Headdress

During the 1940's and before, almost no man would be seen in public without wearing and item of headdress. Along with wearing a 'hat' there was a set of rules that were always followed as matter of courtesy which were as commonly used as saying "please" and "thank you". Sadly, as hats have all but vanished from daily usage apart from things like baseball caps being worn by younger generations and weirdos like myself probably clinging to own youth!

In the military there were also lots of rules regarding items of headdress. The two most important of which are easy to follow and remember. There are probably exceptions to these two rules, but we'll ignore those for now.

When outside - you will always wear and item of headdress. Either M1 helmet, garrison (overseas) cap, Jeep Cap, HBT Cap as a few examples. In lots of original photographs, you'll see soldiers take the helmet liner out of the M1 helmet and just wear that. Presumable as nothing else was to hand and making it much lighter to wear. You'll also come across soldiers with no headdress worn at all, but this shouldn't really have been allowed, but like all things... if you want to find an original photograph of it being done... you will if you look long and hand enough. Upon leaving a building, the headdress will be put on immediately.

When inside - nothing will be worn on the head. There will be many exceptions to this rule, but for re-enactors these would be almost impossible to replicate anyway. So are irrelevant to us. Headdress items are removed immediately upon entering a building.

 

As you can see in the photograph above, taken a military baseball game in Europe, the variety in headgear is pretty much split between M1 Helmets (either liner on its own, or complete) or the garrison 'overseas' cap. Which is why we say one of those two is needed for the minimum requirements to join. Both being preferred, as wearing the garrison cap is much more comfortable!

When looking at period photographs from the E.T.O a US soldier on average will be wearing the following:

57% would be wearing an M1 Helmet
24% wearing nothing at all (naughty)

10% wearing just the M1 Helmet Liner

5% wearing the Garrison 'Overseas' Cap

2% wearing just a Jeep Cap
1% wearing the HBT Cap

1% other oddities like the "Daisy May"

So this gives a good idea of the balance of what you should be wearing in camp. If you look around and everyone is wearing and HBT cap... then you know that its not a great balance. Then again... also skip over those wearing nothing, as you'll just be asked "where is your cover?"

A little more on the hat etiquette of the early 20th Century
 

For much of the twentieth century, a man’s hat was his identity. He bought it, shaped it, creased it, handled it, and placed it on his head just right. A hat had as much personality as its owner. His hat stayed with him at all times or else was lost or stolen off a public hat rack. His hat caused him to pay out more tips to hat check girls then it was worth and could cause bodily harm if the wrong hat was worn on the wrong day. To wear a hat was often more trouble then they were worth for the sake being in fashion. While the 1920s saw a decline in hat use, it was still considered a necessary part of a man’s wardrobe by the popular majority.

 man and his hat were inseparable. From the moment he put it on at home to the time he took it off for the night, his hat was always with him. If a gust of wind happened to remove his hat form his head, he could chase it down the street, but that would be even more embarrassing then going home empty headed. The thing about hats is that they were a construct of social etiquette more than necessity. How a man treated his hat had more impact on his character and public perception than which hat he wore.

To doff a hat was a slight lifting of the hat off of the forehead out of respect to a lady, an important person, or as an American flag passed by. “How could you doff your hat to a lady if you didn’t wear one” was a common theme in hat advertisements. Emily Post guide to Etiquette in 1922 dedicated four pages to when to wear or remove your hat.

WEAR A HAT WHEN…

  • Outside

  • At sporting events (inside or out)

  • While riding public transportation such as the bus

  • Inside public spaces such as post offices, airports, and hotel or office lobbies

  • In corridors (but removed in elevators only if room allows)

TAKE OFF A HAT WHEN…

  • In someone’s home (and yours too if you so choose)

  • While eating (in home or restaurant)

  • When greeting someone

  • In a house of worship, unless a hat or head covering is required

  • At work (inside) unless required for the job

  • Inside buildings such as a school, library, courthouse, or town hall

  • At a theatre or movie house

  • When the national anthem is played (if you don’t someone will take it off for you)

  • When the flag of the United States passes by, as in a parade

Emily Post’s guide to hat etiquette is what many well mannered gentlemen tried to follow but hardly what they actually did. A man stood out if he took his hat off in an elevator and  looked strange if he wore one inside his own house. Personal hat etiquette had more to do with upbringing than social law.

WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR HAT IN PUBLIC

Where do men put their hat after they take it off? Since etiquette states that he must remove his hat inside, there must be protocol for where to put it. In a home or business office, a servant or host would take his hat and coat and place them on a designated hat rack or table. That was easy. Going out to a cafe or restaurant a man could place his hat on his lap, his bent knee, dangling from a foot, on the back of the chair or on a empty seat at his or a nearby table with other men’s hats and coats.

Public restaurants often had public hat stands and tables but to leave your hat there made it all to easy for it to be stolen or crushed. Hats were usually expensive and looked alike, making them easy to steal and easy for a thief to claim “mistaken identity” with his own hat. The great hat mix up was common fodder for comedians. Whenever possible it was best for a man to keep his hat on his person at all times.

In 1904 a young man, A . J. Liebling,  noticed the reduced restaurant seating capacity when men’s hat and coat took up a seat of their own. He approached the restaurant owner with an idea of a “hat check” room. Paid by tips the hat check roomed proved fruitful to hat checkers and restaurant owners who charged rent for the privilege of checking their patrons hats. Tips were at first optional but then became socially required. A stiffed tip meant a man’s hat could could be returned dirty or lost. Americans after the war were uneasy about tipping another man for a task he could do himself. They were not, however, uneasy about tipping a young lady.

Hat check girls soon replaced hat check boys. These ladies, not always beauties, had the ability to charm regular clients, remembered names (or learned new ones from his name stitched into his coat). If you underpaid your tip she would greet you with the saddest face you could never forget. Guilt worked every time. Unfortunately, most tips went to the hat check stand owner and not to the hat check girls.

“Take your hat sir” became a phrase gentlemen heard several times a day from the barbershop, lunch, business drinks, dinner, and the theatre each costing a dime apiece. For the businessman who ate out frequently, tipping on a $3 hat could cost $10 every four to six months. This soured some men into not wearing hats, although they continued to check their coats. As costly as hat checking was, it became the ultimate shame for a man to lose his hat to the coat room.

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