If you want to get ahead, get a hat!

Celebrating Wear A Hat Day

I just had to write a blog today on” Wear a Hat Day”, given I used to be a marketing manager for a headwear company in Stockport many years ago.

Christy Top Hat

Christy & Co made the traditional top hat and bowler and a vast range of flat caps, and felt and fabric hats, including panamas for Wimbledon. The company was steeped in history – we celebrated 221 years while I was there. Prime ministers, royalty from across the world and celebrities including David Jason, Geoff Boycott and even, Michael Jackson, wore our hand-made headwear. Sales representatives were called ‘Travellers’ and my most successful press release of my career (in terms of response) was on ‘the last apprentice hatter’ or,  ‘journeyman hatter’.  The release coincided with Royal Ascot and we got national and international press and TV coverage for months to come as a result. Unfortunately, as the number of people wearing traditional hats declined, the business was unable (or unwilling) to broaden their product range sufficiently to attract a younger market as baseball caps became fashionable.

Did you know that the catch phrase ‘If you want to get ahead, get a hat’ originates from a marketing campaign by the Hatters’ Development Council in 1948? As fashions became less formal research showed that 4 out of 5 men under 35 were ‘unkindly indifferent’ to what a good hat could do for their appearance and hence British hatmakers came up with a campaign to encourage me to wear hats. “The value of a hat to their careers will be impressed upon them, and to show that hatters are not without an eye for romance the bare-headed will be informed that eight out of ten young women prefer men with hats.”

felt hats

It certainly was an ad of its time! Over the next 70 years, British headwear manufacturers didn’t succeed in encouraging the younger market to wear fedoras or trilbys and did not pick up on the rise of the more informal headwear trends such as baseball caps and woolly hats. Hence, slowly, most businesses fell by the wayside and traditional skills of felting were lost.

And yet, there is some truth to the catch phrase “If you want to get ahead, get a hat”. Whilst working for Christy, I did wear a hat, especially for business purposes. Whenever I did, I noticed people would take me more seriously.  On nearly every occasion, complete strangers would comment on my hat and start a conversation. I started wearing a hat if I needed to go to the bank or an important meeting. I felt more confident. Empowered.

I’ve stopped wearing them now and most of my old hats have sadly gone to charity or were relegated to the children’s dressing up box, but there’s still something inside me that looks back with fondness on my hat wearing days. Perhaps, I will start to wear them again.

There’s a serious element to Wear A Hat Day – it’s to raise awareness for brain-tumour research. Since it was launched in 2010, Wear A Hat Day has raised over £2m to help fund research in this area.  So today, I think of my University of Wolverhampton ex-colleague, Richard Williams, who sadly passed away due to a brain tumour. If you wish to make a donation, wearing a hat, or not, here’s the link  Wear A Hat Day | Brain Tumour Research

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