Recently my wife was reading a book entitled A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943) by Betty Smith when she came across a passage which was interesting that she shared with me:
One day, Hildy asked Johnny to bring someone for Katie, her girl friend, the next time they went dancing. Johnny obliged. The four of them rode out to Canarsie on the trolley. The boys wore straw katies with a cord attached to the brim and the other end to their coat lapel. The stiff ocean breeze blew the hats off and there was much laughter when the boys pulled the skimmers back by the cords.
I had not heard of this kind of hat before so I did a bit of research. I couldn’t find any reference to a katie hat, but I was able to find a hat called a skimmer, which is also known as a boater, basher, or sennit hat . Basically it is what we commonly call a barbershop hat today (see picture). They are still popular in Italy where they are known as boater hats among gondoliers. But there was something else in this passage that I wanted to research a bit. [Read more…]