In European caps of the 1920s-40s, its the French makers who seem to have pushed the stylistic boat out. I recently bought another fancy crown cap, with three ridges running from the point of the crown front, to the back. Strangely the cap doesn’t have a snap on the peak, meaning it cap be worn “up” or down. A purely aesthetic belt is fixed under the front of the crown, and has the usual pair of decorative buttons at the temples. The fabric is typical of the era. The brand is “Prima Sport” and was sold by Emile Dupont in Boussu in the French speaking part of Belgium. Glorious!
Continuing my unintended recent trend of hat posts, here’s another recent find of mine. This G. A. Dunn & Co cap probably dates to the 1930s but could be slightly older. The construction is very British with a 3-piece top and rather large bill. It has a very interesting snap with lovely embossing that I’ve seen on other very old caps. It’s in a multi-tone houndstooth tweed that I’ve been seeking for many years, but sadly is far too big for me! Bugger …
I know I seem to be posting a lot of fedoras right now, but this is dictated by what I find. I’ll try to post more varied stuff!
So much of vintage menswear dating is guesswork. Unlike for women – where a garment can often be pinned down to a season of a specific year – fashions for men in general change so slowly that we’re reduced to trimmings and linings most of the time in trying to date the stuff, and even then it’s really just guessing.
Fedoras/trilbys are the most difficult menswear items to date accurately, in my opinion. Styles changed from season to season, but the range of styles is miniscule, dictated by flattering proportions of brim and crown. Fashionable styles therefore were recycled identically within maybe only a year. With American hats that often had named styles, it’s often possible to pin down earliest possible dates. But British hats tend to have generic labels. If the hatter had a Royal Warrant it can be possible to pin down earliest and latest dates. But this is rare, and the potential time periods tend to be long (Edward VIII being the exception).
This hat is an anomaly. It’s a very beautiful, lightweight trilby made by Glyn and Co. of Old Bond Street and sold by the famous Berteil of Paris. At first glance the low crown and narrow brim would suggest a 1960s date, as it did to me. On closer inspection, the postcode “W” is a clue to an earlier date (this has been W1 for a very long time). And under the sweatband is a date label! The best dating clue possible. This hat was made in 1939. Maybe a sporting hat, given its proportions, or just the stylish hat for the 1939 Summer season?
This is a recent find, from a flea market in Barcelona. The brand is Super Boreal, and it was sold by W. Kaufmann of Baden, Switzerland. Its dimensions and features are strongly indicative of a 1920s or 1930s date. There is a page from a magazine dated 1948 in the back of the sweatband to reduce the size, but this will have been placed there in 1948, and long after the hat was purchased, possibly when the hat was passed down to a young family member.
I like returning the hats I find to the original creases. Typically this is easy to achieve by lightly creasing the crown and seeing which creases the hat naturally forms. In this case the original owner was a bit of a fancy pants, putting in an S-shaped crease, a slight variation on the standard centre crease, with no side dents.
The page folded up behind the sweatband, from Illustrierte Rundschau, is dated 9 October 1948, giving 66 years as the youngest possible age of the hat, though it’s probably much older.
It fits slightly bigger than the stated 55cm, so just right for my head. Here it is in action a couple days afterwards hunting through a pile of old ties at the sadly sanitised and commercialised Els Encants Vells, Barcelona’s most famous flea market. It’s no longer the haven for vintage pickers that it used to be …
Another black hat, and another Central/Eastern European velour finish. This one is more of a smooth finish than the German long hair I posted yesterday. The markings on the sweatband shows that it was made by Kalapgyár (literally, ‘Hat Factory’)/Budapest/XIV. Gisella Ut-44. On the labels: Fogy. ár is the price. Ellenörizve (‘checked’) is the quality control. FEKETE is black and Antilop is, unsurprisingly, Antelope and could be the felt finish.
Now for the detective work, with huge thanks to Steve over at the Fedora Lounge, to try to figure out how old it is. So, we know that Kalpagyar was at Gisella Ut-44 in Budapest XIV. It turns out that Budapest XIV came into existence in 1935 being formed fro bits of 3 different previous regions, so that gives an earliest date. There was a hat factory at Gisella Ut-44 listed in Kelly’s Directory Of Merchants, Manufacturers And Shippers, 1915, Hat Manufacturers in Budapest but that the company was called Ung. Woll-, Stumpen und Hutfabriks A.G. This company may have provided materials to J. Hückel’s Söhne, the major German hat manufacturers (see invoice fro Steve below). Some markings on the label could correspond to the JHS Futter (850), Leder (902), and Farbe (8065) designations. The name of the company that made this hat – Kalpagyar – suggests post war Soviet nationalisation of the pre-existing company.
Finally, Steve dug out an undated environmental assessment that mentions “Giselle street No. 40-42 Hat Factory has been discontinued Foundation schools , the construction industry
designer company operates.”
Whew. All that work to find out it’s probably a late 40s-early 50s hat, as I suspected.
I think most vintage collectors are coming around to the idea that central European felt hat bodies were hands down the best. From fine soft felts to luxurious velour and satin finishes, German hats in particular from the 1920s and 30s are utterly glorious to hold and wear. This hat was probably made for a German company sometime in the 1920s or early 30s and is made of soft felt in a long-ish hair felt finish. Inside, there is just the remains of a maker’s label which gives no information, and what looks like an inspectors sticker with a “43” in very Germanic script. Sadly a bit of a wreck with the sweatband and liner missing, but that doesn’t stop me wearing it.
This was my favourite fedora for a long time. It’s a bit Indiana Jones for some people’s taste (at least the braying from car windows as I walk down the street would suggest so) but the wide brim and tall crown are very appealing.
It was made by Dobbs, and cost $40 back in the day. That’s about $500 of your 2014 dollars, according to http://www.measuringworth.com, if we assume it was bought in 1945. This was certainly a high end hat. The brim features The Guild Edge (see embossed sweatband), Dobbs’ version of the famous Cavanagh Edge, a self-felted overwelt that was built while the hat body was being made. This is very labour-intensive and skilled work, that no hat body Mfrs are willing to undertake today on any kind of scale. The sweatband itself is truly lovely with embossed “stars inside cubes” running around the top. The original box states that this was “Ralph’s Hat”, and Ralph is probably the RU who’s initials appear on the sweatband.