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Anthony Eden hat

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British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden, wearing his trademark hat, arriving at Gatow Airport on 15 July 1945 to attend the Potsdam Conference.

An "Anthony Eden" hat, or simply an "Anthony Eden", was a type of headgear popularised in Britain in the mid-20th century by politician Anthony Eden, later 1st Earl of Avon (1897–1977). Eden, who was known for his sartorial elegance, favoured a silk-brimmed, black felt Homburg at a time when most Britons preferred the trilby or the bowler. Eden held a number of cabinet posts in the 1930s and 40s and was Prime Minister from 1955 to 1957.

The hat became so associated with him that it was commonly known in the UK as the "Anthony Eden" (or, in London's Savile Row, simply as the "Eden"[1]: 376 ). It was not marketed as such and the name was purely informal, but the use of the term was widespread, entering dictionaries and phrase books: for example, it was still listed in the 17th edition of Brewer in 2005 and as recently as 2010 the fashion "guru" Trinny Woodall cited the hat as an example of Eden's reputation for being well dressed.[2] It came into particular vogue among civil servants and diplomats in Whitehall and, to that extent, rather belied the stereotypical view, that lasted until well after the Second World War, of civil servants as a "bowler hat" brigade.[3]

The Trilby and the Homburg[edit]

The Homburg had initially been popularised in Britain by King Edward VII who often visited Bad Homburg in Germany.[4] It was essentially a more rigid variant of the trilby which had been fashionable since George du Maurier's novel of that name was published in 1894. The writer and broadcaster Rene Cutforth recalled in the 1970s that:

" of things that strikes me most about the Thirties scene when I think about it now is the trilby hat, the universal headgear of the middle classes ... [s]ometime early in the century, it must have been a wild gesture of freedom and informality ... By the thirties it had certainly become degenerate ... It was a hat which had lost all aspiration: it had become a mingy hat ...".[5]

In such circumstances Eden's adherence to the Homburg seemed fresh and dashing. He is one of only two British Prime Ministers to have had an item of clothing named after him, the other being the Duke of Wellington (his boot).[6]

Eden's style[edit]

The homburg, this time, was on another head, that of Winston Churchill: Eden shakes hands with Roosevelt

Eden became, at 38, the youngest Foreign Secretary since William Pitt the Younger in the late 18th century. As a relatively youthful politician among mostly much older men, he appeared fashionably dressed, even flamboyant. In 1936 the American magazine Time referred to his "pin-stripe trousers, modish short jacket and swank black felt hat", worn during a diplomatic mission to the League of Nations in Geneva.[7] Many remarked too on Eden's "film star" appeal, even as late as the 1950s[8] when, as Prime Minister, he retained his youthful good looks.[9] His biographer D. R. Thorpe, who likened the young Eden to a mixture of Sir Galahad (Eden won the Military Cross in the First World War) and Beau Brummel (the Regency dandy in whose London house Eden lived for a time),[6] commented on a photograph of him, arriving in Russia by train in hat and fur-lined coat in 1935, that "it seemed to some as if Tolstoy's Count Vronsky [a glamorous character in the novel Anna Karenina] were alighting at the platform".[10]

In addition to the Homburg, Eden was associated with the mid-1930s fashion for wearing a white linen waistcoat with a lounge suit,[1]: 376  while the poet and novelist Robert Graves likened Eden's moustache to those of film stars Ronald Colman, William Powell and Clark Gable: "the new moustache was small, short and carefully cut, sometimes slightly curved over the lip at either end, sometimes making a thin straight line".[1]: 376  When Eden visited New York City in 1938 he was "deluged with fan mail from teenage college girls to elderly matrons", while women reporters and society editors "gushed about his classic features, his long dark eyelashes, his limpid eyes, his clear skin, his wavy hair, his charm and magnetism".[11] In another American city, a display of Homburgs in a shop window was adorned with the sign "Welcome to Anthony Eden".[11] In Amsterdam the hat became known as the "Lord Eden".[1]

"Heads like his"[edit]

The journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, who was not an admirer of Eden, recalled that, among other qualities, "an elegant appearance and an earnest disposition ... equipped him for dazzling advancement ... An astrakhan collar became him. What came to be known as an Anthony Eden hat grew on heads like his".[12] In June 1938, four months after Eden's resignation from Neville Chamberlain's Cabinet, the Member of Parliament and diarist "Chips" Channon noted that he had "doffed his bowler" to Chamberlain in St. James's Park and that "everyone wears a bowler now ... [Si]nce the Eden debacle black homburgs are "out"".[13] However, in August of that year, the British Minister in Prague, Basil Newton, wore "a black homburg of the kind made fashionable by Anthony Eden" to greet Lord Runciman on his arrival by train at Wilson station for talks with the Czechoslovak government.[14] In 1939, writing to a former classmate during a European tour, the future United States President John F. Kennedy remarked that he had not been doing much work, "but have been sporting around in my morning coat, my 'Anthony Eden' black Homburg and white gardenia".[15]

The "glamour boys"[edit]

There were those who believed, like Muggeridge, that Eden's rapid rise through the political hierarchy owed as much to image as to substance.[16]: 461–462  In the period between his resignation and his return to the government on the outbreak of war in 1939, Eden and his acolytes, who, broadly speaking, favoured a tougher stance against Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, were often referred to as "the glamour boys".[17][18] Harold Nicolson, a member of this group who found Eden's approach ineffectual, observed that Eden was missing "every boat with exquisite elegance".[19]

Some contemporary observers thought they detected a "prima donna" streak in Eden's attitude and appearance.[20] For example, the ageing Earl of Crawford and Balcarres (1871–1940), a snob,[21] thought him "vain as a peacock and all the mannerisms of a petit maître [in the sense of a dandy or fop]".[22] One of Eden's permanent secretaries, P. J. Grigg, who rarely had a good word to say of anyone,[23][24] dismissed him as "a poor feeble little pansy".[25] Less prosaically, W. F. Deedes, a Minister in Eden's Government who, as a journalist, had once commented unfavourably on the colour of Eden's socks,[26] remarked half a century later that, in the modern vernacular, Eden would have been called a "smoothie".[27] The philosopher Bertrand Russell thought Eden "not a gentleman" because he dressed "too well",[28] while a Ministerial colleague R. A. Butler, alluding to Eden's parentage and highly strung nature, is said to have remarked, "that's Anthony – half mad baronet, half beautiful woman".[29][30]

The writer and critic A. N. Wilson, who observed in 2008 that Eden was "easily the best-looking individual, of either sex, to occupy [the] office [of Prime Minister] in the twentieth century", noted also that he was "the only male Prime Minister known to have varnished his fingernails".[31] However, there is little objective evidence that Eden was unduly vain about his clothes; he merely dressed well. As for his Homburg, which Deedes noted that he wore at an angle,[32] his official biographer Sir Robert Rhodes James, wrote that "to him it was just a hat".[33]

The hat as a trademark[edit]

External image
image icon Going it alone: Vicky cartoon, 12 April 1954, at
John Dulles is depicted as a bull in a china shop, while Eden (identified by his hat) looks on.

Even so, the image stuck. The hat became a "trademark" in the public mind, assisting instant recognition, and was one of the most recognisable features of contemporaneous political cartoons.[6] During the general election campaign in 1955, when Eden was Prime Minister, he was presented with "an Eden hat" when he and Lady Eden (he became a Knight of the Garter in 1954) visited the Lancashire hat-making town of Atherton.[34] At various points of the Suez Crisis the following year, cartoons depicted him in the same hat for which he had become known twenty years earlier. In one by Vicky for the New Statesman, a behatted but otherwise barely clothed Eden was shown in the biblical Garden of Eden being tempted with an apple by a young Frenchwoman, presumably Marianne, in the guise of Eve.[35] (The allusion was to French pressure for joint action to reverse the unilateral nationalisation of the Suez Canal by Egyptian President Nasser.)

"Hush! here comes Anthony"[edit]

In 1951, two days after Eden's re-appointment as Foreign Secretary, Vicky had, in similar vein, employed the imagery of Antony and Cleopatra to represent Eden approaching the Egyptian throne in suit and hat. King Farouk (overthrown in 1952) and the ancient Queen Cleopatra, as the embodiment of the Egyptian state, were shown to have torn up the treaty of 1936 which provided for Britain's military presence in the Suez Canal zone.[36] The caption, "Hush! here comes Anthony", was taken from Shakespeare.[37] (This cartoon was a reference to Egypt's denunciation of the treaty on 9 October 1951, thus posing an early problem for Winston Churchill's incoming government.[16])


Journalist and social historian Anne de Courcy has written of Chamberlain that "he did not smoke a pipe, nor, as Anthony Eden did, always wear the same distinctive hat, though cartoonists made the most of his ever-present umbrella".[38] (On Guy Fawkes Night 1938 the future Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, then a rebellious Conservative MP, burned an image of Chamberlain with rolled umbrella, which he topped with his own Homburg.[6]) In fact, as photographs from the late 1930s onwards show, Eden frequently wore no hat at all. This was a habit that he shared with few other public men at the time. It was one of several aspects of modernity noted by John Betjeman in his poem on the death in 1936 of King George V, who, like Edward VII before him, had worn a Homburg for shooting:[39]

At the new suburb stretched beyond the runway
... a young man [King Edward VIII] lands hatless from the air".[40]

The Anthony Eden in popular culture[edit]

The Anthony Eden hat was essentially an accessory of the 1930s and 1940s, although, in the mid-1950s, the Homburg came to be associated with the melancholic image of comedian Tony Hancock.[41] In 1949 a character (Mr. Sowter) in John Dighton's play The Happiest Days of Your Life had been described as "soberly dressed. He wears an "Anthony Eden" hat and carries gloves".[42] The Suez débâcle, followed by Eden's departure from public life in 1957 due to ill health, tended to hasten the drawing of a line that might have seemed inevitable before long in the era of "Angry Young Men", rock 'n' roll and Vespa motor scooters which, according to his wife Clarissa,[43] kept Eden awake at night. As the communist historian Eric Hobsbawm put it, "Suez and the coming of rock-and-roll divide twentieth century British history".[44]

"Who wears an Anthony Eden hat today?"[edit]

In the 1960s, when hats for men were becoming unfashionable, former diplomat Geoffrey McDermott asked, with evident disdain, "who wears an Anthony Eden hat today? Only Mr Steptoe [a character in a BBC television sitcom], Mr Enoch Powell and, rather curiously, [Russian leader] Mr Kosygin. And, of course, all those Carleton-Browne[45] characters at the F[oreign] O[ffice]".[46] Memories did linger, however. In 2006, the son of a Wolverhampton ironmonger recalled a very wet evening on which Enoch Powell, the local Member of Parliament throughout the 1950s and 60s, required a new washer for a tap: "his moustache quivered with urgency and water streamed from the broad rim of his black Homburg hat."[47]

Another well-known wearer of an "Anthony Eden" was Sergeant Arthur Wilson (played by John Le Mesurier) in Dad's Army (1968–77), the BBC TV comedy series about the wartime Home Guard, which Eden established in 1940. In one episode, Captain Mainwaring (Arthur Lowe), who, as manager of a bank, wore a bowler, told Wilson that his hair was too long. Wilson replied that "Mrs Pike [his lover] says it makes me look like Eden".[48]

In 1969 the Kinks recorded for their album Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) a song called "She's Bought a Hat Like Princess Marina". This was written by Ray Davies (b. 1944), who was only twelve when Eden resigned as Prime Minister, and contained the lines:

He's bought a hat like Anthony Eden's
Because it makes him feel like a Lord[49]

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?[edit]

On 10 September 2001, Charles Ingram was asked "What type of garment is an Anthony Eden?" as his £250,000 question on the quiz show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, as he cheated his way through the show with the help of an accomplice.[50]


  1. ^ a b c d Graves, Robert (2006) [1940]. Hodge, Alan (ed.). The Long Weekend: A Social History of Great Britain 1918–1939. ISBN 978-1-85754-664-4.
  2. ^ This Week, BBC 1 TV, 23 September 2010
  3. ^ In the 1980s, an episode of the BBC television series Yes, Minister showed a long line of bowler hatted civil servants lining up to board an aircraft for a diplomatic mission to the Middle East, long after such hats (or any hats) would have been worn in reality ("The Moral Dimension", 1982).
  4. ^ See, for example, Hannah Pakula (1995) An Uncommon Woman: The Empress Frederick. Keith Middlemas refers to Edward VII's "cultivat[ing] a meticulous interest in questions of fashion.... During his reign he gave the seal of approval to the Norfolk jacket, the Tyrolean hat and the grey felt hat [i.e., the Homburg]" (Edward VII, 1975).
  5. ^ Cutforth, René (28 October 1976). Later Than We Thought: A Portrait of The Thirties. David & Charles. ISBN 978-0-7153-7123-7.
  6. ^ a b c d Thorpe, D. R. (9 September 2010). Supermac: The Life of Harold Macmillan. Random House. ISBN 978-1-4090-5932-5.
  7. ^ James, Robert Rhodes (13 October 1986). Anthony Eden. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-0-297-78989-5. Time, 16 March 1936. When Eden's future wife Clarissa Churchill, then aged 16, met him for the first time in 1936 at Lord Cranborne's country estate in Dorset, she was struck by his tweed pinstriped trousers.
  8. ^ See, for example, Harold Macmillan, Diary 13–15 August 1952 (ed. Peter Catterall, 2003)
  9. ^ For example, Cecil Beaton, Diary, October 1956 (quoted in Hugo Vickers (1994) Loving Garbo)
  10. ^ Thorpe, D. R. (2011) [2003]. Eden: The Life and Times of Anthony Eden First Earl of Avon, 1897-1977. Random House. ISBN 978-1-4464-7695-6.
  11. ^ a b Broad, Lewis (1955). Sir Anthony Eden: The Chronicles of a Career (First ed.). Hutchinson. ASIN B0000CJ4ZO.
  12. ^ Muggeridge, Malcolm (1966). Tread Softly For You Tread on My Jokes (First ed.). HarperCollins Distribution Services. ISBN 978-0-00-211804-0.
  13. ^ Sir Henry Channon, diary, 14 June 1938
  14. ^ Faber, David (1 September 2008). Munich: The 1938 Appeasement Crisis. Simon & Schuster UK. ISBN 978-1-84737-008-2.
  15. ^ Dallek, Robert (2003). An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-7139-9803-0.
  16. ^ a b Dutton, David (1997). Anthony Eden: A Life and Reputation. Arnold. ISBN 978-0-340-69139-7.
  17. ^ Sir Henry Channon, diary, 1 & 3 November 1938.
  18. ^ Williams, Charles (2009). Harold Macmillan. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-0-297-85194-3.
  19. ^ Rose, Norman (2005). Harold Nicolson. Jonathan Cape. ISBN 978-0-224-06218-3.
  20. ^ Charmley, John (1989). Chamberlain and the Lost Peace. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 978-0-340-50853-4.
  21. ^ His snobbery was such that he had professed himself unable to imagine "anything more middle class" than the contents of a greenhouse on King George V's estate at Sandringham. Diary entry following a visit to Sandringham in 1923: see David Faber (2005) Speaking for England
  22. ^ Lindsay, David Alexander Edward (2 November 1938), Journal
  23. ^ Colville, John (1981). The Churchillians. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. ISBN 978-0-297-78955-0.
  24. ^ Hastings, Max (2009). Finest Years: Churchill as Warlord 1940-45. HarperPress. ISBN 978-0-00-733774-3.
  25. ^ Sir James Grigg, Permanent Under-Secretary at the War Office where Eden was Secretary of State in 1940: Max Hastings (2009) Finest Years: Churchill as Warlord 1939–45. Hastings couples the "pansy" reference (with its effeminate or homosexual connotations) with the unexplained observation that "soldiers thought him incorrigibly "wet" with affectations of manner which they identified with homosexuals". It may be that, seventy or more years ago, Eden's alleged "feminine" side, manner of dress, habit of calling men "my dear" (a trait detested by US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles in the 1950s), dislike of men's clubs and cultivated interest in art and flowers, encouraged such a view. In fact, Eden's well-attested courage, including his military cross from the First World War, and (notwithstanding an apparent expression of doubt in 1955 about Eden's ability to be an effective Prime Minister) Churchill's long-standing belief in him (see Colville (1981) The Churchillians), tend to belie the charge of wetness. And, despite historian Michael Bloch's reference to Eden's having gone through a "queer" phase in his twenties (Closet Queens, 2015) and an unreferenced suggestion that he may have propositioned fellow Etonian Edward Gathorne-Hardy, four years his junior, while at Oxford (see D. J. Taylor (2007) Bright Young Things), there is ample evidence that, in addition to being intensely attractive to women, Eden sometimes pursued his relationships with them to the point of recklessness: see, generally, Rhodes James (1986) and Thorpe (2003); also Douglas Hurd (2010) Choose Your Weapons: The British Foreign Secretary who noted that Eden was "charming and successful with women" and lacked any cohort of male friends, either personal or political. Even his future, much younger second wife confided to her friend Duff Cooper that Eden, with whom she was not then coupled, "never stops trying to make love to her" (Duff Cooper, diary, 24 November 1947, quoted in The Duff Cooper Diaries 1915-1951 (ed John Julius Norwich, 2005)), while, in 1983, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher apparently remarked to her Party Chairman Cecil Parkinson, who had been having an affair with his secretary, that "they tell me Anthony Eden jumped into bed with every good-looking woman he ever met" (Jonathan Aitken (2013) Margaret Thatcher: Power and Personality). Eden's second son, Nicholas, who succeeded him as Earl of Avon, was homosexual and died of AIDS in 1985: see, for example, Gyles Brandreth, diary, 21 January 1979 (The Diary of a Lifetime, 2009).
  26. ^ Dear Bill (BBC TV, 1994)
  27. ^ Suez: A Very British Crisis (BBC TV, 16 October 2006)
  28. ^ Quoted in The Times, 10 October 2009
  29. ^ Quoted in Patrick Cosgrave (1981) R. A. Butler; Wikiquote. There has been speculation over the years that, in fact, Eden may have owed his looks to George Wyndham, a politician and aesthete whom he was considered by some to closely resemble, and with whom his mother was rumoured to have had an affair: see, e.g., John Charmely (1989) Chamberlain and the Lost Peace. Eden's most recent biographer notes that Eden could have inherited his temper and aesthetic sensibilities from either Wyndham or Sir William Eden: D.R. Thorpe (2003) Eden.
  30. ^ However, Butler had a habit of making such observations, once asking historian Richard Thorpe, "How was Harold Macmillan when you met him? Was he the Duke's son-in-law or the crofter's great-grandson?": D. R. Thorpe (2010) Supermac: The Life of Harold Macmillan
  31. ^ A. N. Wilson (2008) Our Times 1953-2008. Wilson, who does not give his source for the information about Eden's nails, observed several years earlier, with reference to the then Prime Minister Tony Blair, that "there is always something a little disconcerting about politicians such as the late Anthony Eden who are too flashily attractive" (Daily Telegraph, 18 February 2001).
  32. ^ Deedes, William Francis (2004). Brief Lives. London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-4050-4085-3.
  33. ^ Robert Rhodes James (1986) Anthony Eden. There was, for example, a contrast between Eden's almost accidental glamour and that of Neville Chamberlain's father, Joseph (1836–1914), who, as the journalist and broadcaster Andrew Marr has written, "adored a crowd and marketed himself for a mass audience. His [Chamberlain's] dandyish black velvet coat, soon adorned with an orchid, his scarlet necktie, and above all his monocle, became as well known as Churchill's hat and cigar, Harold Wilson's pipe or Margaret Thatcher's handbag would be": Marr (2009) The Making of Modern Britain.
  34. ^ Eden, Clarissa (2007). Haste, Cate (ed.). A Memoir: From Churchill to Eden. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-0-297-85193-6.
  35. ^ See Hugh Thomas, The Suez Affair (Pelican edition, 1970)
  36. ^ 29 October 1951: see D. R. Thorpe (2003) Eden
  37. ^ Shakespeare, William (1607), "I.ii", Antony and Cleopatra
  38. ^ Anne de Courcy (1989) 1939: The Last Season. In October 1938, Mussolini remarked, in an obvious allusion to Chamberlain, that "people who carry an umbrella can never found an empire": see David Faber (2008) Munich: The 1938 Appeasement Crisis. Remarkably, Regeschirm (the German for "umbrella") was the code name given by the Germans in 1940 to a planned bombing raid on Birmingham, a city long associated with the Chamberlain family. As a result of this clue, intelligence operators at Bletchley Park were able to guess the target: R. V. Jones (1978) Most Secret War.
  39. ^ Wilson, A.N. (2005). After the Victorians: The Decline of Britain in the World. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 978-0-374-10198-5.
  40. ^ "The Death of King George V" (1936)
  41. ^ See A. N. Wilson (2008) Our Times
  42. ^ The Happiest Days of Your Life, Act II
  43. ^ Clarissa, Lady Eden, quoted by Cecil Beaton: Vickers (1994) Loving Garbo
  44. ^ Hennessy, Peter (2007). Having it So Good: Britain in the Fifties. Penguin Books Limited. ISBN 978-0-14-100409-9.
  45. ^ Carlton-Browne of the F.O. was a comedy film of 1958 starring Terry-Thomas.
  46. ^ McDermott, Geoffrey (1969). The Eden Legacy and the Decline of British Diplomacy. Frewin. ISBN 9780090962501.
  47. ^ David Thomas in The Oldie, December 2006; The Oldie Annual 2008
  48. ^ In another well observed scene in Dad's Army, Wilson, in his Homburg, is seen alongside Mainwaring in his bowler and Private Pike (Ian Lavender), with his penchant for American gangsters, in a Trilby ("High Finance", 1975).
  49. ^ In 1967 "Homburg" was the title of Procol Harum's follow up record to their worldwide hit "A Whiter Shade of Pale", though this did not allude to Eden.
  50. ^ Vasagar, Jeevan (6 March 2003). "Congratulations, you've just won £1m. But we don't want to give you that, do we? Three in court accused of using coded coughs to win TV show". The Guardian.

External links[edit]