The era of men wearing proper hats has certainly gone the way of the dodo. Blame it on JFK. Still, there are older men and younger dandies who are somehow keeping the hat business afloat. For them, May 15th is a special day, as it’s the traditional date of putting away your wool hats and bringing out your straw hats, marking the sartorial turn from the cold winter to the warm summer.
Vintage photos reveal that this tradition was present during the Ivy heyday. Young men are out in lighter fabrics, donning their straw hats, and generally looking pleased to be out of the harsh Eastern winter.
“Hat bands were made of a variety of different fabrics with bright, summery colorways,” recalls Richard Press, former president of J. Press. “Madras, batik and rep bands were common and were a part of the Ivy summertime uniform.”
The boater hat in particular made its way into the wardrobes of various Ivy men. It has always been the oddball piece of headwear. It was a specialty hat, often worn by members of the cheerleading squads and university bands. “Boaters were also worn specifically for sporting events, such as the Kentucky Derby,” says Press, “and rowing events on the Charles and Schuylkill rivers.”
While it’s appearance is quirky, it’s association with sports and school pride made it suitable at such events for the students. The first three photos are from the 1953 Skimmer Day at Penn, while the botoom photo is of the Princeton band in 1961. — MATTHEW KARL GALE