16 June, 2013

"Sunday Runway - The Straw Boater Riots . . . "


Well, it seems we've had our first proper warm, summer weather here in SF this week - and that almost always turns my thoughts to summer accessories.  I've been slogging through madras blazers and linen pants for more than a week now.  But, for those of you who know me well . . . you'll also know that, despite my having reached almost 50 years on this quiet, yet frantic earth, I still have managed to keep a full head of hair - and you'll also know of my unending love of wearing hats to cover the aforementioned hair.  Thusly, we come to the straw boater.

I think part of my obsession with boaters is the fact that they somehow manage to straddle the ground between proper ivy-styled conservative gear . . . and the more stylized, dandy English way of dressing.  Working a dizzying range from Southern seersucker social - to Henley Regatta race day.

But not everything was smooth and genteel in the world of the straw boater - read on at your own risk . . .

From the Henley Royal Regatta, 2006

Back at the turn of the last century, it was quite common to wear one's straw boater during the summer . . . but, it was also regularly accepted that the official cut-off date for proper men to wear their boaters was on September 15th - after which one would transition to felt hats.  Oddly, the ritual never seemed to be associated with Labor Day or the first day of Fall.  And though it was originally accepted that the date was September 1st . . . gradually it settled on the 15th.

From Social Primer, K. Cooper Ray 

It was also regularly accepted that if you wore your boater *after* September 15th . . . you could expect to have your hat knocked off by any of the youngsters in the city and receive and certain amount of good-natured roughhousing and/or pranksterism.  Kinda like not wearing green on St. Patrick's Day - lol.

It was all well and good . . . until September 13th, 1922.

The morning dawned warm and bright in New York City.  And both gentlemen and workers headed out into the city with their jaunty boaters atop their heads - but for some reason the young hooligans in the city decided to start their various hooliganism a few days early.  Boaters were knocked off heads - and the hats were either stomped on or punched through and left on the streets.
Drew and me . . . at the Oscar de la Renta Fashion show at Lake Tahoe.

It was all sort of in good fun . . . until a few of the youngsters decided to hassle the dock workers on the east side - and as one might expect - the dock workers didn't take it very well.  Things began to unravel fairly quickly.  A brawl began . . . and spread to the point that the Manhattan Bridge had to be closed and the police were called in to try and contain the melee.  Before long . . . a proper riot had broken out.

By evening . . . it was a mess.  The disturbance had spread across the east side of the city - and men on the west side were also harassed by gangs of young rabble-rousers.  It was hoped that it would have settled down overnight - but, the rioting continued into the next day . . .   

"But the riots continued the next day, moving from the East Side to the Upper West Side, where Amsterdam Avenue was reportedly packed with straw hat partisans. 'In some cases, mobs of hundreds of boys and young men terrorized whole blocks,' reported one article. 'Complaints poured in upon the police from men whose hats were stolen and destroyed. But as soon as the police broke up the gangs in one district, the hoodlums resumed their activities elsewhere.' Not even police were exempt from the danger: “One police sergeant was tripped and fell into a gutter while chasing boys who had battered his hat,” the Associated Press reported on September 16."

Dozens were arrested . . . though reports spoke of over a thousand hooligans disturbing the peace in the city.

So the heat of summer is upon us . . . and I've pulled out my boater.  But, only until September.  Take note.


resourced from here and here.


Karena said...

Scot you look quite fine in your straw boater! By the way thank you again for participating in my 2013 Designers Series!

Art by Karena

Merlin said...

I did NOT know that! Go forth and wear!! franki

Rick Bryant said...

Great stuff, Scot! Super photos, too!

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