Picture the scene! A location approximately five miles east of Manchester City Centre has farmers, who, along with their families, are busy using any spare time they have couped up in spare or under-used outbuildings, making ‘Felt Hats‘ to sell to the public. This place is Denton. This time frame is the 16th century!
At the time, this was a new industry that thrived as it progressed into the early 1800s but, sadly, with the onset of the mid 1800s recession, demand fell and this, coupled with consumers preference for silk hats rather than felt ones, resulted in a serious downturn in trade.
Towards the late 1800s however the introduction of machinery meant that these products- no longer being made completely by hand in a farmer’s shed- could be produced at a much lower cost. Hence, the resulting cheaper items being offered in the market place brought about an increased demand, which once again re-energised this very important Denton industry.
It’s estimated that up to 24,000 felt hats a week were once produced in Denton and it was once able to boast, with pride, that it was the biggest hat manufacturing location in the whole of Great Britain. Sadly though, the last factory in Denton closed down in 1980!
Incidentally, research suggests that the phrase “mad as a hatter” originates from Denton! This is probably due to the fact that Hatters working there were subjected to poor working conditions, with little regard for health and safety, meaning that these workers were often ‘affected’ by Mercury poisoning!
Another theory surrounding the introduction of the “mad as a Hatter” phrase is that Denton locals frowned upon anyone who dared to enter their shops without wearing a hat. It appears that the residents were so proud of their headwear and their ‘Hatting’ industry that they became just ‘crazy about hats‘ and, if we are to believe this tale, the phrase we all know today was then born!
Of course, fashions and tastes change and in the early 1900s the hat industry was once again in decline. Indeed, it was becoming the case that a hat would only be brought out of the cupboard when there was a celebration or a special event of some kind to attend!
Well, let’s fast forward to 2014 and ask ourselves where we are today with the hat industry. The answer is that there is actually quite a lot of demand! Many of us still regard our hats as an item of fashion, whereas some of us tend to put on a cap or hat simply to give us protection from the elements. But there are, of course, some of us who want that all important protection and also want to look fantastic too when out and about! And, as you would expect, manufacturers nowadays, are well and truly on to this fact!
There are Many hats available today!
To give some idea, below is nothing more than just a sample of the many hats that can be found in the market place. There are many categories to explore, such as tweed, harris tweed, wax, country and outdoor.
- Baseball caps:
- Fashionable vintage distressed look baseball caps
- Waxed baseball caps adjustable, with a leather peak
- Harris Tweed baseball caps with a leather peak and a ‘modern’ look
- Harris Tweed baseball caps that have been handwoven in the Outer Hebrides!
- Glencairn Tweed baseball caps with leather peaks, combining traditional style with an up to date look!
- Traditional Deer Stalker hats, with ear flaps in country tweed
- Ladies Rubens wax hats – a stylish round trilby!
- Ladies Alba wax vow hats – with tartan band and bow
- Waxed ‘Indiana’ hats – fully waterproof and made from 100% cupra wax
- Waxed flat caps, with tartan lining
- Turnberry fleece lined field hats – waterproof with a breathable lining and soft leather band
- Tweed trapper hats with satin lining
- Tweed 8 piece flat caps with satin lining
- Derby tweed luxurious caps, with satin lining. The adjustable leather strap means ‘one size fits almost everyone!’
- Ladies tweed ‘reversible’ multi check tweed and Teflon coated hats (lightweight enough to keep in a pocket!)
- Foxhound flat cap from traditional Scottish Tweed, Teflon coated, waterproof and with a breathable membrane
- Bucket ‘sun hats’. Lightweight and adjustable with a mesh sweatband and elasticated draw cord
- 100% Felt ‘Aussie’ hats (yes, Felt Hats are still available!)
And for children:
- Foxhound flat-caps. – a traditional Scottish made tweed flat cap which is Teflon coated offering protection from the elements
For more information about hats click here.
Incidentally, once you’ve purchased that special waxed hat of your choice, you could protect it by ‘re-proofing’ it every so often, using ‘Hoggs of fife Professional Dressing‘ which is available in 100ml tins or 250ml spray canisters (spray canisters available in store only)
So, there are many, many hats available nowadays to suit almost any occasion, and if you do decide to try a new look, well…… I take my hat off to you!
Happy shopping everyone!