A boater (also straw boater, basher, skimmer, cady, katie, canotier, somer, sennit hat, or in Japan, can-can hat) is a kind of summer hat worn by men, regarded as somewhat formal, and particularly popular in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
It is normally made of stiff sennit straw and has a stiff flat crown and brim, typically with a solid or striped grosgrain ribbon around the crown. Boaters were popular as summer headgear, especially for boating or sailing, hence the name. They were supposedly worn by FBI agents as a sort of unofficial uniform in the pre-war years. It was also worn by women, often with hatpins to keep it in place. Nowadays they are rarely seen except at sailing or rowing events, period theatrical and musical performances (e.g. barbershop music) or as part of old-fashioned school uniforms. Since 1952, the straw boater hat has been part of the uniform of the Princeton University Band, notably featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated Magazine in October, 1955. Boaters are also a part of the traditional and persisting garb of barbershop quartets. Recently, soft, thin straw hats with the approximate shape of a boater have been in fashion among women.
The boater is a fairly formal hat, equivalent in formality to the Homburg, and so is correctly worn either in its original setting with a blazer, or in the same situations as a Homburg, such as a smart lounge suit, or with black tie. John Jacob Astor IV was known for wearing such hats. Actors Harold Lloyd and Maurice Chevalier were also famous for their trademark boater hats.
In the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa the boater is still a common part of the school uniform in many boys' schools, such as at Harrow School, Shore School, Brisbane Boys' College, Knox Grammar School, Maritzburg College, South African College School, St John's College (Johannesburg, South Africa), Wynberg Boys' High School, Parktown Boys' High School and numerous Christian Brothers schools (CCB).
The boater may also be seen worn by the "carreiros" of Madeira, the drivers of the traditional wicker toboggans carrying visitors from the parish church at Monte (Funchal) down towards Funchal centre.
Straw Hat Day
Being made of straw, the boater was and is generally regarded as a warm-weather hat. In the days when all men wore hats when out of doors, "Straw Hat Day", the day when men switched from wearing their winter hats to their summer hats, was seen as a sign of the beginning of summer. The exact date of Straw Hat Day might vary slightly from place to place. For example, in Philadelphia, it was May 15; at the University of Pennsylvania, it was the second Saturday in May. Its cold-weather counterpart was "Felt Hat Day", occurring in September or October. The practice of wearing formal hats largely disappeared by the mid-1900s; however, as late as 1963, Straw and Felt Hat Day were commemorated in an editorial in the New York Times.
In some cities, the convention was forcefully observed by young men who would seize and destroy any straw hat worn after the appointed day. On a number of stock exchange floors, traders wore straw hats with the deliberate intention of getting them destroyed. (Confusingly, the term "straw hat day" was used in that era to refer both to the day of their adoption, at the beginning of summer, and their destruction, at the end.) In 1922 in New York City, the tradition escalated into the Straw Hat Riot, which lasted eight days, involved a mob of 1,000 young hat destroyers at its peak, and resulted in a number of arrests and injuries.
- History, The Princeton University Band. Retrieved 2011-12-22.
- 1988 GOP Convention. Retrieved 2010-01-22.
- 1952 Republican National Convention. Retrieved 2010-01-22.
- 2004 Democratic Convention delegates wearing boaters. Retrieved 2010-01-22.
- Straw Hat Day, University of Pennsylvania Archives. Retrieved 2010-01-22.
- "Sailors Out of Season". The New York Times. 1963-09-17.
- "Sharp Break in the Ostracized Headgear on 'Change and on the Curb". The New York Times. 1900-09-16.
- "Pittsburgh Brokers to Wear Their Straw Hats Until Oct. 1". The New York Times. 1921-09-26.
- "Mayor Cernak Will Proclaim Straw Hat Day for Chicago". The New York Times. 1932-05-16.
- "City Has Wild Night of Straw Hat Riots". The New York Times. 1922-09-16.
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