"Jim," said Christina, "do
you think when we are married, we might live in town?"
"In town," said the Duke
aghast. "In London, do you mean, and wear a tall hat all the year round?"
"London," said Christina
dryly," will soon become depopulated, unless the fashion of gentlemen's
headgear is altered: Ihave never heard better reason given for not
living in London, the capital, than that they would be obliged to wear a
silk hat."—The Fortune of Christina Macnab.
OF the male sex, we little
fellows fared best. When the day came for the change from the skirt stage of
,i a-fancy, we were fairly well treated. ; he time of the trousers brought
up over the sleeved close-buttoned waistcoat was no longer. I narrowly
escaped that fearful dress, which we see in old pictures. 1 rousers, jacket,
and waistcoat, with a peaked cap, made a sensible and neat costume.
he only difference i A the
linen part of the dress from that of to-day was that the collar was spread
out over the shoulders, and was often pictorially adorned with hunting or
racing scenes, portraits of cricketers, or pictures of birds and beasts
printed upon them. But we could not escape the absurdity on great occasions
or Sundays of having a tall hat stuck on the head above a round jacket. When
our parents adopted the most preposterous head-dress that was ever devised
by what some would call "the wit of man," they might well have spared their
children from a fashion so unsuitable to the very idea of boyhood. Doubtless
we were rather proud when the day came that we were "to be like father," and
were taken to the hatter to be fitted with our first chimney-pot. But where
was common sense: The result is that today the old-fashioned etiquette of
schools shows us a crowd of public schoolboys, in Eton and Windsor and
elsewhere, Visiting their tuck shops with hats well on the back of the head
and hands deep in the pockets, while all the other gentlemen in the streets
wear their comfortable, sensible head gear, rminutely more consistent with
what ordinary dress should be, convenient and neat. Of course someone will
say, "But it s so smart. Well, I deny that. Whatever they maybe, on gala
days, the lads who are compelled to wear cut-away coats and tall hats on
ordinary occasions present themselves as anything but smart. Indeed they
seem to affect a slovenly mien. If a grown-up gentleman walked down
Piccadilly with his head well down and a tall hat on the back of it, and
with his hands in his pockets, would anyone call it a sight indicating
smartness? But it is not merely a question of smartness.
Divest the mind for a moment
of the idea, if that be possible, that there ever had been a tall
"chimney-pot" hat worn by any human being, and what can one imagine would be
the reception given to a proposal to introduce it now. History does not tell
us who invented it, or who was first seen wearing such a thing. But whoever
he was, it is recorded of him that his appearance was greeted with
indignation and so great an objecting crowd assembled that he was haled
before the City Magistrate, charged with "conduct calculated"—in police
language—"to provoke a breach of His Majesty's peace/' Yet the. day came
when it had practically no rival. Everywhere <t asserted itself as the
dominant in head-gear. In my infancy I saw :t worn by all ranks.
The clergy, the lawyers, the
doctors, the country gentlemen, the town gentlemen, the tradesmen, the
hawkers on the streets, all wore tall hats in varying stages of smoothness
or dilapidation. Officials were all seen m tall hats, unless they had to
carry shoulder burdens.
he tall hat was also ordered
by authority for civil servants. When a host of postmen had to be engaged to
deliver the enormous masses of letters, which were the immediate result of
Rowland Hill's reform, and the introduction of id. postage, they were all
paraded in tall hats, with bright yellow bands, cruel in hot weather, and
ingeniously adapted to pour down falling rain from the brims on to the
letters as the postman bent his head to read the addresses. The constable on
his beat wore a tall hat, glazed on the top, and with two glazed strips down
the sides. A single policeman trying to deal with exuberant youths or
rowdies soon saw his hat used as a football, or found it crushed down over
his eyes. A greater temptation to the unruly could not be imagined. The very
signalmen and pointsmen on the railways performed their duties in tall hats,
their work at that time being done on the ground. And in society the tall
hat was worn by all classes.
In the country the very
ploughmen and labourers wore the tall hat on Sundays, and at the hum blest
funeral ''twas universal. Even the street beggar doffed a hat shining from
water- brushing as he begged a copper.
It was the same in the region
of sport. Not only in the hunting field, where it was favoured as a
protection against a broken neck, but also in the cricket field, on the
golfing green, and in the shooting-covers, it reigned supreme. Of the first
All England Eleven that came to Scotland I saw at least one-half wearing
tall hats, and the pictures of the early Forties show hats on the whole
thirteen cricketers, and the two umpires, n the field. Even the soldiers did
not escape, the Royal Marines wearing glazed tall hats, with strings at the
sides, similar to those of an Anglican Bishop.
Two incidents I can recall,
of one of which I was a witness, and as to the other I was credibly
informed, illustrating how the tall hat being worn by the lowest of the low
was utilised for business. A hawker, selling little ornamental chains for
children, was endeavouring to make a sale at the carnage window to an aunt
of mine, when, to show t is varied stock, he took off his tall hat and
produced a coil of his wares out of it for exhibition. The other instance
was of a gentleman on the Mound, whose, smart terrier dog followed him. An
out-at-elbows individual accosted him, and asked if he would like a rat or
two for his dog.
*The reader has doubtless
seen the picture of the golfers at St. Andrews competing in the annual medal
contest, which was painted by Charles Lees, R.S.A., in the early Fortius.
All the golfers and all the spectators are depicted as wearing tall hats.
Assent being given, they went
across to what was then vacant ground on the Mound, where, four rats were
disposed of, which came from the man's tail and breast pockets. Being asked
if he would care for more, the gentleman said, "I'll take every one you
have," whereupon the salesman leaned forward and took off his hat, producing
two more rats out of it, which had been seated on his head.
Fashion is a cruel taskmaster
both ot man and woman. And much that it imposed upon both sexes appears to
us to-day to be eminently absurd. But I think that some of the ladies would
be wilhng to confess that not a few of the changes in their fashions, which
have followed one another with kaleidoscope rapidity, were at least as
absurd, if not more absurd than those of our mothers. Of these changes more
Nor was fashion in those days
confined to dress in the case of the male. There were strict face fashions
also. Whiskers, generally mutton-chop, as distinguished from the later Lord
Dundreary-pendants, were the usual hirsute ornament Mustachios were the
head- mark of cavalry. There can be little doubt that if a clergyman had
appeared in church wearing a moustache, his charge would have seethed with
condemnatory excitement. Perhaps it may be thought to be an exaggeration to
say that he would have been called before the Presbytery, to answer for so
unseemly an offence against propriety. But I feel that I do not exaggerate.
He would not have escaped censure. If any minister had gone the length of
wearing a beard he might possibly not have been open to an actual libel, as
on a famaclamosa of scandal, but he would most certainly have been dealt
with in a drastic manner. Indeed, in those days, anyone who wore a beard
upon his chin was a person to be stared at, and it would, I verily believe,
have been a subject for discussion as to whether he was not a lunatic,
unless his nose tended to exonerate him as being a rabbi. We used to look
with wondering eyes at two "Joanna Southcott's men," named after a woman who
was believed by her followers to be the chosen bringer-in of the second
advent, after the manner of the first. These two were a remnant of those who
shared this belief, although she had died some years before I ever saw them.
It was part of their cult not to mar the beard; they were the only two
persons who in my boyhood allowed their chin to be covered according to
nature. All others, even <f for health reasons they required a natural
covering to the throat, yet scrupulously removed every hair on lip and chin.
It may give an idea of how rigidly special mariners were held to be
essential to respectability, to recount what happened when Lord
Justice-Clerk Hope was presiding in the Court of Justiciary A
solicitor before the Supreme Courts, who was called as a witness, wore Ins
beard, by order of his medical man. When his examination was concluded, the
Lord : ustice-Clerk turned to him, with a frown on his face, and giving him
the full benefit of a gold-rimmed spectacles asked:
"You are a solicitor before
the Supreme Courts?
"Yes, my lord."
"Am I to understand you are
"Yes, my lord."
(After a pause) "Most
It was evidently considered
that for a solicitor to be unshaven was almost a contempt of Court.
In this period, anyone whose
dress had a feature different from what was conventionally looked upon as
correct was certain to be stared at, and not unlikely to be mobbed.
So strict was the uniformity
of dress that there were few persons who attracted attention by
peculiarities of costume. wo who were not like other people I used to see
upon the streets of Edinburgh when I was still a small boy. They were
brothers, who called themselves Sobieski Stuarts. I was told they claimed to
be the successors of the Royal Stuart family, but was assured that their
claim was not genuine. With family Jacobite tendencies, and the memory of
old Macdonald of Kitigsburgh being cherished, I naturally took an interest
in the men, who were fine specimens of manhood. I hey went about in 49 d
blue be-frogged frock-coats, such as were worn n undress uniform by officers
of cavalry, and on a Sunday evening I saw two stalwart Highlanders from the
regiment in the Castle, meeting the Sobiesk: Stuarts, giving them a military
salute. My youthful mind concluded that the Jacobite spirit was in the
private soldier as well as in us. But my impression now is that they took
them for cavalry officers, and paid a simple military compliment. These
Sobiesk) Stuarts disappeared from Edinburgh shortly after this time, and I
never heard of them again.