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uring the 20th-century, clothing trends started to rapidly change based on different influences, mainly from singers and actors. Hats have been a very important piece of clothing for men that actually started as early as 3200 BC with the need to protect their heads from sun rays whilst working on the fields. Hats were so important in society that even homeless people would have one.

The invention of cars

However, since the 20th-century men slowly but surely stopped wearing hats and there isn’t just one reason for this, but many that influenced this change. One of the very first factors that influenced this change was the common integration of cars within society. The main reason why men wore hats was to protect their heads either from the sun or from rain.

Henry Ford standing next to a Ford Model T 1909 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Their main way of transportation was on an open roof carriage, bike, or on foot. Cars such as Ford Model T from 1908 offered a closed rooftop which offered protection from any sort of weather. With cars becoming more affordable to the common citizen, they slowly started to become the main way of transportation that also offered protection to men’s heads.

Changes in Employment

Until the industrial revolution took place most men would work within the agriculture industry. It was during the late 19th century that factories started to become more popular than farms as a choice of work for men. This meant that men spent a lot more time indoors rather than outdoors, therefore their heads were protected from the weather.

garment-sweatshop-with-moving-men-c-1900 (Source: Museum at Eldridge Street)

This played as a factor of not needing a hat. It seems that hats through history were not a fashion choice, but more of a need such as a thick winter coat during December. As you can see in the photo above within a factory in the early 20th century, men took their hats off indoors. This supports the argument that hats were worn as a need and not due to fashion as it is believed by many.

WWII Aviators wearing Sunglasses

Colorized photo of WWII pilot next to the tail of a B17- bomber wearing aviator sunglasses (Source: Pinterest)

Although sunglasses have been created by the Chinese during the 12th century, they never really became mainstream within the western world until after World War II. As mentioned before, hats started to be mainly worn by men to not only protect their heads from sunlight but also to not be blinded by the sun.

One of the main problems aviators had was the intense sunlight above the clouds, this is why all aviators during World War II started to wear sunglasses. After the end of the war, men started to wear sunglasses which eliminated wearing a hat since most of them at the time was driving a car and working mostly indoors.

Rise of Pop Culture

Many artists played an important role in the decline of hats worn by men. Starting from the 20th century such as Elvis Presley, James Dean, and Marlon Brando were never seen wearing a hat, which encouraged other men to follow their fashion trends. Women found these starts attractive, so the rest of the male ordinary population wanted to follow in their footsteps.

Photo of Elvis Presley and Marlon Brando (Source: Public Domain)

It wasn’t just pop stars, but even famous politicians and presidents who had great influence over the western population that stopped wearing hats. Eisenhower was the first president of the United States that stop wearing a hat. President John F. Kennedy was rarely seen wearing hats and even promoted once the stop of wearing hats.

1922 Straw Hat Riots

There is one more reason that people never take into consideration and that may be the straw Hat Riots of 1922 where many people ended up attacked by gangsters just for wearing hats. It all started with the change of Felt Hat day from the 1st of September to the 15th of September in 1922. Even to this day, it is unclear why the date was changed. Felt Hat Day is a day that celebrates people wearing hats throughout history.

Teenagers spreading straw hats around New York City during 1922 (Source: Hulton Archive)

Before Felt Hat Day, people would usually stomp the hats of their friends for fun and to promote buying new hats. During September most men would wear felt hats as they were acceptable attire for the start of fall. When the change was announced, teenagers started to tip people’s hats off the street and stomp on them for fun on September 13th, 1922.

Permalink photo of men wearing hats during the 1922 Straw hat riot (Source: Ripleys)

Some of the men were not happy and even started beating up teenagers that took it too far. Some of the teenagers armed themselves and a lot of violence took place in the following days. On the 15th of September, the teenagers rioted by wearing straw hats. Some of the riots were peaceful whilst most were violent.

Although it is not such a big factor, this had put off a lot of men from wearing hats around some parts of the United States (especially in New York). Today most men do not wear hats, I find myself to be one of the very few who rarely leave their house without a hat on top of my head. For me, it is a fashion statement of the old times when people truly were fashionable (personal opinion).

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