Plaited straw, with a silk grosgrain hatband
Museum no. T.81-1980
Bequeathed by Eric Mynott
Boaters were stiff straw hats with a moderately deep flat-topped crown and straight narrow brim and with a hatband of Petersham ribbon (thick double ribbon which was generally watered, plain, figured or striped). This particular model is marked on the inside with the patent number 172905. The patent is for the elastic size regulator which is fitted inside and would alter the inside of the hat to the shape of the head.
The straw hat was at first only accepted for holidays and summer sports. By the 1890s it had become popular for city wear. In 1894 the New York Herald of Fashion observed: 'It was only last summer that Londoners began to wear straw hats with any freedom. Before then it would have been a social crime for any man pretending to fashionable dress, to appear in London streets in any hat other than the high silk hat.' They became so popular that the Tailor and Cutter of 1895 reported, 'The straw hat boom has boomed still more boomily, and the farmer is crying out that the wheat crop is short in the straw.' Manners for Men (1897), by Mrs Humphry, stated: 'For a morning walk in the Park in summer the straw hat, or low hat and tweed suit, are as correct as the black coat and silk hat. But is must be remembered that a straw hat or low hat cannot be worn with a black coat of any kind.' Boaters are still sometimes worn today as part of a school uniform of for formal occasions connected with the river.
The boater was worn by all social ranks and had no 'class distinction'. However, as another extract from Manners for Men shows, if a man was to be a success in society he had to wear it for the correct occasion: 'If he commits flagrant errors in costume he will not be invited out very much, of that he may be certain. If he goes to a garden party in a frock-coat and a straw hat, he is condemned more universally than if he had committed some crime. The evidence of the latter would not be upon him for all men to read, as the evidence of his ignorance in social forms is, in his mistaken notions of dress.'