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Archive > Archive Stories > A History of School Hats

A History of School Hats

School Hats
School Hats

A hat with an identifiable band was the first piece of school uniform introduced in the early years of the 20th Century when the school was in Acton.

Miss Gilliland’s General Directions include

“Every girl must wear, coming to and from School, a plain white straw sailor hat with the school ribbon & badge.”

Whilst the document is undated Miss Gilliland’s headship was between 1904 and 1919.  The school magazine published in the spring term of 1913 includes the phrase “we have a blue & red hat band.”

The school archive includes this example of the first blue and red hat band.

The straw sailor hat was a fashion from the later Victorian era and so it would have been readily available for parents to purchase.

According to “The humble sublimity of the straw hat swept with all its glory through the 1890s—1920s.”

The blue and red colour scheme did not last very long as two examples of hat bands held in the school archive show it was replaced by the green and red scheme that we still use today.

(Hat bands worn by Louise Coules who attended the school from 1913 to 1923.)

Whilst the dating information on the labels may not be accurate given the other evidence it does show the evolution of the school hat band during Louise Coules time as a pupil (1913-1923).

The next development in school hats occurred in the academic year 1920-21 according to the magazine published in the summer term of 1921.

“During the winter [1920-21], black felt hats were worn instead of the straw summer hats.  At the end of the Summer Term [1921] a school blazer was decided on.  It is of navy blue with the school arms on the pocket and will be ready to wear before the beginning of the Autumn Term.”

In summer 1928, Miss Sprules wrote to parents “that school winter hats will cost rather more than usual (9/11) but will be of velour and should wear longer.”  Creating a velour finish required extra processes but the surface was glossier than the original felt and had a nap.  The decimal equivalent of 9s 11d is just less than 50p, equivalent to about £31.62 in 2020.

Una Watson (Mrs Black 1922-2010) was at school from Preparatory in September 1928 until UV in July 1939.  The whole school photograph taken in 1937 shows the youngest pupils of the school still wearing mufti and so this photograph (below) of her probably dates from her latter years in the Junior school or to mark her start in Middle School in autumn 1934.  The shape of the neck of the tunic cannot be discerned under the blazer but if it were square then it is a gymnastic tunic and if it is round then it is the uniform tunic which was introduced in January 1935.

(Straw hat with hat band and blazer probably, given the likely date of the photograph, over the gymnastic tunic and shirt which had been worn by pupils since 1905.)

This photograph of St Catherine’s Day 1940 at Dorchester with the Bishop of Salisbury (Rev EN Lovett) shows the pupils wearing winter hats with a down turned brim and carrying their gas masks.

Whilst this photograph of Joyce Magor taken in May 1944 shows the same style of straw hat as Una’s some 10 or so years earlier, by July 1950 when the photograph (second photo below) of Kathleen Rollinson and her sister, Joyce, was taken the brim is more upturned.

A uniform list from the early 1970’s shows that two styles of summer hat were used which were available from John Sanders Department Store, The Broadway, Ealing W5 and cost £1.47 for Juniors and £2.80 for the boater worn in Middle and Upper School.  Whilst Nicola Ivinson (Mrs Walters from the Class of 1971) remembers that the sixth form wore a different hat with metal badge on hatband.

(From the school archive an example of the metal hat badge and ribbon worn by the sixth form.)

Mrs Wiltshire’s first letter as headmistress dated 19 December 1974 states:

“Hats are optional in the Middle and Upper School for day-to-day wear, but will still be worn on formal occasions.  Other headgear may not be worn with school uniform, and if a hat is worn it must be the school hat.”

Junior school hats continue to be worn until the present day.  This photograph on the 2009 school prospectus shows a younger pupil wearing a summer boater (all be it back to front) which were phased out in about 2011/2012.

For many years they wore knitted red bobble hats in the winter which were replaced by thermal reversible green and red hat in about 2014.

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