If you ever watch a modern film set in the 1930s or 40s and compare it with the old black and white films of that era, there is one really noticeable difference. It’s the way the actors carry off wearing a hat.
The modern actor looks either self-conscious or affected, whereas for the likes of Bogart and Bogarde a hat wasn’t a prop or something dug up by the wardrobe mistress. It was actually the most natural thing in the world to don a fedora because that’s what they wore off-screen.
Hat wearing for men has pretty much gone out of fashion if you discount baseball caps and hoodies, but it isn’t so long ago that a hat would complete every man’s outfit, whether it be a cloth cap for work or a formal felt number to match his suit.
And the centre for hat manufacturing were the neighbouring towns of Denton and Stockport as they had been for many decades. Above is a photo of the statue that stands outside the town hall titled “Tipping the Denton Linney” dedicated to the workers of the hatting industry.
Tipping the Linney was slang for a doffing your hat, the Linney coming from the name of the manufacturer, Walker, Ashworth and Linney Ltd.
Meanwhile in Stockport you’ll find Hat Works pictured left, the UK’s only museum dedicated solely to the hatting industry, hats and headwear.
The tradition of hat making goes back many generations and you will generally find a hatter or two in my family tree, but they sprout all over the place in my wife’s lineage.
Her five times great-grandfather gave his occupation as a carline maker in 1745 and although I haven’t been able to discover what this was definitively, a carline is a thistle and the assumption is that it described the tiny hooks used to raise the nap on felt.
My favourite fedora wearer was my granddad, Jim Binnie, who featured last week and one of my regrets in life is not preserving one of his many fedora hats.