The Boater Hat

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A boater (also basher, skimmer, cady, katie, somer, or sennit hat) is a kind of hat associated with sailing and boating.
It is normally made of sennit straw and has a stiff or soft flat crown and brim, typically with a ribbon around the crown, which is often in colours representing a school, rowing crew or similar institution. Boaters were popular as summer headgear in the late 19th century and early 20th century, and were supposedly worn by FBI agents as a sort of unofficial uniform in the pre-war years. Nowadays they are rarely seen except at sailing or rowing events, period theatrical and musical performances (e.g. barbershop music) or as part of old-fashioned school uniform, such as at Harrow School.

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Inexpensive foam or plastic skimmers are sometimes seen at political rallies in the United States.
In Australia, New Zealand and South Africa the boater is still a common part of the school uniform in many boys schools, such as Shore School, Brisbane Boys' College, Knox Grammar School, Maritzburg College, South African College School, St John's College (Johannesburg, South Africa), Wynberg Boys' High School and numerous Christian Brothers Schools (CBC).

The boater may also be seen worn by the 'carreiros' of Madeira, the drivers of the traditional wicker toboggans carrying visitors from the parish church at Monte (Funchal) down towards Funchal centre.

Being made of straw, the boater was and is generally regarded as a warm-weather hat. In the days when men all wore hats when out of doors, "Straw Hat Day", the day when men switched from wearing their winter hats to their summer hats, was seen as a sign of the beginning of summer. The exact date of Straw Hat Day might vary slightly from place to place. For example, in Philadelphia, it was May 15; at the University of Pennsylvania, it was the second Saturday in May.

The boater is a fairly formal hat, equivalent in formality to the Homburg, and so is correctly worn either in its original setting with a blazer, or in the same situations as a Homburg, such as a smart lounge suit, or with black tie. John Jacob Astor IV was known for wearing such hats.

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Boater hat in Motion Pictures
As the Motion Picture Industry surged, the hat was often seen on the likes of Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire which further increased its popularity among the American public. In films like “Inherit the Wind” or “The Music Man” with Robert Preston, the Boater Hat became a character unto itself. It even garnered its own movie title, the classic comedy, “The Italian Straw Hat”.

Boater hat, widespread fashion appeal
By the 1930’s, the yachting crowd accounted for more than half of the straw hats sales, but by the 1950’s it had gained such widespread fashion appeal, it was no longer exclusive to boaters. It was prominently featured in the 2003 Movie, Seabiscuit, the famous, depression era racehorse.

Boater hat, Straw dress hats
Boater straws are still considered a prime choice for dressy straw hats, worn with evening and formal wear and even the occasional afternoon functions.



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