While the credit for making the first top hat in 1793 goes to George Dunner, a hatter from Middlesex, Mr. Hetherington was the first hat maker to create quite a commotion just by wearing a top hat. In January 1797 Hetherington walked along the streets of London wearing a top hat in the shape of a stovepipe. Within a short time, a large crowd had gathered around him. Such a chaos emerged that the officer of the law had to grab Hetherington by the collar and summons him before the court where he was accused of disturbing public order. The officer, who dealt with the scandal, described the offence as follows: “Hetherington had such a tall and shiny construction on his head that it must have terrified nervous people. The sight of this construction was so overstated that various women fainted, children began to cry and dogs started to bark. One child broke his arm among all the jostling.” The hat maker relied in his defense on the right of every Englishman to place what he wanted on his head. The London newspaper, The Times, wrote the following day: “Hetherington’s hat points to a significant advance in the transformation of dress. Sooner or later, everyone will accept this headwear. We believe that both the court and the police made a mistake here.” And was the reporter in the Times ever right. Eventually the top hat would come to be equated not only with the industrial revolution itself as ordinary captains of industry became the millionaires, but also the upper echelons of society.
By 1830 even the working class man had a top hat usually made of felted rabbit fur, while those of the upper classes were crafted from felted beaver fur. Top hats made as part of the uniform of policemen and postmen were created from black oilcloth to be suitable for outdoor wear in rain. Beaver fur eventually gave way to silk for the upper classes. So expensive was the silk, that only the master tradesman (foreman) was permitted to cut it.
Prince Albert and Queen Victoria
Here at La Bestia we create our own handmade mini top hats. Each one in its one way a unique work of art, they make for a great hair accessory as well as a glamorous and unusual display item at your home.