Proper began in the town of Stockport, home of the hat museum. Consequently, we feel suitably qualified to comment on what makes good headwear.
Did you know the origins of the phrase ‘Mad as a Hatter’ were related to the use of mercury in the processing of felt, used in the construction of hats? Apparently, those involved in the mass production of headwear in the 19th century went a bit radio rental due to their exposure to said chemical element. To say those inflicted with this sad condition were ‘mad’ is a bit tight by today’s standards. Slurred speech, tremors and irritability were all signs of mercury poisoning, and despite the town no longer making hats on an industrial scale, plenty of people exhibiting these symptoms can still be found without looking too hard, as they can in most UK towns and cities.
Rather than dwell on history, terrible working conditions and how society treated the mentally ill in Victorian Britain, let’s instead embrace the positive. There was an era when all males would habitually wear hats. This declined somewhat after the Second World War, pushed along by numerous changes in how society behaved. On one hand, a lack of hat was an indicator that you were a car owner and therefore doing well for yourself. To drive, one had to remove their hat back then so no hat was shorthand for success in the eyes of some. In the UK, military national service ceased to be compulsory from 1963. Some men associated the wearing of a hat with the trauma of conflict and this will have played its part in the decrease in popularity.
For most, the answer was far more straightforward. As civilisation continued to evolve, the necessity for a hat decreased. Worn as a means to stay warm by many in a time when houses weren’t well heated, the hat was seen as insurance against seasonal illness. The introduction of antibiotics meant this ceased to be as severe as it once was.
As the 60s gave way to the 70s, self-expression and youth culture exploded and hats quite literally became something largely of the past. The widespread demand for a good quality hat dwindled and in any case, manufacturing shifted abroad in a lot of cases. By the 80s, that self-expression had come back around to begin an era when hats were seen more as a signifier of style than something born of necessity as they were a generation or two earlier. Baseball caps became ubiquitous in some circles and the street-level youth cults that defined the late 20th century once again embraced the importance of headwear in their uniforms.
Today, with summers and winters seemingly becoming more and more extreme, headwear is once again becoming a practical consideration. Having experienced the hottest summer on record in 2022, the UK looks like it’ll need to get used to keeping the sun at bay more than ever and headwear will play a key role in that. Likewise, with the weather boffins telling us to beware of colder winters, a nice array of substantial hats will round off any outfit.
Mercury meant madness in the past, but as temperatures (and therefore the mercury) rise so does interest in headwear once again.
Whether you’re in need of a nice stretchy beanie or something sturdy in the shape of a cap, there’s loads out there to choose from. One place we know you can get kitted out with something that’ll work well and look great is Fresh.
Here are just a few options you can obtain from our favourite Italian store.