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Street Scenes, mid 20th Century


Men raising their hats to women, 1940s - 60s UK

Doffing the hat

Men's hats in the mid-1900s

When outside in the 1940s and into the 1950s or 60s, men of a certain age wore a dark beige or grey hat that was typical of the time. It was called a 'trilby'.

trilby hat, 1940s style

Man's trilby hat, 1940s style

Raising hats to women

It was common practice at the time for men to touch these hats in a type of salute whenever they passed a woman acquaintance. This must have been a leftover from previous generations when men swept into a low bow while holding the hat in one hand. This was known as doffing the hat.

By the mid 1900s, though, doffing had degenerated into the mere token of simply touching their hats when they saw a woman they knew. Nevertheless it was still a normality as all the men seemed to do it.

Man touching hat to a woman, a normal gesture in the 1940s and early 1950s, a left-over of doffing the hat

Man touching his hat to a woman in the street, a left-over from doffing the hat in previous times. Photographed at Milton Keynes 1940s weekend.

Incidentally my father would never have referred to any female he knew as a 'woman'. She was always a 'lady'.

The practice of men touching hats to women, probably went out of fashion at the same time as hats for men went out of fashion.

The hat stand

So common was this hat-wearing that an essential piece of furniture was somewhere to place the hat indoors. (It was considered seriously bad manners for men to wear their hats indoors.)

In homes, this was the hall stand, and in offices and restaurants it was a hat stand with multiple rounded hooks of the sort shown in the photo. The curved arrangement held hats securely but kept their shape. Underneath were standard hooks for coats etc. Nearer floor level was a ring for umbrellas and sticks. I only ever saw hat stands made of dark wood.

portable hat stand for hats, coats and umbrellas, common in offices and restaurants in the mid 1900s

Hat stand which had hooks for hats and coats and somewhere for sticks and umbrellas.

In wealthy houses, particularly in previous years, the butler was always expected to take visitors' hats.

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