On this day in history : 6th November 1942 – The Church of England relaxes the rule that women must wear a hat when in Church….

Image credit : Kaye on Flickr – Public domain

Britain used to be a nation of hat wearers – it was almost considered indecent to be seen out and about without one…. Head coverings in one form or another have had a place throughout human history…. Crowns, head-dresses, wigs, veils, fascinators, tiaras, hats….whether for ceremonial purposes, professional attire, etiquette or fashion…. Head coverings are essential in many religious practices – a hat may be a compulsory part of a uniform – or it might define a profession…. It could be worn for safety – or perhaps the wearer may simply wish to keep his or her head warm…. In days gone by the type of hat worn would define class….

Public domain

Gone are the days when we would automatically don a hat to nip to the corner shop – unless its as fashion statement or freezing brass monkeys outside…. As hairstyles changed throughout the twentieth century so began the demise of the hat (but undoubtedly quickly pulled out of the closet many a time on a bad hair day)…. Sunglasses were launched in 1929 and by the 1940s nearly everyone was wearing them – eliminating the need of a hat brim to shade the eyes…. Lifestyles had altered, people worked indoors more with fewer toiling in the fields…. Less people used public transport as more and more families owned a car – hats had become a hinderance….

Millinery department of Bourne & Hollingsworth, Oxford Street, London, 1942

The decline in hat wearing became a real concern for milliners and hat makers…. In a 1947 survey, undertaken for the Hat Research Foundation, 19% of men said they chose not to wear a hat “because I had to in the army!”…. The Hat Research Foundation had attempted to halt the decline of the hat’s popularity with a promotional campaign…. In towns that had once thrived on the hat making industry workers were sometimes known to shout abuse at those who went bare-headed – as they were seeing their livelihoods threatened….

Sometimes it might still be necessary to wear a hat, whether for work, safety, part of a uniform or for etiquette…. And it’s nice to be able to dress up for a formal occasion, such as a wedding – and have the choice of adding a hat to complete an outfit…. Me, I’m just glad it’s not compulsory – as I look ridiculous in a hat!

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