Hats have been a key element of fashion for most of recorded history. A hat can be a signature statement of who you are, and what you represent. They're a space for branding or individuality. We even have hats that can hold our beer.
Historically hats have also been popular and individuals who made hats, called milliners, have been important figures in the fashion world. In the 1910s, milliners and millinery reached an apex, with hat manufacturing becoming an increasingly important seasonal trade, particularly for women and teenage girls looking for supplemental income. In Buffalo, several different milliners occupied a large chunk of downtown in the vicinity of Lafayette Square and from their buildings manufactured and sold hats throughout the city. One of these wholesale millineries was owned by the Sinclair and Rooney Company and is currently in the process of being rehabilitated into a mixed use apartment building. With that in mind, I decided to look back on the history of hat fashion to examine some of the interesting styles that dominated hats in the early twentieth century.
Before proceeding I first must acknowledge that this will be a look into the history of women's hats. Male hat fashion is relatively boring with bowler hats and other simple designs being the most prominent choices for men in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Male hat fashion was much more restrained and resistant to seasonal fluctuations, fitting more with the male ethos of the time. The hat was a head covering not an expressive display, therefore its design was marked by simplicity bordering on austerity.
|Some Ladies fashion taken from Blog.dancestore.com|
Unlike the stable male hat industry, the market for women's hats was always in flux. High style women's fashion was mean to be expressive and flamboyant, drawing attention to the wearer in the anthesis of austere men's fashion. There was a sense of art to these hats, a beauty reflective of the sadly ornamental role women played in their world. Still, though we can lament the ethics of the 1910s, we cannot deny that those ethics helped create some fascinating and beautiful hats.
The millinery industry was always conscious of the fluctuations in ladies fashion and milliners often went out of business by misjudging a season's hot item. Putting too much money into ostrich feathers and lace when stuffed cardinals and elderberries were in season could be disastrous, and the unpredictability of ladies headwear caught up to Sinclair and Rooney in 1927 when the company went bankrupt. Still, for almost twenty years the company ran its business out of 465 Washington Street where the Sinclair Apartments are set to open sometime this spring http://www.sinclairbuffalo.com/ . The millinery's handiwork can no doubt be seen in classic photos of Buffalo's past and in the basements of some of this city's older residents and reflects an interesting period of both fashion and culture in Buffalo.
|Bird hat from Pintrest.com|