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(Un)Official Start of Summer - Straw Hat Day

Updated on May 22, 2014

(Un)Official Start of Summer - Straw Hat Day!

Depending on where you live, summer weather can vary wildly. So what's a person to do?

Make the most of summer, naturally, and that means celebrating Straw Hat Day!

Although other dates have been used, May 15 has been most commonly designated as Straw Hat Day, which is considered to be the official launch of straw hat season, and the unofficial start of summer.

According to fashion etiquette, starting May 15, all felt hats should be shelved until September 1. However, it is tacitly agreed among those in the know that straw hats can be worn through September 15 without committing a fatal fashion faux pas.

This article will explore some of the history of Straw Hat Day, the current popularity of straw hats, the many and varied straw hat styles available, straw hats in the arts, in sports, straw hat styles for young and old, and last, but not least, how to clean, care for and keep your woven millinery.


Protect Your Smartphone with a Straw Hat Cover

Hey, Hey, It's Straw Hat Day!

During the early 1900s, the University of Pennsylvania celebrated 'Straw Hat Day' as their main undergraduate spring event on the second Saturday in May. The highlight of this event always included a baseball game against Princeton.

In those days, guidelines for acceptable student attire were laid down and strictly observed, for which male students included fitted suits, collared-shirts with neckties, garters and felt hats. On Straw Hat Day, the men set aside their felt hats and donned straw boaters. Eventually, Straw Hat Day was so popularly accepted in Philadelphia that a straw hat was never worn before the prescribed day.

As you can clearly see in the photo above, the University of Pennsylvania student dress has become less stringently observed as the decades have passed, but the tradition of wearing straw hats has retained its popularity.


It's Straw Hat Day - Don't leave home without one

The photo, above, was published on May 14, 1958, in the Ames (IA) Tribune, one day before Straw Hat Day. Straw hats were commonplace at that time and were considered de riguere to complete a man's summer attire. The five straw-hatted gentlemen featured in this picture represented five of Ames' clothiers and haberdasheries and were offering their finest wares to the president of the Ames, IA Chamber of Commerce, lest he be found to be lacking a proper straw hat.

It was left unsaid as to which hat he chose.

In 1915 Jacksonville, FL, straw hat decorum went so far as to be handled by mayoral proclamation and was 'enforced' by the local constabulary. The entire proclamation was printed in the Jacksonville's Florida Times-Union, a portion of which is included below:

TO-WIT: Ye editors of the public prints shall be empowered to photograph and display in their respective papers the face and form of any offender who shall appear in public without a straw hat on Monday following Straw Hat Day.

SECONDLY, If the offender appear on Tuesday without his straw lid, he shall be forcibly laid hold of by Chief Roach or his trusty men and consigned to Siberia or Tampa or some such desolate location.

Signed, Van C. Swearingen, mayor of Jacksonville

Evidently, Jacksonville residents took the edict seriously; both the mayor's office and police department were besieged by calls the following day. No reports were ever found about any deportations of Straw Hat Day transgressors to Tampa or elsewhere, and Mayor Swearingen, a former blacksmith and municipal court judge, later went on to become Florida Attorney General.

Shortly thereafter, Jacksonville's newspaper, the Florida Times-Union, stopped publishing mayoral proclamations.


Straw Hats Date Way Back - Historically, straw hats have undergone the least amount of change throughout the centuries

Straw hats can be found in images dating back to ancient Europe and the Far East.

There are several common styles of straw hats:

Conical - Typically worn by Southeast Asian farmers

Boater - A formal straw hat featuring a flat brim and top

Panama - A finely-crafted, expensive straw hat

Each of these hats are woven using plant fiber, softened using hot water or steam, then hand-made or blocked over a hat form. More expensive straw hats are made with finer fibers and are more tightly and consistently woven. Generally speaking, larger hats are more expensive, due to the fact that there is more time and material required to make their larger size.


Boaters Are A Summer Straw Hat Classic

Whether referred to as a Boater, a Skimmer, a Sailor, or a Katie, this straw hat displays the classic, stiff-brimmed style, worn by gondoliers and dapper gentlemen alike.

The red and navy grosgrain ribbon detail adds a traditional touch.

Wearing a Skimmer will help you keep your cool while looking cool and is the perfect topper for your summer seersucker suit.


Soft-Brim Straw Boater's Hat

Styled after the 1920s original boater, this straw hat features a tightly-woven crown for better sun protection, and a looser side-weave to promote ventilation, keeping you cooler on hot summer days.

Look for 100% Panama straw for long-wearing durability.


Panama Straw Hats Are Not Made In Panama

It is only natural to think that Panama hats are made in Panama, but they are not; they are made in Ecuador. There are two main towns where Panamas are made: Cuenca (kwayn-ka), in the Andes Mountains, produces the largest quantities of Panamas, while Montecristi, on the coast, makes the finest Panama hats.

Woven using leaves from the toquilla straw plant (Carludovica palmata), Panamas got their name from their point of international sale, the Isthmus of Panama, rather than their actual point of manufacture, Ecuador. This was a common occurrence for many nineteenth and early twentieth-century South American-made products.

California gold-rush miners going through Panama as they made their way west in the late 1840s, admired and bought these hats, as did President Theodore Roosevelt, when he visited the construction site of the Panama Canal some fifty-odd years later. The hat's fame and popularity spread, sales increased and Panamas quickly became considered to be the prince of straw hats, a status they continue to hold to this day.


Royalty and Straw Hats - Fascinators Fascinate

The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, brought the fascinator into the fashion spotlight. These two 'crushed rose' fascinators styles are very similar to those worn by the royal fashionista. Styles of fascinators vary greatly, but summer straw models abound.


SCALA Women's Sinamay Clip Fascinator, Black, One Size
SCALA Women's Sinamay Clip Fascinator, Black, One Size

What could be simpler than this fascinator headband?


Proper 2014 Royal Ascot Attire Guidelines - It makes for fascinating reading

According to the 2014 Royal Ascot Dress Code Announcement, released by the Ascot Racecourse, all women entering Ascot's Royal Enclosure must wear clothing which meets the following requirements:

- Hats with a diameter of four inches or more are mandatory.

- Skirts must sit no higher than just above the knee

- Dresses that are strapless, off the shoulder, halter-neck or with straps narrower than an inch are off limits. Those women found in inappropriate dress will be required to purchase a Pashmina shawl, which will provide adequate coverage.

Even in the less formal grandstand:

- Women must wear a fascinator or hat, and if they are found lacking the proper headgear, they will be asked to purchase a fascinator, which will be available for sale.

- Ties are a must for men.

The Brits do racing like no others: formal, flirty, fabulous!

(Oddly enough, there is no mention in the new style guide that prevents racegoers from displaying their tattoos.)


Straw Hats In The Movies - The hat makes the man

From Gregory Peck's simple colonial-style Panama hat in 'To Kill A Mockingbird, to Clark Gable's immortal Panama planter hat in 'Gone with the Wind', to Sydney Greenstreet's classic Panama optimo in 'Casablanca', these variations of Panama straw hat styles have helped to shape these movie characters and indelibly etch their images in our minds.


To Kill a Mockingbird © 1962

Pakula-Mulligan Productions, Inc. & Brentwood Productions, Inc.

Women's Straw Hats In The Movies

Never one to give short shrift to any topic, I want to be sure to include a couple of examples of women's straw hats in the movies:

Who can forget Stockard Channing, as 'Aunt Fran' in "Practical Magic', wearing the stunning custom, handwoven, oversized floppy hat, seen above, made using the very rare 'Paglina' braided straw technique created on special Swiss looms?


Or the sophisticated diplomat, Jill Bryant, played by Sigourney Weaver, wearing a Breton-style Panama straw hat in the movie, 'The Year of Living Dangerously'?

Both women and their summer straw hats are breathtaking, unique and help to develop each character and propel their respective movie's storyline.


Nothing Says Western Chic Like a Classic Straw Cowboy Hat - Stay cool and sit tall in the saddle with a straw cowboy hat

Beloved by country-western superstars, Hollywood celebrities, kids and just plain folks, a straw cowboy hat is the great equalizer. Available in a multitude of colors, styles, finishes and degrees of distressing, straw cowboy hats come in prices to fit every pocketbook.

There are many US manufacturers of straw cowboy hats, one of which is the American Hat Company:

Handcrafted since 1915 in Texas, the American Hat Company is known as 'The Professional Cowboy's Choice' for felt and straw cowboy hats. With eleven different crown and trim options, and thirteen brim choices in the straw cowboy hat category alone, there are dozens of offerings, any one of which will provide plenty of practical sun protection and stylish fashion choices.

According to the American Hat website:

"With their vented crowns, unique super tough finish, and with their comfortable long oval block, American Hats are the perfect choice for work or dress. The American Hat Company is the sole leader in design, durability, and distinction. Whether in the rodeo arena or the show ring, AMERICAN HAT COMPANY IS THE "COWBOY'S CHOICE."


Straw Cowboy Hats for Him, Her, and the Kids

U.S. Toy H243 Cowboy Hat
U.S. Toy H243 Cowboy Hat

Classic straw cowboy hat

Kids Straw Cowboy Sheriff Hat w/Star (2 Pack)
Kids Straw Cowboy Sheriff Hat w/Star (2 Pack)

Protect the kids from damaging sun with these pint-sized straw cowboy hats

Straw Cowboy Hat
Straw Cowboy Hat

Smart straw cowboy hat


Care To Share Your Opinion? - Image from Microsoft Office

Which summer straw hat do you favor most?

See results

How to Clean A Straw Hat

Just as you clean your home to keep it looking good and lasting a long time, keeping your summer straw hat clean will extend its lifespan.

  1. Use a soft-bristled brush in a counter-clockwise movement to gently buff off pollen, dust and debris from your hat before storing.
  2. Stuff your hat's crown with tissue or keep it on a head form.
  3. Store your hat in a hatbox, on a peg or hook, or on your closet's top shelf. The idea is to keep it from getting damaged.
  4. Keep hats away from sun, to prevent the fibers from drying out and breaking.
  5. Do not wear a straw hat in the rain, unless it is designed for that purpose.

Watch This Video to Learn How to Keep Your Straw Hat Clean - Easy DIY video on cleaning your cowboy straw hat

Simple, Practical Summer Straw Visor - Protect your eyes and skin

If you opt for no other summer straw headgear this year, protect your eyes and skin with this well-made packable sun visor. It features a 4.5" sloping brim in a crescent shape, weighs in at a mere 4 ounces, and rolls up for easy packing. Clean with a damp sponge, allow to air dry. One size fits most, with a hook-and-loop adjustment providing a 21.5" to 23.5" diameter fit.

Ideal for golf, tennis, walking the dog or lazing away a summer afternoon reading a book while lying on a chaise lounge.



Take the time to enjoy Straw Hat Day.

Take the time to enjoy summer.

Take the time to enjoy as many moments of every day as you possibly can.

None of us knows how many moments we get in our lives, so make the most them.


Take a second to jot your thoughts below - I would be honored to hear from you!

Do You Already Have A Special Summer Straw Hat? - Or have you been inspired to treat yourself to a new one?

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    • gadgetbuff profile image


      5 years ago

      That's a lot of useful information. Love the pic of the dog! I'd never get a hat on my goofy dog long enough for a picture.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I'll take one of each thank you very much.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I love this lens, I do not know what I would do without my straw hat, I wear it all the time during the summer months, especially in my flower garden.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      5 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I had a straw hat that we bought for me on a visit to Nassau many, many years ago. That hat held lots of memories, but now it's just a memory since it burned in our house fire. I'm not usually a hat person, but with this selection I could be persuaded! Great page - loved it!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Beautiful lens, great job!

    • biminibahamas profile image


      6 years ago

      What a fun lens a real joy to read!

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 

      6 years ago from Alabama USA

      Hi I enjoyed reading about straw hat day, I wear a straw hat all summer. Congrats on been on the Silly May Monsterboard.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Wearing a hat is a good idea. It keeps the sun off of your head, which keeps your skin healthy. Thank you for publishing this lens.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 

      6 years ago from Shanghai, China

      Hi Kate! Congratulations to you on your great lens and getting featured in the May Holiday Celebrations motherboard - I love this topic - my Dad always wears straw hats in the spring and summer, and they look so cheery to me. I am going to show this one to him.

    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 

      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Great selection of straw hats. Blessed.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      6 years ago

      This was a really fun read.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I've always enjoyed the history and different designs of hats. :) Thank you, your lens made me chuckle. All of my current hats are fabric. I don't think I've had a straw hat for quite some time.

    • Millionairemomma profile image


      6 years ago

      I didn't assign one yet but now I will!

    • Jbackus7 LM profile image

      Jbackus7 LM 

      6 years ago

      can't wait for straw hat day to come around again! i love the sun!

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 

      6 years ago from Washington KS

      OH YES!! I love straw hats. Loved the lens!!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Fun lens. And adorable picture of the dog in the straw hat!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Loved your lens. I could easily wear the summer straw visor. too cute.

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 

      6 years ago from Canada

      I have one but don't use it very often. Thanks for the reminder.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      What a fun holiday - I don't have a straw hat, though! Blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      Posted this to Facebook today so more people could enjoy Straw Hat Day. Fun!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I don't have the right head shape for hats ! - nice lens

    • Kathryn Beach profile image

      Kathryn Wallace 

      6 years ago from Greenbank, WA, USA

      I have a very cute dark blue bowler-type straw hat but I love the shade from hot summer rays that a Panama affords.

    • Kathryn Beach profile image

      Kathryn Wallace 

      6 years ago from Greenbank, WA, USA

      This lens needs more chops! Fantastic and a lot of work I'm sure - it shows!!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great lens - never knew there was a specific date to start wearing a straw hat! Straw boaters were a part of our summer school uniform but only suited a few so not compulsory! Blessed by a SquidAngel.


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