together a top secret encrypted VLF radio receiver. They'll instead complain about how Gene Hackman's uniform was so screwed up.
I still find it odd to see old pictures from a century ago with everybody wearing jackets, vest and ties everywhere, even in some labor jobs (at least vests)!
e.g. hunters http://www.huntersgardenassociation.com/1900%20thru%201948.h...
I'd call this a parametric plot, useful when you have two quantities which vary over time, and you want to visualise how they relate to each other. There are some good examples of that on the Ladder of Abstraction demo, http://worrydream.com/LadderOfAbstraction/ The "Abstracting Over Time" graphic is a parametric plot of the position of the car, where x is horizontal position, y is vertical position, and distance along the line is time.
But it's not a parametric plot either, because the number of pirates goes up and then down.
I guess it could plausibly be a normal graph with the X axis being some silly function of time; or a parametric plot with the X axis being a stupid function of pirates. But really I think aw3c2 was right: the graph makes zero sense.
This type of plot can be confusing when the relationship isn't strong, but I think it works well enough here.
edit: there's also this plot type: http://i.imgur.com/jgMFS.png
As hat wearing went down car sales went up?
I don't think it's an entirely unlikely explanation.
It would provide evidence, however.
Everyone i know in design and marketing everyone blabs about how lack of marketing killed hats.
But no one i know also happens to have breakfast talks everyday with a anthropologist phd studying fashion.
There's actually some really interesting literature about how copyright would significantly hurt the fashion industry, because it is dependent on a large degree of 'copying' styles to create trends, which is key to creating planned obsolescence to keep people buying new clothes.
Edit: A nice TED talk on this, starting at 3:57 http://www.ted.com/talks/johanna_blakley_lessons_from_fashio...
It's more of an overall long-term casualisation trend in society from the Victorian era through to today, reflected not only in clothes but also in speech and manners. It seems to me that we might have hit rock bottom in the 1990s and started clawing our way back up, but maybe that's just the circles I move in.
Of course it is. Tee-shirts are now conventional and perfectly acceptable outerwear in most circumstances. Underpants aren't.
That difference will be gone in ten years if it isn't already, although oldsters will continue to bemoan it for another twenty.
This is not a random arbitrary social choice, either; if you're showing your underpants then you're not far away from showing other stuff we really don't wanna see. That's why the social convention is that you need two layers downstairs and one layer upstairs to be considered dressed.
If your next question is "yes, but why do people object to seeing strangers' genitals?" then I could point you at some ev-psych just-so stories, but the answer is "we just do, okay?"
Unless you're going to a beach then you really only need the underpants. :D (Unless you're at a nude beach, then clothing is optional or frowned on)
Not being trying snarky, just pointing out that it's actually a bit arbitrary.
Fast forward to 1900 and everyone from lords to labourers is walking around wearing a plain suit. You can still tell the difference between the two, but it's subtle rather than ostentatious.
We still have men who wear hats at work but we typically don't mistakenly think of it as a fashion choice because they tend to be hard hats or otherwise clearly utilitarian. Much of what we view as mere fashion has either a utilitarian purpose or a utilitarian origin that has since been forgotten.
The kind of analysis that sounds vaguely plausible but is completely unprovable and probably wrong?
Don't me wrong, I like a good hat. But there are less exciting reasons why people stopped wearing them.
The only part of a light rain that is really annoying is wet glasses, and a hat deals with that nicely.
Contrary to myth, JFK wore his hat prominently during his inauguration.
It makes sense since it's sooooo bright. As I've walked around here for the last month I've really wanted to have the light full-body garment they have and the head wrap to keep off the sun, but I'm afraid it might be weird/disrespectful to wear it.
I've since discovered that a wide brimmed hat makes walking in the Seattle rain quite pleasant.
"A hat should be removed upon greeting a woman, and remain off for the rest of one's life. Nothing looks more stupid than a hat".
I'm only half kidding. Hats were probably more functional when bathing was less frequent. Unless you spend a lot of time in the bright sunlight or out in the cold, today there is little reason to wear one so now they just look silly.
I kind of agree; some people look good in some hats, mostly though people look best in hats when the hat is serving some specific function.
OTOH, I know a few people, and see quite a few more, who wear hats all the time. Know a guy who was married in a hat. Know a guy who wears a wool cap no matter how hot it is.
I assume this is just some cultural difference, though I'd be interested in hearing from any all-the-time hat wearers how they came to decide this was a good thing.
- It's easier for people to recognize you if you have a hat that you always wear. (Conversely, if you want said people to not recognize you, you can take the hat off.)
- It's also easier for people to find you in a crowd if they know you're wearing a hat.
- If you Scotchgard it, it's reasonably waterproof and can keep rain out of your face.
- Occasionally random people tell you, "Nice hat."
- If you're not wearing a suit, and you're not Indiana Jones, you shouldn't be wearing a fedora.
- Fedoras never, ever go well with a terrible patchy little goatee.
I went to a tech school, I have stared into the abyss of fedoras and it has changed me.
Also, leather fedoras are the most terrible abomination ever created.
It's not the worst theory I've ever heard.
In all seriousness, hats are great; like anything else, they'll see a comeback when the pendulum swings the other way. I smoke a pipe and shave with a straightrazor, when I don't have a beard (which is most of the time). I think I'll buy myself a good hat one of these days just to bring it back and prove old PJ wrong.
Given that we neither had a switch to private vehicles in 50s nor JFK, there has to be a more globally applicable explanation for this!
I have seen a similar phenomena. I assure you that none of these people have seen a picture of Notch.
The fedora/trilby/etc could be better said to have simply never gone completely out of style. It's popularity just seems to ebb and flow like the tide.
Lots of hair and hats don't go - the hat feels wrong, wears wrong. If your hair length fluctuates your hat size changes. A hat that fit you last month no longer fits right.
Keep your hair habitually short, and hat wearing is more practical, and comfortable.
But I didn't have in mind 'hippie hair' but even moderate length hair. For me, any hair that hangs down below the level of the hat brim makes a hat unwearable.
But I was brainwashed by the Marines, so my mileage may vary.
I wonder if the reason JFK didn't wear a hat was... many individuals of his generation didn't particularly care for them. JFK was the first individual of that generation elected to the presidency.
Which doesn't necessarily mean JFK had no influence. But I wonder whether it was part of a bigger pattern.
Obviously can't prove anything from an anecdote, and I'm not sure where you'd get the marketing data to do more... but it would seem that if younger men did resist buying hats, retailers at some level would probably have known.
This post-dates the hatless trend by about a decade, though it certainly wouldn't have helped the haberdasher's trade.
Patents for headrests were granted in 1921, 1930 and 1950.  According to some sources, they began to appear in cars in the 50s and 60s , which coincides with (and slightly pre-dates) the JFK theory.
1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Head_restraint 2: http://www.ehow.com/facts_7597635_use-headrest.html
The same thing with suits, beards, mustaches, a lot of courtesy and manners, duels, the "just line up in bright coats and fire" battles, the insanely ornate dresses, and other stuff that serves no real practical purpose and only takes time and money to maintain...
Could it be that the decline of the hat came with the office culture? Most people I see outdoor working actually wear something on their heads.
I suspect WWII had something to do with it, but I can't figure out how. Certainly pre-war cars had much higher roof-lines than post-war cars.
> Taxi design at the time (horse-drawn cabs - Hackneys) stated the height of the cabin had to accommodate a man wearing a bowler hat and like many of those bye-laws, they remain in place today.
In so many of the old movies you see. A doorman collects a gents overcoat and a hat as he enters a hall full of other people. And of course the, gent has arrived in a carriage or some other means of public transport.
So when people didn't feel that much cold in a car. They also did not need an overcoat and a hat perhaps?
I can easily imagine both this and JFK being contributing factors. It's silly to set them up as one vs. another.
It's "ion" I'll ink? Ill imp inn? Ick.
Its ice ire? Ifs/Ins ilk?
You do realise that there's a world outside the United States, right? And that in Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, all the other culturally similar countries, they also stopped wearing hats sometime in the 1950s and 60s? That public transport remains the main way for (say) Londoners to get to work, and yet that the hat slowly vanished from the heads of Londoners over roughly the same period that it vanished from the heads of Los Angelinos?
I know this is just one of your employees' blogs, and I know it very likely doesn't represent the official stance of National Public Radio on hat-wearing, globalism or international politics. I also happen to agree with the parent that this theory is a bit of a stretch, but hey...that's life.
That said, I'd like to thank you for writing anything about this subject at all, because without you folks, I'm reasonably sure I wouldn't be thinking about hat-wearing on a sunny Saturday afternoon. So, nutty or not, thanks for providing some mind-expanding reading material. I'll try not to extrapolate this light bit of reading into a narrative about your awareness of the world at large.
That said, the point should at least have been addressed.
edit: on further thought, hats also used to be seen as something to wear with suits, and as people wore less in the way of suit-like clothing, hats went too. In more recent times, hats are used more and more with other kinds of clothing - if you see someone wearing a fedora in Australia, it's much more likely they're young and wearing casual clothing than someone in business wearing a suit.
The rule didn't exist in high school though, so nearly everybody stopped using them.
Yeah, you guys are really free thinkers. And your kids look great covered in cancer-causing toxic waste wearing stupid ass straw hats.
It's hard to drive when you're tired.
Not everybody in Australia appreciates cigarette smoke.
Most people here don't like hooning, but "they" won't "steal" your car for it. It might, however, be confiscated.
I don't know of the law at home, but workplace health and safety is taken very seriously here. Not wearing safety gear can get you and your employer in quite a bit of trouble.
Try to be a little more constructive instead of mocking Australians.
Edit: The smoking law really is fantastic by the way, when people obey it. As a kid, I remember having to walk through 20 metres of cigarette smoke to get into a shopping centre. It was putrid. I don't mind people smoking, but the smoke buildup outside shops wasn't good.
Check out the photo next to the section heading. Now imagine this happening late at night in the street outside your house, 2-3 nights a week, every week, sustained for half an hour or more, with collections of aggressive, macho men associated with it. At best it's a public nuisance, and frequently it scares residents. It's not just 'squeaky brakes'.
* I should just edit this to say that all the coolest Australians I met in a year of travel were 65 or older, smoked like chimneys, and thought everyone under 30 in their country was an unintelligible fool. They lived in places like Hay, Tenterfield and Dubbo. I'd like to give a tip of the hat to John in Inverell, who bless him is the epitome of what your country was and should be. Other than your old fellas, it's a joke.
The small-minded, brainless scoundrels and jokes of Australia.
PS, the racism here can be pretty bad, I'll give you that. Things are improving, but not as fast as they ought to.
I'm sorry you had a bad experience travelling here, and there are problems here as everywhere. But just making things up and spitting them out with vitriol doesn't do anyone any favours.
You've clearly got zero idea of what you're talking about, and are just making stuff up to grind an axe, for some unclear reason.
I think it has more to do with class in the UK. With each generation, the class division has faded, and to a degree, hats were one way of advertising your class. Even today, baseball caps are seen as part of the uniform of the "underclass" (that is, when they aren't worn by sports people).
It's an intriguing idea, certainly, but obviously without any empirical validation (that's just how it is, that doesn't mean it's not allowed or fun to speculate about).
I thought they were kidding. They swore they'd never heard that, and we're talking about guys in their 40s.
As i bet all that crowd on the occupy did too.