Get Ahead, Get A Hat

Following a request from my lovely blogging friend, Lara, I have been investigating the headgear worn in Victorian times.
You can read her blog here. https://laratracehentz.wordpress.com/

She was interested in the use of Beaver pelts in hat making, and their popularity in men’s hats. Only male headgear features in this post.

A Victorian Top Hat made from felted Beaver fur. (1880)

To save me typing out all the information, this short article is from Wikipedia.
As you can see, the popularity of hats made from Beaver fur goes back to the 14th century, perhaps even much earlier.

‘A beaver hat is a hat made from felted beaver fur. They were fashionable across much of Europe during the period 1550–1850 because the soft yet resilient material could be easily combed to make a variety of hat shapes (including the familiar top hat). Smaller hats made of beaver were sometimes called beaverkins, as in Thomas Carlyle’s description of his wife as a child.

Used winter coats worn by Native Americans were actually a prized commodity for hat making because their wear helped prepare the skins; separating out the coarser hairs from the pelts.
To make felt, the underhairs were shaved from the beaver pelt and mixed with a vibrating hatter’s bow. The matted fabric was pummeled and boiled repeatedly, resulting in a shrunken and thickened felt. Filled over a hat-form block, the felt was pressed and steamed into shape. The hat maker then brushed the outside surface to a sheen.
Evidence of felted beaver hats in western Europe can be found in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, written in the late 14th century: “A Merchant was there with a forked beard / In motley, and high on his horse he sat, / Upon his head a Flandrish [Flemish] beaver hat.” Demand for beaver fur led to the near-extinction of the Eurasian beaver and the American beaver in succession. It seems likely that only a sudden change in style saved the beaver.

Beaver hats were made in various styles as a matter of civil status:

the Wellington (1820–40)
the Paris beau (1815)
the D’Orsay (1820)
the Regent (1825)
the clerical (18th century).
In addition, beaver hats were made in various styles as a matter of military status:

the continental cocked hat (1776)
Navy cocked hat (19th century)
the Army shako (1837).
The popularity of the beaver hat declined in the early/mid-19th century as silk hats became more fashionable across Europe.’

By the end of the 1800s, Beaver pelts were in short supply. European beavers had been almost wiped out, and the steady trade from North America had eliminated almost all of the beavers in America and Canada too. This had a significant impact on the economy of Native American tribes in those countries, who had been trading pelts with French and English dealers for centuries.

The hat makers turned to silk, for their well-to-do customers.

Despite the style of the top hat enduring well into the 20th century, other styles of headgear were also popular in Victorian times. As you can see from this contemporary illustration, two of these men are wearing ‘Bowler’ hats, and the third has on a straw ‘Boater’.

The Bowler hat was favoured by the middle classes, and is still worn today by some men.

During hot weather, many men wore straw hats, to be more comfortable.
The tall straw hat was favoured by many.

But the smaller, lightweight ‘Boater’ was perhaps the most popular hat during summertime.

The ‘Deerstalker’ hat originated from hunting deer. The front peak shielded the hunter’s eyes, and the matching back peak stopped rainwater going down his neck. The ear-flaps could be tied down to cover the ears and cheeks, in cold weather.
This style was popularised by Conan-Doyle, in the Sherlock Holmes stories.

Working class people could rarely afford stylish hats, and tended to wear flat caps made from cheap materials.

Hat wearing continued well into the 1960s, with the Trilby hat most widely seen. Most men of my generation never wore hats of any kind, regarding them to be old-fashioned.

These days, more and more people of all ages and gender are wearing baseball caps, an import from the USA.

New Year: Same Blog?

I don’t make new year resolutions. Every time I have done so in the past, they have failed miserably. Even when I just say something innocent, like “I will get round to that next year”, before I know it, that year has passed, and I didn’t do whatever it was.

2019 will be my seventh year of blogging, with the anniversary in the summer. Over the past few weeks, I am pleased to report my highest consistent daily views ever, with lots of very welcome comments on posts too. With that in mind, I am not planning any huge changes in the way I present this blog, or the content I post about.

As always, posts about Ollie remain popular, and my fiction pieces have a small but loyal following too. Adding photos to any post gives it an immediate boost, and although my series on songs and music are dear to my heart, they undoubtedly attract the least interest. That’s understandable. Musical taste is very personal. Blogging tips and opinions are by far the most popular subject. As I say repeatedly here, bloggers do love to read about blogging.

Two weeks into this new year, I have decided that change is not necessary. As Wellington said of the French Army at Waterloo, I will “Keep on coming on, in the same old way”.

If you are happy for my blog to stay the same, there’s no need to comment. If you have the opposite opinion, and would dearly love to see less of some things, and more of others, let me know. And if there’s something you really dislike, feel free to tell me that too.

I won’t promise to do anything about it, but I would be very interested to know.

How to have a popular blog

Continuing my seemingly endless series of posts about blogging, I have more tips for new bloggers, or for those of you with tired or stagnant blogs. As I approach my fifth anniversary of blogging, and have reached a current total of 1,222 posts, I have noticed a few things along the way.

Many of us are more than content with our blogging lot; happy with the way things are, and we bumble along in the same old way. Yet there are a lot of bloggers who watch the tumbleweed pass over their blogs. They yearn for more interaction, and become disappointed with the performance of their blog. It was not how they thought it was going to be when they started, that’s for sure. They tire of posting, wonder if it is all worth the effort, and sometimes just give up on the idea.

So, how do you get off to a good start, or revitalise a blog that has hit the doldrums? I have a few suggestions that you could try.

1) Post photos. People love to look at pictures, and generally prefer them to reading text. After all, if they just want to read, they could curl up with a good book.

2) If you don’t want to take photos, add images, gifs, or graphics. These are easily available, and free to find, all over the Internet.

3) When you run out of ideas, re-blog somebody else’s posts. If they have a re-blog button on the page, just use it, and allow your readers to see that you are bothering to read other posts, even if you are not writing any yourself. Add a nice comment, and perhaps advise the original blogger that you are going to do the re-blog. It is an easy way to get out of a blogging slump, and helps someone else in the process.

4) Specialise. If like me, you have a general blog, with a few categories and a mix and match approach to blogging, you may discover that this is not working for you. When this happens, it is time to specialise. Pick something you know about, perhaps a hobby, or a lifelong interest, and revise your blog into one on a specialist subject. Then follow lots of other blogs on that subject, and you will soon become part of a community again.

5) Change your theme. If you have settled on a theme from day one, and never changed it, you might find a new look is all that is needed to brighten things up, and renew interest from others. WordPress has a large number of free themes, and you can preview your blog on them, as many times as you like.

6) Delete your old blog, and start a completely new one, with a different name. If you have reached the stage where you no longer feel you are getting anywhere, re-think the whole process, and start from scratch. If you have active followers, you can write a last post informing them of the change, and a link to your new blog.

7) People cannot comment on posts if you don’t publish any. Just because you got only four views on your last effort, and no likes, doesn’t mean that the process is pointless. Your next post may well hit the spot, and be more rewarding for you. But you have to publish it, or you will never know.

8) Remember why you started blogging. Keep it in mind when it all doesn’t turn out like you had hoped it would. If it was a good reason, then it’s worth continuing, if only for yourself.

9) Don’t give up too soon. Rewarding blogging doesn’t happen overnight. There is no quick fix, and it takes time and effort to establish yourself in a blogging community. Be determined, and keep going.

10) Look at lots of other blogs. Don’t just post your stuff in isolation, and expect everyone to come knocking at your door. That won’t happen. Read what others have to say, and look at how they are saying it. Steal a few ideas by all means, but keep your own style, as copycat bloggers are always obvious.

There you have ten more tips. They are useful for new bloggers, and also for experienced bloggers who have become weary. Remember, almost any blog can be improved. You just have to want to do it.

Themes and appearances

Update to this post.  After all the -most welcome- comments, I am now using this theme (called Penscratch)  for a while, and experimenting with header photos. This current photo is not mine, but very like the area nearby where I walk Ollie by the river. It will do for now.

I think most bloggers get to the stage where they become tired of using the same theme and style to present their posts. Many change these themes regularly, others once a year, or on a whim. Some change when their own blogging style changes, or use the themes to reflect their moods. Many photographic bloggers look for styles that showcase photos well, and some literary bloggers prefer darker, black or brown themes, with light text, when they are discussing books and stories.

I have used my theme since day one. I picked it to give a ‘warm and cosy’ look, with an idea of the countryside. As I rarely publish photos, I felt that I didn’t need a landscape format, or bright background, and the A4 page design seemed to suit my idea of a ‘journal’ too. The green and grey text on a clear background seemed to me to be able to be ‘read well’, and the absence of any border images meant that nothing distracted from the words.

After almost three years, I am now getting a little tired of this theme though, and wondering if it is not looking a little stale. I have recently made use of the excellent preview feature provided by WordPress, to examine just what my blog would look like, if I changed to something new. After trying more than twenty different themes for size, I didn’t feel comfortable enough with any of them, to risk the change completely.

So not for the first time, I am throwing the topic open to my dear readers and followers. What do you think? Do you like the current theme? (MistyLook) Should I stick with it, or do you think I should grasp the nettle, and change completely? Or would that just be too strange?
Please let me know in the comments.