A Sea of Boaters

A sea of boaters on Times Square, New York, in July 1921.

20 May 2017

Göran R Buckhorn writes:

After weeks with crummy weather, the last couple of days in my corner of New England have been marvellous, offering warm high summer-like days. As we now have passed 15 May, which in America is National Straw Hat Day, we are allowed to wear our straw hats for the season.

An advertisement from the “Fort Worth Star-Telegram”, a newspaper in Texas, on 20 April 1934. The following day was Straw Hat Day, as there has been (still exists?) two dates for Straw Hat Day in America, 21 April and 15 May – to make it even more confusing, April is Straw Hat Month – pick either one, or just ignore it and wear your straw hat when it’s warm whichever date it is.

Once upon a time, the popular straw hat was a boater, which was particularly popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The boater-wearers lingered on for longer at political campaigns from the 1950s and on.

‘Ike’ boaters waiting for the New York delegates at the Republican National Convention for Dwight Eisenhower on 8 July 1952 in Chicago, where Eisenhower was nominated for the presidency. At Republican rallies these days, the dress-code is down-graded to a red baseball cap with a slogan. Buy it for $14 here (free shipping!).

One rarely sees anyone wearing boaters in America these days, with the exception of members of a barbershop quartet, or as a head garment for old-fashioned school uniforms. Boaters are more common as a part of the school uniform in the rest of the English-speaking world.

Boater has always been ‘formal’ so it not strange to find men wearing these at Henley Royal Regatta. If you plan to go to Henley Royal this summer, you will for sure see plenty of boaters around. It is more daring to wear than an ‘ordinary’ straw hat – but c’mon, Sir, maybe it’s time for you to let go, be brave, sport yourself in a boater this summer.

Jolly boating weather at Henley. Photo: Tim Koch.

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