Crime Waves and Violent Fads From History That Were Just Weird

Traditional straw boaters. De Tejours

39. Snatching Hats From Strangers’ Heads

Straw hats for men began gaining popularity in America during the nineteenth century. Light and permeable, they were typically worn during summer, often at sports outings. Most popular was the straw boater, originally worn at boating events. At first, the era’s fashion police gave straw hats the side eye and frowned upon their use. However, they gradually won acceptance, and by the late nineteenth century, straw hats were standard summertime male headgear.

However, the acceptance came with a caveat. An unwritten rule developed, decreeing that straw hats were strictly summertime wear. September 1st emerged as an arbitrary end date for straw hat season. It was later extended to September 15th, which came to be known as “Felt Hat Day”. A tradition emerged, whereby those wearing straw hats past the cutoff date were liable to have them snatched off their heads and destroyed by friends and acquaintances. It was all in good fun at first. Then it morphed into widespread crime, when strangers began taking the liberty of snatching straw hats off the heads of people with whom they were unacquainted. The results were violence, and eventually, widespread rioting.